Swag has gone the way of the dodo

Fun item coming at you now courtesy of our special, fun-loving friends over at the IRS: If you’re a celebrity and you’ve ever attended any sort of awards ceremony where you received a gift bag full of shiny, expensive items, you are responsible for paying taxes on said gift bag; in fact, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences reached a settlement today to pay for the back taxes due on all the swag they’ve passed out through 2005, and — hold on to your free cell phones, everybody — they’re discontinuing all gift bags in the future. That’s right: According the IRS, “There’s no special red-carpet tax loophole for the stars,” and “movie stars face the same tax obligations as ordinary Americans.”

Say it with me now: Whaaaa?

Do you mean to say that all those Fred Segal gift certificates and spa visits and ski vacations and bars of gourmet chocolate embedded with chunky solid-gold nougat clusters count as — horrors — income?  That it may be remotely possible that certain celebrities are only showing up at awards shows because of swag bags, and therefore swag bags could be considered payment for services rendered? That famous people are not, as I have long suspected, existing entirely outside the law kind of the way foreign diplomats get to park whereever they want to in New York City? 

Dude, what the hell am I going to aspire to be now?

(P.S. My favorite part of this Variety article is where it talks about the “ripple effect” this is gonna have on other awards shows. Like the producers of this weekend’s Teen Choice Awards are in a boardroom somewhere right now hysterically debating what to do with the 1,800 pounds of Noxema products they ordered interns to stuff into American Eagle messenger bags, and whether or not the Olsen Twins are totally gonna ditch now…)


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Comments (12 total) Add your comment
  • Sven

    So what’s the deal on all these popwatch blogs the last few days Whitney? You behind on your articles for EW, so you’re just cranking these puppies out to get “the man” off your back?

  • Todd

    Say it with me now: “Finally!”
    Gift bags for these kind of events are now in the thousands (if not tens of thousands)of dollars. Should that be free?

  • Anna

    I dont think its that they are income. There actually is a gift tax.

  • brandonk

    Ha ha…celebrities. By the way, Whitney, I’m so glad you’re writing on the blog now!

  • jason

    YAY!!! i thought gift bags were the TACKIEST things around. stars who have everything they want, GET MORE FOR FREE!?!?! while katrina victims one year later have no homes. THANK YOU IRS!!! (for once)

  • Janelle

    What’s the problem? Companies can continue to give out their products, the celebrities have to report it, and pay the tax. Hell, if some celebities feel they can’t afford the taxes (certainly not the A listers), let them sell off an item or two to cover the taxes. There’s no reason to stop the gift bags.

  • Josh

    If they still want to give something to stars, they should donate the $25,000 the gift bag is worth to a fave charity of said actor/actress/etc. No taxes on charity. Of course, since the items often come from companies wanting to give their products exposure, it might be hard to secure donations without having to list ‘sponsors’. But still, do some good!

  • roel

    whatever will kathy griffin do now?!

  • ryan

    So, do I have to pay taxes on all the flowers and candy that Scott Brown sends me on a weekly basis?

  • Ep sato

    Any time anything seems too good, it won’t last. It must have been the expose on these goodie bags in the Sopranos. Now we know who the real mobsters are, it’s those monsters at the IRS.

  • cliff

    Celebrities did not take the homes away from Katrina victims. You want to charge someone, take away Condi’s designer boots.

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