An all-expenses paid trip to Australia, a gift certificate for a facelift, and oh yea, a bottle of Windex. These are just some of the items celebrities received on the film industry’s biggest night of the year, and Uncle Sam will get his piece.
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Despite the 2013 official Oscar gift bag being worth a reported $47,000 this year, celebrity lifestyle expert Dorothy Cascerceri says that number is tame compared to the value of swag filling the bags in the past.
“In years past, the gift bags have totaled up to $90,000. I think everyone is scaling back because of the economy. But frankly, do you think a celebrity will miss that? Definitely not.”
The facelift gift certificate is worth $5,000, she says, and the trip to Australia rings in at $30,000, making up for the bulk of the gift bag’s price. In addition to the Windex, which Cascerceri says is an odd inclusion, celebs also received hair ties that double as bracelets and Leeza Gibbons’ book, Take 2: Your Guide to Creating Happy Endings and New Beginnings
“There have been trips [like the Australia package] in the past,” she says. “Celebrities don’t fly coach, so it’s a big-ticket item.”
But don’t expect to catch Jennifer Lawrence and George Clooney on a plane to down under filling the time reading the self-help book. Cascerceri says most celebrities re-gift the goodies.
“Most celebrities have enough money to go to Australia, so they gift them to the people around them, like their hair and makeup people.”
But all that swag comes with a price to Uncle Sam; Cascerceri likens it to winning a prize on Jeopardy.
“It’s like winning a car on a game show,” she says. “You are able to drive the car away, but it’s not for free.”
The gift bags get taxed at the total cost of the full package, according to Certified Public Accountant Dan Roman of Liberty Tax in Detroit. So the full $47,000 will be taxed at both the state level of 13.3% in California, where it was issued, as well as at the federal rate of 39.1%, assuming the recipients are in the top income tax bracket.
“The IRS indicates these things as payment for something when celebrities receive these gifts,” Roman says.
The tricky part of the scenario is in gifting the goodies to someone else. In this case, celebrities are supposed to issue the IRS and the person they are giving it to a 1099, so the government can track it. The celebrity will get taxed on it and it can be seen as a gift or additional income for the secondary recipient, according to Roman.
And finally if the A-lister is feeling charitable, and donates the Oscar goody bag, they can claim the charitable deduction and pay zero taxes on the gifts inside, he says.