What to Know About the Art Donation Deduction

Art Donation DeductionIf you would like to donate artwork to an eligible charitable organization, you might be able to take a deduction on your tax return. However, the rules are complex. There are different requirements for different values, and there are scams you want to avoid that could lead to severe consequences for taxpayers who abuse this deduction.

Generally, the deduction for donated art is based on the fair market value of the property. This refers to the price the artwork could reasonably be expected to sell for on the open market. To qualify for the deduction, note that the value of an art donation may be limited to between 20 percent and 60 percent of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income, based on the type of organization and whether the deduction must be reduced.

For the donation to qualify for a deduction at the full fair market value, the artwork must be used by the charitable organization in a way that relates back to its charitable purpose. For example, art is donated to an art museum or school. Otherwise, the deduction is limited to the amount of capital gain realized had you sold the property instead of giving it to a charity.

Requisite Tax Documentation

The IRS requires the following records to claim a charitable art donation deduction:

  • Name and address of qualified receiving charitable organization
  • Date and location of the donation
  • Detailed description of the artwork

The following details require additional documentation based on the value of the art donation:

  • $250 or more requires a documented acknowledgment from the recipient
  • $500 or more must file Form 8283 with a tax return, and records must be retained documenting how and when you obtained the artwork as well as its cost basis
  • $5,000 or more, the donor must obtain a documented qualified appraisal no more than 60 days before the contribution date
  • $20,000 or more must include the signed appraisal with your tax return
  • $50,000 or more, request that the IRS appraise the artwork and issue a Statement of Value to substantiate the value

Fractional Gift/Deduction

It is possible to make fractional deductions for an art donation as long as the artwork is wholly owned by the donor or shared between the donor and the charity. Furthermore, fractional donations must be completed within 10 years of the initial fractional gift or the donor’s date of death.

Artist Donation

The art tax deduction is more beneficial to collectors than artists. If an artist decides to donate a piece to a charity, he can deduct only the cost of the materials used to create the art – assuming he hasn’t already claimed them as a business deduction.

IRS Caution

Recently, the IRS has published warnings about art tax deduction schemes being promoted by fraudsters. It starts with a promotion encouraging (usually high net) taxpayers to buy art at a “discounted” price. The entity or person will offer various accompanying services, such as appraisal, storage, and shipping. The promoter may then help the taxpayer donate the artwork to one or more specific charities in order to claim a higher deduction than the purchase price.

The scheme generally involves waiting a least a year before donating in order to claim the deduction at an inflated fair market value. Some promoters work with taxpayers to donate art on a rotating basis every year in order to continue receiving the artificially inflated deduction. The following are some red flags from the IRS that indicate an art deduction scheme.

  • Be wary of buying multiple works by the same artist, especially when the art appears to have little to no market value beyond what the promoter is advertising.
  • Be wary of an appraisal that does not adequately describe the art in terms of rarity, age, quality, condition, the stature of the artist, the price paid, and the quantity purchased.
  • Remember that taxpayers are ultimately responsible for the accuracy of information reported on their tax returns. Avoiding taxes by participating in an overvalued art scheme could lead to back-tax payments, additional penalties and interest, additional fines, and even imprisonment.

Another option is to simply sell the art and donate the proceeds to a charity. The donor may owe capital gains taxes on the sale, but it’s possible that the charitable donation deduction will offset this expense.

As with all complex tax deductions, it’s a good idea to consult with a tax professional or legal advisor when donating artwork. This can help ensure that both the taxpayer and the charity are able to maximize the potential benefits of the donation.