Your 2018 Issue of Oscars Swag Bag
With the coming-of-age of the 90th Academy Awards, this year’s nominees are quietly asking the Oscars to Call Me by Your Name. Should any not come-of-age as a winner, and ascend like a Lady Bird onto that Dolby Theatre stage, we still don’t expect him/her to fall into their Darkest Hour.
At least, this will be the case for the 25 nominees in the acting and directing categories. According to Forbes, each of these nominees has received a swag bag reportedly worth over $100,000, with gifts ranging from a $9.99 toothpaste to a $40,000 Tanzania adventure. The latter will be greatly advantageous for those looking to Get Out.
Among this 25 is Australia’s very own Margot Robbie, nominated for Best Actress in A Leading Role for I, Tonya.
So if you’re Margot Robbie, would your biggest fear be losing?
Before you answer, here’s a curve ball – for Australian tax purposes, gifts can be treated as assessable income.
Crucially, the tax treatment of the contents of the swag bag will depend on its character. Gifts that relate to some activity, occupation or services provided are generally subject to Australian tax (ITAA 1997 s 15-2, ITAA 1936 s 21 and 21A). In Taxation Ruling IT 2674, the Commissioner has outlined the factors that determine the character of a gift. As such:
Since the swag bags are only given to the nominees who have excelled in providing their acting/directing services, the bags are a product of their regular income-earning capacities and are likely to be regarded as assessable income.
This is similar to some professional athletes who receive prizes or other non-cash benefits for their sporting performances (Taxation Ruling TR 1999/17). Gifts received from carrying on a business as professional artists may be non-cash business benefits and also treated as assessable income (Taxation Ruling TR 2005/1).
While Robbie has set up her Post in Los Angeles, there may be a slim chance (as slim as her chances were against front-runner Frances McDormand) that she’s still a resident of Australia for tax purposes, and if so then taxes – associated to her swag bag – may materialise like a Phantom Thread. It could happen… that film appeared seamlessly from behind, at the end of the awards season, and wrapped up six Oscar nominations.
Of course, in the more likely scenario where Robbie is not a resident of Australia for tax purposes, she will only be taxed on her Australian sourced gifts.
Would I, Tonya even care?
Whilst art is undefined and fluid like the The Shape of Water, the awards season is a lot more dependent on numbers, especially as nominees and their studios campaign for a win. And as we have learnt from Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, advertising – even three billboards in the most remote, low traffic of places – can be very costly and any tax savings would surely be appreciated by Robbie right now.
Especially as Three Billboards just nabbed the Best Actress Oscar, but don’t despair. Even though Robbie didn’t hit a home run in her first Oscar outing, Sydney’s Lee Smith, 57, has accepted his first Academy Award for the editing work he mastered on Dunkirk. Third time’s a charm!
Many, many congratulations to Smith, who will be coming home with that priceless golden statue. Just watch out for any swag bags though, those may come with a much less shiny price tag.