Despite Tax Drawbacks, Artists Find Reasons to Donate Their Work

October 27, 2014 10:22 AM

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Like the smart woman who marries Mr. Wrong, artists often find their hearts and minds going in different directions when confronted by some great social need calling for a donation. Charity auctions regularly ask artists to contribute a work of art that can be sold to raise money, and certainly there is satisfaction in doing what one can to help a worthy cause. However, as opposed to art collectors who are entitled to deduct on their tax returns the full market value of any object they might donate, the Internal Revenue Service only permits artists to deduct the cost of the materials used in creating their own artwork that they contribute. The sentiment involved in giving is fine, but the drawbacks - seeing one's artwork picked up for a fraction of its real value, foregoing any tax benefits, the limited likelihood of a donation furthering one's career or even being singularly publicized - are enormous, leaving them with the choice of being stupid or stingy.

Not everyone agrees with the dire assessment, including artists who continually offer their work for one worthy cause or another. According to New York City art dealer Edward Winkleman, who represents emerging artists, donating one's own artwork to some charity benefit is, "first, good karma. Helpin...

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