Those “swag bags” that show biz celebrities, and occasionally well known journalists, receive at such events as the Oscars and the Emmys and even the Golden Globes have finally caught the attention of the American taxman.
The IRS is threatening to tax the gifts in the goody-bags – which sometimes can be worth as much as $20,000 to $30,000. Often they include expensive perfumes, cell-phones, even free holiday-trips. Attendees at this year’s Emmy Awards, which takes place later this month, have all received letters from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences which sponsors the event advising them they may have to pay income tax on any “freebies” they receive.
Every celebrity has been asked to sign and return a letter acknowledging their responsibility. “No letter, no gift bag” they have been warned. The Academy may even have to provide the IRS with a list of all recipients. How have the celebrities reacted? The manager for Kathryn Josten, one the actresses in Desperate Housewives, who is up for an award, told the NY Post she would probably decline to accept a gift bag. “My client” he said “ has had goody bags in the past and she doesn’t even want half the stuff.”
Sometimes the bags include tickets for free trips to places like Hawaii, New Zealand and the Bahamas. Or free hotel stays. Most stars and journalists who sometimes take part officially in the award ceremonies claim they often don’t have the time to take the trips – and certainly don’t want to pay taxes on trips they may never make.
One regular attendee at awards ceremonies in Hollywood and New York predicted “This is the end of a nice perk, the end of the goodie bag era.”