Value of Scientific Specimens

Ron at Ron at
Wed Jul 25 16:09:22 CDT 2001

----- Original Message -----
From: "Sally Shelton" <Shelton.Sally at NMNH.SI.EDU>
Subject: Re: Value of Scientific Specimens
> FYI:
> Museums in the public trust are flat-out barred from providing or
certifying monetary appraisals of donations or potential donations. The
museum cannot provide the values without getting in big trouble with the
IRS and compromising its non-profit status. If you are the donor, you have
to get the appraisal, and that cannot--CANNOT--be from anyone connected
with the museum you are donating to. The museum can and should provide you
with documents attesting that you provided the following value of the
collection at the time of donation, but they can't verify that value
through appraisal. > You have to talk to a professional appraiser to get a
valuation that will serve your purposes. You can't donate a collection to
the museum AND ask the museum to put a value on it. Value is primarily an
issue between you and the IRS.
> Cheers, Sally

This is simply not true. I have founded three non-profits, two of which are
religious. Two of these have to file 990 and one (a church) does not. 30
years ago it began to be very concienient for, and the standard prqactice
of, non-profits to stop placing a specific value on donated items e.g. a
refrigerator to the VFW. A lot of why this came into vogue was that various
non-profits were inflating the value to provide tax breaks for friends and
family. The IRS began to crack down on this. Rather than provide evidence
of appraisal their selves, the non-profits began to simply issue a receipt
that stated "This receipt acknowledges the donation of _______ to ______.
We do not place a value on donated items as this is the responsibility of
the donor."  I (we) have provided hundreds of these receipts (mostly for
items donated to our benevolence activities).  We did not have to do this.
We chose to do this to keep the IRS off our backs and put them on the other
guys.  I have lived through and worked on both sides of the receipt

The USNM is a Federal entity. The FSCA is a State of Florida entity. The
FSCA has and continues to both appraise and supply donors with receipts.
Receipts that have been (and are) accepted by the IRS for decades. It is
only required that an appropriate appraisal be made - by either party. All
the IRS cares about is the accurate value. If a non-profit can give a
receipt for a $10 bill. It can provide a receipt for a $10 specimen. Both
are donated. Both have a set value. The key word being set. This is not art
work with fluctuating value. They are specimens which, as the FSCA has
done, are fixed in value by a minutely detailed long standardized system.

Every tax return filed is primarily between the individual
(person/business) and the IRS. So what?  If one will get a copy of the IRS
regulations you will find that in the fine print it states that one does
not even have to apply with the IRS to become a "non-profit" org. It does
state (in a blackmail kind of way) that not "registering" as a 501 or
whatever - will make it difficult (not impossible) for your donors to
deduct contributions to your non-profit.

The IRS allows a wide mode of operation for non-profits. There are very few
wordings that they require in the incorporation documents. These are under
prohibitions and restrictions. How do I know all any of this. Because I
have formed all three non-profits all by myself - at both the state and
Federal levels. The last being in 1998. I did all the paper work via
personal consultation with the IRS. Yes, they advised and helped me set
them up. How do I know we can provide an amount to a donor? The specialist
agents said we could. If it couldn't be done, the FSCA would not still be
doing it.


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