Thursday, April 19, 2007

Cubicles, not walls in offices..

The law of unintended consequences strikes again. Joel Spolsky explains why companies cram employees into cubicles rather than private offices, despite lower productivity of the former. In short, the government has defined what a business may define as a deductible business expense in favor of cubicles!

We're going to need a much bigger space now: on the order of 15,000 square feet. To build that much office space could cost a couple of million dollars. With the lack of deductibility, your bank account goes down by three million dollars. The landlord will pay a fraction of that, but not enough to make it affordable.

There's a loophole. Office furniture can be depreciated much faster than leasehold improvements, over 7 years. So for $20 of office furniture you can deduct about $3 a year: better than nothing. Even better, office furniture is a real asset, so you can lease it. Now you're not out any cash, just a convenient monthly payment, which is 100% deductible.

This is why companies build cubicle farms instead of walls, even though the dollar cost is comparable.

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