The US Department of Agriculture is reconsidering "Christmas tree tax" which is not really tax at all, at a time of confrontation sparked by a conservative think tank.
The Heritage Foundation set tongues wagging when it said a levy of 15 cents (11 euro cents) for every fresh Christmas tree harvested in the United States or imported, amounted to a new tax by Barack Obama's administration.
"The economy is barely growing and nine percent of the American people have no jobs," blogged David Addington, one of its vice presidents. "Is a new tax on Christmas trees the best President Obama can do?"
In fact, the picayune assessment is meant to bankroll a Christmas Tree Promotion Board to help American tree growers and importers to better compete against artificial Christmas trees imported mainly from China.
"I can tell you unequivocally that the Obama administration is not taxing Christmas trees," a White House spokesman, Matt Lehrich, told AFP in an email on Wednesday.
"What's being talked about here is an industry group deciding to impose fees on itself to fund a promotional campaign, similar to how the dairy producers have created the "Got Milk?" campaign," he said.
"That said, the US Department of Agriculture is going to delay implementation and revisit this action."
Under federal law, the department approves and oversees programs set up by various agricultural sectors -- such as dairy, beef and pork farmers -- to encourage consumers to buy their produce.
Unimpressed by the brouhaha was the National Christmas Tree Association, based in Chesterfield, Missouri, whose spokesman Rick Dungey called the notion of a Christmas tree tax "a completely false representation."
"To the people describing it that way: shame on you," he told AFP by telephone.
In a statement, the association -- which represents nearly 5,000 tree farmers and retailers -- said the assessment was not expected to impact on the price consumers pay for their Christmas trees.
A full-size, deluxe fresh Fraser fir typically costs 75 dollars, according to the Windblown Tree Plantation of Honey Creek, Wisconsin, which sells its trees online.