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Wednesday December 13, 2017

Case of the Week

Wild Bill Enjoys a "Russell" Art Deduction


Bill Russell grew up on the Great Plains. During his youth, he was a rodeo bull rider and gained fame as "Wild Bill" for his daring exploits. But Wild Bill was an artist at heart and soon decided to move on to his artistic pursuits. He traveled throughout America and Europe and studied all of the great modern and classical artists. In France he was greatly impressed by the delicate works of Impressionist painters Monet and Manet and the bold colors and brush strokes of Van Gogh. Upon his return to his beloved great plains of the west, Wild Bill combined the subtlety of the Impressionists, the colors of Van Gogh and his own unique skills. His Impressionist western landscapes and paintings of cowboys and life on the ranch became treasured by art collectors nationwide.


Wild Bill was rapidly gaining a national reputation. His western Impressionist art exhibits would draw art lovers from America and the world. He was finally selling his paintings for $75,000 or more and now had another new experience – paying large income taxes.

One day Bill received a call from Wolf Point, Montana. A local attorney told him that a distant relative had passed away and Bill had inherited a sketch done many years ago. Bill asked about the sketch and was told that it was done by his great-great-great uncle Charles Russell. While it is a small sketch, the attorney thought that it might be quite valuable.

After inheriting the Russell sketch, Bill admired it for a year. But the Cowboy Western Museum called and suggested that the sketch would be a great addition to their Charles Russell collection. So Bill called his CPA Helen Swenson and asked about donating the painting. He thought, "Maybe I could receive a large tax deduction and save taxes. But how does this work? What do I need to do to give my Russell to the museum and get a large deduction? I don't want to get into any trouble with the IRS."


Helen explained to Wild Bill the benefits of giving his Russell painting to charity. With a gift of inherited art to a museum, the deduction could be at fair market value. Since this is a valuable drawing worth potentially over $100,000, she will need to file IRS Form 8283 to substantiate Bill's gift. Part A of 8283 includes the description of the property. Because the gifted property exceeds $5,000, an appraisal is required. The appraisal must be by a qualified person who "holds himself or herself out to the public" as an art appraiser.

The art appraiser must state the date of the appraisal, that the property was valued as of the date of the gift, that the appraisal was done for income tax purposes and the appraisal must disclose the methodology used in deriving the property value. Reg. 1.170A-13(c)(3).

Furthermore, this art gift has a value greater than $20,000. Therefore, the complete signed appraisal must be submitted with the Form 8283. In addition, either an 8 X 10 color photo or a 4 X 5 color transparency of the art object must be provided.

Because the Russell sketch is worth $50,000 or more, there is one other option. Bill could ask the IRS for a "Statement of Value." But this "Statement of Value" is available only after the art has been transferred. Since Bill wanted to know the value of the deduction, he decided to rely on a valuation by an independent appraiser.

The appraiser valued the Russell drawing at $110,000. The appraisal and color photo was sent in with Bill's tax return. In Washington, there is an IRS Art Advisory Panel that reviews major art gifts. After reviewing art gifts, the Art Advisory Panel typically reduces charitable income tax deductions on approximately one-third of the gifts. Fortunately, the comparables used by Bill's expert appraiser were valid, and his $110,000 deduction was permitted.

Published December 2, 2016
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