First, investors need to be aware of the difference, for their finances, between selling and donating. Peter Jason Riley, a certified public accountant in Newburyport, Mass., ran the numbers for a hypothetical U.S. taxpayer with an adjusted gross income of $500,000 who owns a painting appraised at $100,000 that she had purchased for $20,000.
What happens if she donates the painting? For donations of art, owners generally can claim a federal tax deduction of up to 30% of their adjusted gross income each year, making the limit in this case $150,000. So donating the painting to a qualifying museum would permit this owner a deduction in the current tax year of $100,000, assuming she hasn’t made other art donations totaling more than $50,000. (If donations in a given year exceed the limit for deductions, the overage can be deducted in following years, up to five if necessary, with the 30% limit applying each year.)
That means the tax benefit this year for the donor in this case would be $41,118, according to Mr. Riley.
If the painting was sold for the appraised value of $100,000, assuming a typical 15% sales commission to an auction house or art gallery, the seller would owe $31,372 in capital-gains tax, resulting in a net profit of $53,628, Mr. Riley says.
So the owner would end up $12,510 better off by selling than by donating. That doesn’t take into account the cost of an appraisal—typically $1,000 to $3,000—which isn’t always necessary for a sale but would be required in this case before the artwork was donated. The Internal Revenue Service requires an appraisal for donations of property over $20,000.
Read more at The Wall Street Journal.