Tax-deductible property donations to US museums

Donations of tangible property made to museums that are classed as not-for-profit charitable organizations are tax-deductible. The donor is allowed for tax purposes to claim the fair market value of the donation as a deduction against income. If the value of a donation is said to be worth more than $5000, it must be confirmed by independent appraisal. If the appraised value is more than $20,000, it will be reviewed for accuracy by the Art Advisory Panel of the Internal Revenue Service (See P. Gerstenblith, 2004, ‘Museums as tax-exempt entities’, Art, Cultural Heritage, and the Law, Durham NC: Carolina Academic Press, 264-268).

Sometimes this system has been abused. From 1973 to 1984, Jiri Frel, the then curator of Greek and Roman art at the J.P. Getty Museum, accepted for the museum 6,453 objects said to be worth $14,441,228. Frel appraised many of the pieces himself at inflated values to encourage donors, often forging the signature of a major New York antiquities dealer. Frel was fired by the Getty in 1984 (See T. Hoving, 1996, False Impressions, London: Andre Deutsch, 286-289, 303, 306).