A warning about signing bonuses

So, as many of you may know, I was gainfully employed for a large defense contracting company for about two months before the whole GameFest fiasco (of the good fiasco variety).  I did Java programming for graphics with OpenGL and enjoyed what I did just enough.

I received a signing bonus at hiring time, with the stipulation that if I were to quit or get fired within one year, I would have to return the money.  This was a fine print thing and I was about 99% positive I would not quit or get fired within a year.

Unfortunately, GameFest outcomes are difficult to ascertain prior to the fact; had I known my future would be drastically changed for the better starting in August I probably (a) wouldn’t have taken the signing bonus and (b) wouldn’t have taken the job in the first place.

Now–here’s the rub: when you get a signing bonus, the government takes exactly 2/5ths of it.  When the large defense contractor wanted their money back, they asked for the full sum.  I guess this is standard business practice–but that seems a bit silly and gratuitous.

If they give me one amount reduced from a full amount by 2/5ths, that doesn’t mean the 2/5ths is gone, it means it’s money they still have that is earmarked for taxes.  When I file my tax return, evidently it will show that I overpaid by the 2/5ths, which by then the large defense contractor will have paid the government and which I will get back.  So what’s the bottom line?  I’m giving a large government contractor a four-figure interest-free loan that I’ve been told will be repaid in roughly half a year.

And that’s why I’m filing this under Jerks. 🙂

To be fair: they gave me a slightly larger interest-free loan at signing time, and they did invest some resources in me that they won’t get a return on.  Can we call it even?

Moral of the story?  Don’t accept signing bonuses if you have reason to believe that you’ll win a major international contest for a contract with a software giant within the next year or so.