Biff, CEO of Biff Industries, had his feet up on his desk, leaning back in his leather high-back chair, and was tossing wads of paper across his office at the small basketball hoop that was on the back of his closed door. The pieces of paper were pages out of a copy of the latest Annual Report. It had been a good report. It had regaled the attendees at the latest shareholders meeting and afterwards the happy shareholders had pounded him on the back and had showered him enthusiastic kudos. It only goes to show the power of creative writing coupled with obtuse graphs that, while conveying nothing of any importance, do so in brilliant colors and dazzling styles.
But a new fiscal year was starting and this Annual Report, no matter how attractively the data inside of it had been presented, was now just so much recycling.
His intercom buzzed and he said, “Yes?” without taking his feet off his desk, without straightening up, and still managing to make a three-pointer from outside the paint.
“Mr. Sanders is here to see you,” came Janis’ disembodied voice from the intercom.
“Send him in,” said Biff, taking another flyer at the basket, causing the wadded-up sheet of Annual Report to bounce off of the snowy white hair of the rotund and bearded figure of his Director of Software.
Biff took his feet off the desk and stood up.
“You blocked my three-pointer,” said Biff. His voice wasn’t accusatory. Everything he said was matter-of-fact and there was always the faintest smile on his lips as if he were thinking of a great joke but was deliberately holding it back and waiting for just the right moment to deliver it.
“Next time drive in and lay it up,” replied Sanders who, in contrast to Biff, had a demeanor that never conveyed a sense of humor or mirth. He had a curmudgeonly gruffness about him, though he thought himself quite witty. And sometimes he was … though often unintentionally.
“Not my style,” said Biff. “I’m not a physical player. Anyway, you came in before I said you could.”
“I heard you say I could come in on the intercom.”
“And yet, you were in my inner sanctum before the words were out of my mouth. Are you telling me that you’re capable of faster than light travel?”
“I had my hand on the knob.”
Biff’s permanent little smile deepened and flickered for half a second. But instead of saying whatever he was thinking, he merely said, “Drink?” as he walked over to the fully stocked bar that looked like an ordinary credenza most of the time.
“It’s 9 o’clock in the morning,” said the portly software director, slightly judgmentally.
“Well, then you should try to get in earlier.” Biff finished pouring himself an amber liquid into a glass and gave it a shot of seltzer and two ice cubes. “What’s on your mind, Sand-Man?”
“We need new servers.”
“Oh? Is there trouble in the cafeteria?”
“Oh, I see. And why do you need new servers?”
“The current ones are just too slow. They don’t have the bandwidth to keep up with the traffic.”
“And how much do these things cost?”
“It will cost about fifty thousand dollars to upgrade all of them, including installation.”
“Ooooh,” said Biff, wincing as if he had just witnessed a band-aid getting ripped off of someone’s hairy arm. “That’s too bad.”
“Too expensive?” asked Sanders, as if that were what he was expecting to hear.
“No,” said Biff, taking a casual swig of his drink. “Too cheap.”
“Too cheap?” asked Sanders, shocked.
“Yes. It needs to be over a hundred thousand dollars to trip the threshold to be considered a capital expense.”
“Well, we can just buy them with non-capital dollars.”
“One would think, wouldn’t one?” said Biff sympathetically. “But, sadly, we can’t do that.”
“Well, we can’t charge them to any current contracts. Not only would that lower profits, but it would give the client an ownership claim on the servers.”
Biff shrugged and sipped his drink. “It’s contractual.”
“What about the internal improvement budgets?” asked Sanders.
“Those are for labor. This would be material.”
“This is ridiculous,” said the exasperated Sanders. “We make obscene profits and yet we can’t buy a measly fifty-thousand dollars’ worth of servers to help us do our jobs better!”
“You’re right about that,” said Biff, thoughtfully. “But I’ll tell you what we CAN do.”
“We can buy a hundred thousand dollars’ worth of servers!” he said, smiling.
“But I only need half that many.”
“Then you won’t get them.”
“So, if I buy double what I need, I can get them?”
“Bingo,” said Biff, raising his drink to Sanders and smiling.
“It’s better than stupid!” said Biff triumphantly. “It’s tax law!”