Art: A Life and Death Decision?

Paul gauguinWhat if it's time to arrange your affairs, but you're not quite ready to part with your art collection?

You can make arrangements to own your works of art on a part-time basis and still get the same tax benefits you receive from giving a donation to a nonprofit.  Here's how: you gift a "fractional interest" in your artwork to a museum or charity of your choice. That then provides you with the added pleasure of knowing that you will be sharing ownership of your painting with a worthwhile nonprofit.

If you were to donate 50% of a painting worth $2 million to your local art museum for their fall and winter exhibits, the IRS would permit you to bring the work back to your home and enjoy it during the spring and summer and still claim a tax deduction of $1 million, or one-half of the artwork's market value.

If this proposition appeals to you then you should create and sign a detailed document outlining a gifting agreement that suits you best. The document needs to carefully address several issues, such as the time frames each party will use the artwork, the party responsible for its maintenance when it's out of the original owner's control, the party responsible for insuring the art, and any specific uses for the art while under a party's control. You should also note any restrictions on the new co-owners loaning out the artwork to third parties when it's in their possession.

The IRS says the artwork must be gifted in entirety no later than 10 years after the agreement was signed. In our example, your remaining 50% has to be gifted to either the same museum or another charity within 10 years. If you fail to do so, your deduction on the initial gift becomes income. In Year One, you received a $1 million deduction; however, in Year 10, you can't go back and amend those taxes. As a result, it shows as $1 million in income. But once you make a gift of the remaining half, you receive a second tax deduction of $1 million.

A smaller local museum or charity nearby make great partners for this sort of shared-ownership arrangement, as they're apt to be more creative when crafting the agreement. Another worthwhile recipient might be the art school of a local university, charities working to advance appreciation for the arts, and medical facilities with their own art centers.

Reference: Barron's (May 17, 2016) "The Benefits of Owning Art Part-Time"


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