Daily Tax Report: State

Among Oscar Night’s Big Winners: The IRS

Feb. 22, 2019, 9:26 PM

Not every Academy Award nominee for acting and direction will go home with an Oscar on Feb. 24, but they’ll all be showered with swag bags valued around $100,000.

And some items in those bags come with a little extra: potentially hefty taxes.

“Every physical gift offered to nominees is valued under $600, which is the cutoff for a required IRS 1099 form,” Lash Fary, founder of Distinctive Assets, the Los Angeles marketing company that puts together the gift bags, told Bloomberg Tax. “The gift certificates and trips are different. If individuals accept these gifts, then they must report their value as income.”

Fary said the most costly portion of the gift bag is a trip to the Galapagos Islands valued at $40,000. Actors and actresses would only owe taxes on the trip if they actually took it.

This year’s gift bag recipients include Spike Lee, Lady Gaga, Christian Bale, Glenn Close, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Emma Stone, and Mahershala Ali.

Real Winner: The IRS

Robert Wood, managing partner in law firm Wood LLP in San Francisco, said he believes the taxes on swag bags are fairly common knowledge in Hollywood.

Wood told Bloomberg Tax that the potential large tax bill could dissuade some individuals from accepting the expensive trips and memberships.

According to Distinctive Assets, those gifts include:

  • a beachfront villa in Halkidiki, Greece;
  • an annual membership to MOTA Los Angeles, an exclusive, members-only cannabis-friendly social club;
  • a private phobia-relief session package; and
  • an all-inclusive luxury wellness retreat.

In total, there are more than 45 items or redeemable trips in the swag bags.

Wood said the IRS could be considered the real winner of the Oscars swag bags because they get a piece of any expensive item an individual claims.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ryan Prete in Washington at rprete@bloombergtax.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jeff Harrington at jharrington@bloombergtax.com; Megan Pannone at mpannone@bloombergtax.com

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