Scrooge appears to be alive and well in Washington, DC, this Christmas season, with Congress again considering what is effectively a tax on Christmas trees.
The most outrageous part of this tax is that it packaged as an effort to help tree farmers, the Heritage Foundation reported. To make matters worse, Congress doesn’t even want to call it a tax.
Instead, it is hidden in the latest version of the trillion dollar farm bill and part of what is euphemistically labeled the Christmas Tree Promotion Board. The good news is that the Christmas tree tax isn’t law yet, so you won’t pay it when you go tree shopping this year. The bad news is that there is a strong possibility that you could pay this tax on next year’s Christmas tree.
The tax is only one provision to the farm bill currently winding its way through Congress. The bill contains everything from Food Stamps to funding for Broadband Internet access in rural areas.
Since the Christmas Tree Tax is simply one provision to the farm bill the only way President Obama could stop it is to veto the entire farm bill. The administration supported but then killed a similar tax in 2011 after the Heritage Foundation exposed it to the public.
How Congress could tax Christmas trees
Here’s how Congress was able to put a tax on Christmas Trees in the new bill and sneak it past the media. We’ve thrown in a few outrageous facts about this tax as well.
- The purpose of the tax is to set up a “Christmas Tree Promotion Board” designed to promote the idea of Christmas trees and their use.
- The board and the advertising would be funded by a 15¢ fee on every natural Christmas tree sold in the US or imported into the US. The tax would impact trees sold by only medium and large-sized growers.
- The tax would subsidize foreign tree growers by promoting their products as well as American producers.
- The tax could actually hurt the reputation of the Christmas tree instead of promoting it. Heritage expert Daren Bakst said: “One way to actually hurt the Christmas tree is to make it a symbol of taxation during the holiday season.”
- The tax might violate the first amendment by subsidizing and promoting celebration of a religious holiday – Christmas. That’s not fair to non-Christians and those Christians who believe Christmas trees are unchristian.
- The tax could be raised to 20¢ at some time in the future.
- Many tree growers support the tax, believing that the advertising funded by the tax will help tree sales.
There is one piece of good news here. Congress can still kill the Christmas tree tax when the Senate and the House negotiate a compromise between their versions of the farm bill. The final version will be sent to President Obama.
What else is wrong with the farm bill
Heritage Foundation experts Bakst and Rachel Sheffield found a number of other problems with the proposed farm bill. For instance, it combines food stamps with the farm bill. That makes it politically impossible for Congress to reform either food stamps or farm subsidies. Also, the bill does nothing to address controversial crop subsidies such as those for sugar farmers.
It looks like Congress is still more interested in expanding taxation than helping out the taxpayer.