Nixing Christmas tree 'tax'

Josh Gerstein-POLITICO
The Federal Register Thursday carries a notice from the U.S. Department of Agriculture formally withdrawing the proposed 15-cent federal surcharge on fresh Christmas trees.

Just last week, critics pounced on the fee, labeling it as a 'Christmas tree tax.' In pre-election, rapid-response mode, the Obama administration did a same-news-cycle about-face on the fee, which was set to take effect on November 9ójust in time for the holiday season. The administration "indefinitely stayed" the new charge, which was technically not a tax but an agricultural promotion assessment designed to encourage the purchase of live trees at Christmastime.

"While we are confident that the Christmas Tree program is compliant with all applicable law and supported by the domestic Christmas tree industry, the program will be stayed to provide additional time for the Department to reach out to the Christmas Tree industry and the public to explain how a research and promotion program is a producer driven program to support American farmers," Agricultural Marketing Service Acting Administrator David Shipman wrote in the notice published Thursday.