NEW YORK—Changing the U.S. tax code as it relates to artists is the top priority for Gail Andrews, director of the Birmingham Museum of Art, Ala., and the newly elected president of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD).
The current tax code presents living artists with “an economic disincentive to donate their work,” Andrews told ARTnewsletter. Since her election in June, Andrews has been attempting to round up support on Capitol Hill for legislation that would allow artists to receive full, fair-market tax deductions for their own creations when these are donated to tax-exempt institutions, such as museums and libraries. Since the tax law was changed in 1969, artists (including writers, composers and fine artists) have been allowed to deduct on their tax returns only the cost of the materials they use— unlike collectors, who may write off the entire market value when making a gift. Titled the Artist-Museum Partnership Act, identical bills were introduced into the Senate by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and into the House by Congressmen John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.).
The same or similar bills have been introduced into almost every session of Congress since 1970, added to larger tax bills as amendments and removed before the final vote due to objections—most recently by key members of the House Ways and Means Committee over the issue of how the donated artworks would be valued and the effect of the tax break on the United States Treasury.
Conceding the fact that this bill has not survived Congressional scrutiny in the past, Andrews says, “I feel a different momentum. This legislation has been introduced for so many years now that people really have had an opportunity to study it, learn about it and hear from their constituents.”
One member of the House who has heard from constituents is Congressman Ramstad, reports his legislative director Karin Hope. “Over the years,” she says, “we have been contacted by libraries and museums throughout Minnesota because there has been an alarming drop of works donated to libraries and museums here and and across the country.”