Question: I work in a European country
where there is systemic corruption at all levels of government and
it’s necessary to “tip” in order to get the most basic services such
as telephones and visas.
I know that the United States Foreign Corruption Protection Act
(FCPA) makes it a federal offense to give money of gifts to
high-level officials in order to influence their buying decisions.
Is there such a distinction in bribery of low-level and
high-level officials and is so, how does one account for bribery
Answer: As researched and reported by
Jennifer Burleson, MBA, the essence of the US Foreign Corruption
Protection Act is that it is illegal for US corporations to make or
offer payments to foreign entities under certain conditions.
The payments cannot be considered significant, and they cannot be
offered for the purpose of enticing recipients to misuse their
positions to help the offering corporation aid in obtaining,
maintaining or retaining business. The FCPA covers dealings
with foreign political parties, candidates and government officials.
However, the law does allow for small payments to lower level
figures, which many would consider "tips". These tips must not sway
high-level people to make decisions they would not otherwise make.
The company must also keep records of all such transactions and be
diligent about self-reporting questionable payments.
In some countries, bribery is technically illegal rather than
expected. India, for example, issues Zero Rupee bills to give
bribers, in order to shame the offender:
Zero Rupee notes remind corrupt officials that bribery is
So yes, depending on the recipient, purpose, and amount, it does
appear that bribery is illegal even where it is customary and
expected. Keep in mind that even if it's expected in another
culture, it is often illegal there as well.
As for accounting of bribery expenses, check with the latest
ruling of the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and treat
bribers as you would other ordinary business expenses.
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