Scrooge Comes Early This Year With "Christmas Tree Tax"

Article by Kelly Phillips.


I like a fresh-cut tree at Christmastime. Yes, I know all the arguments against buying fresh-cut Christmas trees and we do it anyway. It happens to be one of my favorite things about the holidays and now that I live in the snowy northeast, there’s something ridiculously gratifying about heading out in mittens and hats with my kids to choose a Christmas tree. If you’ve done it before, you know the drill: finding one that’s not too tall, not too short, not too fat, not too skinny. It’s all part of the fun.

(For the record, before you shoot off a nasty email, you should know that when we take our tree down in January, we cut it up and re-use the branches in the backyard which makes the birds and my garden happy – apparently 93% of all folks with live trees recycle or reuse them in a similar manner.)


We’re not the only family that makes the National Lampoon-like trip to get a tree. There areapproximately 25-30 million live Christmas trees sold in the U.S. each year.

Of course, all of those trees generate quite a bit of revenue for retailers, growers and marketers. But it’s clearly not enough. This week, the Department of Agriculture announced a new 15-cent fee/tax on the sales of fresh-cut Christmas trees by sellers of more than 500 trees per year (the plan has been in the works since last year). The idea is to raise money to support a new federal program to – wait for it – improve the image and marketing of Christmas trees. Apparently, we don’t think about Christmas trees as positively as the feds – and the lobbyists – would like for us to. So, government did what government likes to do: created a committee and raised fees/taxes to pay for it.

And since we’re working on improving the image and marketing of Christmas trees (by charging more for them), we might as well define what it is. For your information, the official definition for this purpose is:

Christmas tree means any tree of the coniferous species, that is severed or cut from its roots and marketed as a Christmas tree for holiday use.

So Festivus trees get a pass.

I’ll admit that I was a little horrified by the notion of a special Christmas tree regulation. So I popped on over to the federal regulations to see what else we’re in the business of promoting these days. We also have marketing programs on the books for cotton (7 CFR 1205), mangoes (7 CFR 1206), potatoes (7 CFR 1207), raspberries (7 CFR 1208), mushrooms (7 CFR 1209), watermelons (7 CFR 1210), honey (7 CFR 1212), popcorn (7 CFR 1215), peanuts (7 CFR 1216), blueberries (7 CFR 1218), hass avocadoes (7 CFR 1219), soybeans (7 CFR 1220), sorghum (7 CFR 1221), pork (7 CFR 1230), honey (7 CFR 1245), eggs (7 CFR 1250), beef (7 CFR 1260), wool & mohair (7 CFR 1270) and lamb (7 CFR 1280). Whew.

We love our regulations, huh? And promotion. And marketing.

Which makes me wonder whether the feds should actually be in the business of well, promoting business. It feels like we have enough on our collective plate. Like our giant debt. And a potential government shutdown.

I guess the great Christmas tree program shortage was an easier fix.

The Christmas tree fee/tax is remarkably similar to our whole income tax debate. Folks are going to buy Christmas trees. The government figures that if it charges for selling those trees, then it can use the money to create a federal program to promote the sale of Christmas trees and the industry will sell more trees. Huh?

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