tax benefits of donation?

Ron at Ron at
Mon Feb 14 10:30:05 CST 2005

----- Original Message -----
From: Thomas G. Lammers
Sent: Monday, February 14, 2005 9:38 AM
Subject: Re: tax benefits of donation?

At 08:16 AM 2/14/2005, Gregory Zolnerowich wrote:
>I have an alum who wants to donate a few thousand insect specimens to
>our collection. He's interested in any potential tax benefits. I
>don't want to be his tax advisor, and recall a fellow from the IRS
>who addressed the issue of declaring a value of donated specimens for
>tax purposes at an Entomological Collections Network  meeting some
>years ago. He wasn't very keen on assigning value to specimens.

We recently were the beneficiary of a gift-in-kind of an alum's personal
herbarium -- about 8600 very nice specimens of professional quality and
above average interest.

I believe what the IRS requires is an independent assessment of value.  As
the recipient of the gift, you *cannot* be involved in appraising it;
that's a conflict of interest.  All I did was provide here with names and
contact info of about 10 professional herbarium curators.  She contacted
one or more and arranged for an appraisal, which, I assume, satisfied the

To me, this is a major hassle for donors that natural history museums need
to get together on and change.  The IRS has a form that is the same for
donated bugs to donated Picassos.   Sorry, art and antique museum items are
a whole different world than biota donated for scientific use.  A donor of
such specimens should be able to give the items and get a receipt and that's
it.  At TILS what we do is this.   I have a copy of the Florida State
Collection of Arthropods scale.  We itemize and figure the value on that.
No one has gotten audited so our method has never been challenged.  This is
a value scale by 1) a governmental organization and 2) an entity with which
we have no connection or association at all.   That, to me, is not only
independent but standardized.

Museums should be together and come up with a standardized scale - primary
types, secondary, general, a "rare" or special additional amount etc. and
then as a group have a representative make a personal appointment with the
non-profit specialists with the IRS and get an "official" recognition of
that scale.  Enlist the senators in the states the major museums are in
because a simplified system will enhance the holdings of their states
institutions.   The main thing is that we need to get out from under the
same form uses by art and antiques - where fraud can be easily worked into
the deduction process.

Ron Gatrelle
The International Lepidoptera Survey.

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