Sales Tax on the 12 Days of Christmas

A medieval song specifies the the gifts a lover gives his love on the days from Christmas Eve to Epiphany (January 6th, or Twelfth Night,the official end of Christmas). You may not know them all by heart, but they’ll be familiar:

  • A partridge in a pear tree
  • Two turtledoves
  • Three French hens
  • Four calling birds
  • Five gold rings
  • Six geese a-laying
  • Seven swans a-swimming
  • Eight maids a-milking
  • Nine ladies dancing
  • Ten lords a-leaping
  • Eleven pipers piping
  • Twelve drummers drumming
For 2018, assuming that you didn’t repeat gifts (that is, you gave just one partridge in a pear tree, even though you sang about it on all 12 days), this plethora of presents will set you back $39,094.93. This is according to the PNC Christmas Price Index, the official source of this information.

But how much sales tax will you pay?

There’s no simple answer. It depends on the state, county, and town the gifts are delivered to. Each jurisdiction may have different rates — and different rates for different items.

For example, all that livestock may be exempt from sales tax if you can claim to be a farmer raising birds as part of your business. If they’re pets, most states will charge sales tax.

If you’re paying your milkmaids minimum wage as employees, they’re a bargain at just $58.00, with no sales tax added. If you hire a milking service, though, you may have to pay sales tax. Services are taxable in some states. And of course different services are taxable in different jurisdictions.

If you know your local sales tax rate, you could predict the sales tax punch by multiplying the total by that rate. However, you might need to buy some of the items from remote sellers. If you don’t have a local purveyor of swans, you’ll probably have the go online. Don’t think that will save you from sales tax. Almost two dozen states have enacted laws making remote sellers collect and remit sales tax.

If your state isn’t one of those, remember that you’re still on the hook for use tax, the twin of sales tax that consumers owe when they shop online. Those swans come to $13,125, so chances are that purchase will not be overlooked.

You may not be able to predict the sales tax burden, but it will probably be considerable!

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