Every year, I argue with my tax accountant. I say: “Let's deduct the cost of my home office. I'm a legitimate telecommuter.” He says “Fine, I can do that. But do you really want to send a red flag to the I.R.S.?”

Fly under the radar, my accountant advises, and you won't become a target. Which brings me to this issue's cover story, a look at how complex National Association of Securities Dealers regulations are forcing some companies to dump their incentive meetings.

The threat of losing their most effective way to motivate top sales agents is a huge issue for insurance and financial services firms affected by the regulations. The problem is, few meeting planners want to talk about it, preferring to stay under the radar. “If you're written about, and the NASD knows what you're doing, you could become a target,” was the fear expressed so often, says writer Beth Negus Viveiros, that it was impossible to get people to talk on the record.

It's understandable. The regulations are not only complicated, they're untested and therefore open to interpretation. No one, including regulatory officials, is clear about the consequences of violating the rules because there hasn't yet been a test case. About the only thing that is clear: the NASD cops are beginning to scrutinize their licensed companies. “Current conversations I am having with regulators on interpretations of the rules could be harmed if I talk to the media,” said a NASD-licensed broker/dealer VP who declined to be interviewed.

We respect the planners and brokers who felt compelled to speak off the record. But the “don't ask, don't tell” philosophy won't help those of you struggling to figure out how the rules affect your company's incentive meetings and what you can do about it. And ignoring the rules won't make them go away. In fact, it is precisely because the NASD regulations are so threatening that we feel it's essential to discuss them openly in the pages of ICP. Turn to page 80 for our report.

Elsewhere in the issue, go to page 85 if you're looking to treat your qualifiers to some outrageous incentive experiences; page 137 for great gifts to be had with the click of a mouse; and page 127 for an update on spa resorts, an increasingly popular choice for meetings.

And if you have a NASD story to tell, or a favorite incentive idea that was overlooked, please take a moment to e-mail me your thoughts — on or off the record!

Need Regina Baraban's signature!!!

Doreen & I are working on getting the sig-Reg