Skip to main content

Stay updated on all areas of tax filings and business processes affected by COVID-19.  Learn More.

The Twelve Days of Taxmas

Every year, PNC Bank publishes their “Christmas Price Index” to track the cost of the Twelve Days of Christmas. For 2017, it’s a hefty $157,558. (And you thought your holiday spending was out of control!) The index may not be completely accurate — for example, the ten lords-a-leaping are valued using the cost of male ballet dancers, rather than actual lords, and the eight maids-a-milking don’t include eight actual cows. But still, it got us wondering . . . what sort of taxes are we looking at on the whole affair?

  • Twelve drummers drumming and eleven pipers piping make quite a racket every holiday season. Hiring all that help will stir up a cacophony of payroll taxes!
  • Ten lords may look perfectly happy while they’re leaping. But surely they must pay a king’s ransom in income taxes — after all, they are lords!
  • Nine ladies dancing make a lovely sight at Christmas time — especially if they’re Rockettes. They also pay a cabaret tax for the privilege of displaying their talent.
  • Eight maids-a-milking help make sure we have plenty of tasty eggnog to drink. Good thing so many states offer dairy tax credits to spur the cows on to higher holiday production!
  • Seven swans-a-swimming? Six geese-a-laying? If we accept the rule of thumb that two birds per acre of pond is a manageable number, then we’re looking at some serious property taxes to host our holiday flock!
  • Who doesn’t want five gold rings under the tree? But selling those rings can be an expensive proposition. Remember, jewelry held for personal use is still subject to 20% tax on long-term capital gains, plus an extra 3.8% “net investment income tax”!
  • Four calling birds use a lot of cell phone minutes over twelve days. (They’re calling birds, so unlimited texting won’t help.) Naturally, that means a 5.82% federal excise tax, plus state and local sales tax too.
  • Three French hens add a sophisticated “continental” touch to anyone’s holiday festivities. But don’t forget the import duties you pay to bring foreign livestock into the country!
  • Two turtle doves are known among bird watchers for forming strong “pair bonds,” which makes them a symbol of devoted love. (That’s why they’re in the song.) Too bad that means they pay that pesky marriage penalty that hits high-income couples who file jointly! (Okay, we know this this one’s a stretch. But we’ve got twelve days of taxes to fill here, so what can we do?)
  • Nothing says “Christmas” like a partridge in a pear tree. And our tax code is full of juicy incentives for growing pear trees. You can deduct operating expenses associated with your crop; you can depreciate equipment and land improvements you use to manage your groves; and you can even take generous charitable deductions for rights you give up for conservation easements. Why, the tax savings alone should be more than enough to pay for the partridge!

Yes, even Twelve Days of Christmas just means twelve more opportunities for the taxman. So here’s wishing you and your family the best this holiday season. We’ll be back in 2018 to make sure you pay as little tax as possible, not just during the holidays, but all year long!