All Stars on the Hook

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When reports surfaced last week about the dreaded letters from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences reminding Emmy presenters they must pay taxes of gift bags, most stars thought they were off the hook.

Only a small percentage of presenters received the letters, so ATAS isn’t footing the federal, state and local tax bills for the gifts—valued at $27,000-$33,000 last year—when they come due.

But they shouldn’t start popping champagne corks. An ATAS rep tells B&C that every Primetime Emmy presenter at Sunday’s NBC awards show left off the first mailing list will be officially notified of his or her tax obligations this week. Presenters at the recent Creative Arts ceremony had all previously been served.

Since the only Emmy participants getting a tax break are the vendors donating the hefty perks, that leaves two options: donating the gifts to charity or keeping the bounty, which has included Dooney & Bourke luggage and Dove chocolates.

The Emmy swag pales in comparison with the 2006 Academy Award gift bags, estimated at $100,000 apiece.

Late last week, the IRS and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (AMPAS) reached a settlement on the issue. The Academy agreed to send 1099 tax forms to recipients of swag this year and pay back taxes for previous gift-giving. AMPAS also revealed that, in April, it discontinued its decades-long tradition of handing out gifts, which had been done in lieu of appearance fees.

The IRS now intends to turn its attention to other award organizations, including ATAS and the Golden Globe organization, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which may also do away with gift bags. ATAS is still looking at its options.

"This has become big business for companies promoting their products," IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson says. "We just want to make sure no one crashes into the tax code."

So actors Charlie and Martin Sheen, presenting together for the first time, will also set another precedent by receiving father-son tax bills. Other presenters scheduled for the 58th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards include Candice Bergen, Ray Liotta, Simon Cowell, Jeffrey Tambor, John Lithgow and Bob Newhart. Cowell will also be at the helm of the telecast’s special tribute to Dick Clark.

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