Monday, June 8, 2009

The Incentive Federation… Working You!

I recently had the honor of becoming part of the Incentive Federation’s Board of Directors. Many people are unfamiliar with this organization because much of its work is behind the scenes.

The Incentive Federation is the only organization whose membership and leadership includes all of the industry's national trade associations, as well as individual companies. The Incentive Federation acts as an umbrella organization that provides behind-the-scenes support for better-known entities such as the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA), the Promotion Marketing Association (PMA), the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI), The Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), the International SITE Foundation (ISITE) and now Recognition Professionals International who I represent on the Board.

I attended my first Board meeting and I was really impressed with Incentive Federation’s agenda which is basically to promote, protect and research the incentive, recognition and promotional products industry.

George Delta is the Executive Director of the Incentive Federation. He is a Washington based attorney who has specialized in our industry. He often keynotes at industry conferences and events. His dry wit and presentation skills make him a very popular speaker. One of his chief skills is the ability to explain complicated tax issues to folks like me!

One of the most exciting things the Incentive Federation is working on is a Legislative Awareness Program to help define the incentive and recognition industry so that government can understand how our work plays a key role in promoting a better, healthier workplace. A workplace that can compete in today’s global economy.

These are some of the key issues we are working on:

  1. Safety achievement awards – Tax preferential treatment for safety awards is now limited to only 10% of eligible employees. To promote and improve workplace safety, and to reduce the related healthcare and other business costs from injuries, this limit should be increased to 25% or higher.
  2. Wellness programs – Expand safety programs to reach an even larger segment of workers and reduce health costs by targeting obesity, smoking, high cholesterol, and the like which can lead to chronic diseases that drain the healthcare system and sap business productivity, motivation, growth, and profits.
  3. Corporate gift deduction – This deduction limit has been $25 since 1962. It can be repositioned to embrace productivity awards and be adjusted for inflation to $50.
  4. Employee achievement awards – The average award has been $400 per employee for 25 years. A cost of living adjustment would make such awards more useful and relevant in attracting and retaining valuable employees that can help businesses and the economy recover more quickly and moderate future downturns.
  5. Length of service awards – These awards cannot be given until an employee has been employed for at least five years. The nature of the workforce has changed considerably since the tax preferential treatment for this award was enacted in 1984, and retention of skilled employees has become more important than ever. This award can also be positioned to be more akin to a productivity award, and employers should be able to give it to employees in a tax-advantaged manner prior to five years (but no more frequently than every three to five years thereafter) to help combat the disruptive and costly impact of unintended turnover.

The Incentive Federation work is very important and to paraphrase a line from Shakespeare, “though we may be but little, we are fierce!”