Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Death and Taxes

The Artist-Museum Partnership Act (S.372), currently awaiting consideration in the United States Congress, would allow artists to donate their artwork to nonprofit museums and receive tax credits based on a fair market appraisal. By allowing this exchange, works of art currently sold to private collections would find their way into the public view, preserving our cultural heritage for future generations. (Death and the Miser, by Hieronymus Bosch is above.)

The idea of allowing artists to avoid taxes by donating their artwork was the law in the United States until 1969. Art collectors still receive tax breaks on donations to museums, but the often less-fortunate artists themselves no longer receive the same benefit. A similar program in France enriches the public collections of art immensely as the estates of artists (such as that of Picasso, if I recall correctly) seek to ease their estate tax burden upon the death of the artist. Abuse of the system is almost impossible, since the tax credit would be based on the appraised market value of the work (thus excluding “instant” artists) and would be contingent on the acceptance of the work by an institution, which is never guaranteed.

Americans for the Arts provides a great rundown of the situation and statistics showing the drying up of donations after the policy change. This legislation has sat in congress for 2 years now and needs to be reintroduced each year to stay alive. Such a bill is certainly not a high priority for America right now in the grand scheme of things, of course, but it is a small piece of the larger erosion of our culture caused by the corrosive corporate mindset of government. I encourage everyone to contact their congressmen and congresswomen and ask them to support this bill.

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