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Fractional Gifts Legislation Introduced in the Senate

posted by Christopher Howard — Aug 10, 2009

An untitled bill introduced last week in the US Senate may loosen recent government restrictions on fractional gifts of works of art to museums, reports Shelly Banjo of the Wall Street Journal. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), whose state contains many important art museums, patrons, and philanthropists, is sponsoring S 1605, which would reform the rules regulating fractional charitable donations of tangible personal property.

Fractional gifts—which allow Americans to give partial ownership rights of an artwork to a museum or charitable organization and take an income-tax deduction for the donated portion of its value—were common practice in the museum world until 2006, when provisions put into the Pension Protection Act of 2006 by Senator Charles E. Grassley (R-IA) made partial gifts less attractive for donors. (Namely, that work must be fully donated within ten years of the initial fractional gift, and that the value of the artwork is capped when the first gift is made.) Since then, museums noticed that the practice of fractional gifts has nearly disappeared.

Here’s more background information on fractional gifts in the New York Times in 2006 and 2008.