IRS Warns Wealthy Taxpayers About Art Donation Schemes

IRS Warns Wealthy Taxpayers About Art Donation Schemes

IRS Warns Wealthy Taxpayers About Art Donation Deduction Schemes

One common theme for wealthy taxpayers is that oftentimes they like to invest in hard assets such as art. While there is a subjective element to artwork, the Internal Revenue Service is warning wealthy and high-income taxpayers about the dangers of taking certain improper deductions involving our donations. The scheme works similarly to how the syndicated conservation easement transaction works in that there is a tax promoter who promises returns that are too good to be true by pumping up the value. For purposes of the conservation easements, it is the value of the easement, and for purposes of art donations, it is the value of the art. Now, the IRS has significantly increased enforcement of improper art donation deductions as provided in the recent Dirty Dozen list:

How the Art Deduction Scheme Works

In a nutshell, promoters entice taxpayers to acquire art that they claim they are acquiring at a discounted or reduced price. The promoter assures the taxpayer that the value is significantly higher than the purchase price heard after a year, the art is donated and the taxpayer takes a large deduction based on a puffed-up value for the art that would not match a legitimate appraisal.

As provided by the IRS

      • There are ways for taxpayers to properly claim donations of art. But some unscrupulous promoters use direct solicitation to promise values of art that are too good to be true.
        • These promoters encourage taxpayers to buy various types of art, often at a “discounted” price. This price may also include additional services from the promoter, such as storage, shipping and arranging the appraisal and donation of the art. The promotor promises the art is worth significantly more than the purchase price.
        • These schemes are designed to encourage purchasers to donate the art after waiting at least one year and to claim a tax deduction for an inflated fair market value, which is substantially more than they paid for the artwork. Promoters may suggest taxpayers donate art annually and allow them to buy a quantity of art that guarantees a specific deductible amount. Promoters may even arrange for certain charities to take the donations.
        • The IRS has a team of professionally trained Appraisers in art appraisal services who provide assistance and advice to the IRS and taxpayers on valuation questions in connection with personal property and works of art.
        • “Creativity in art is a beautiful thing, but aggressive creativity in art donation deductions can paint a bad picture for people pulled into these schemes,” Werfel said. “This is another example where people should be careful when it comes to aggressive marketing and promotions. There are legitimate ways to claim an art donation, but taxpayers should be careful to understand the rules and watch out for inflated values or questionable appraisals. Beauty is not always in the eye of the beholder when it comes to tax deductions of art.””

Late Filing Penalties May be Reduced or Avoided

For Taxpayers who did not timely file their FBAR and other international information-related reporting forms and do not qualify for an exception or exclusion to FBAR filing, the IRS has developed many different offshore amnesty programs to assist taxpayers with safely getting into compliance. These programs may reduce or even eliminate international reporting penalties.

Current Year vs Prior Year Non-Compliance

Once a taxpayer missed the tax and reporting (such as FBAR and FATCA) requirements for prior years, they will want to be careful before submitting their information to the IRS in the current year. That is because they may risk making a quiet disclosure if they just begin filing forward in the current year and/or mass filing previous year forms without doing so under one of the approved IRS offshore submission procedures. Before filing prior untimely foreign reporting forms, taxpayers should consider speaking with a Board-Certified Tax Law Specialist who specializes exclusively in these types of offshore disclosure matters.

Avoid False Offshore Disclosure Submissions (Willful vs Non-Willful)

In recent years, the IRS has increased the level of scrutiny for certain streamlined procedure submissions. When a person is non-willful, they have an excellent chance of making a successful submission to Streamlined Procedures. If they are willful, they would submit to the IRS Voluntary Disclosure Program instead. But, if a willful Taxpayer submits an intentionally false narrative under the Streamlined Procedures (and gets caught), they may become subject to significant fines and penalties

Need Help Finding an Experienced Offshore Tax Attorney?

When it comes to hiring an experienced international tax attorney to represent you for unreported foreign and offshore account reporting, it can become overwhelming for taxpayers trying to trek through all the false information and nonsense they will find in their online research. There are only a handful of attorneys worldwide who are Board-Certified Tax Specialists and who specialize exclusively in offshore disclosure and international tax amnesty reporting. 

Golding & Golding: About Our International Tax Law Firm

Golding & Golding specializes exclusively in international tax, specifically IRS offshore disclosure

Contact our firm today for assistance.