Donors and private museums are under scrutiny regarding tax compliance

Publication February 1, 2016

The federal government is taking a closer look at privately-owned art museums, examining whether these are created purely for the tax benefits of the founders.

US Senator Orrin Hatch, the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, penned 11 letters delivered to 11 museums, pointing out that some of these institutions may deliver negligible value to the public while gaining significant tax benefits to donors.

Under US tax laws, art donors may deduct the fair-market value of their art donations from their taxes when donated to charitable organizations with art-related missions. However, donors cannot directly profit from their own institutions’ actions.

The Finance Committee’s letter asks museum foundations to provide, among other items, the number of hours that the museum is open to the public, the total number of visitors received, donors’ identities and associations to the museum, as well as a list of directors,  trustees or donors that have access to the museum after hours. Click here to view a redacted copy of one of the letters.

Those contacted include museums in Florida, Texas Vermont, California and Washington, DC.

Recent publications

Subscribe and stay up to date with the latest legal news, information and events...