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Tax Policy Toward Art Museums

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  • Don Fullerton

Abstract

Although art museums do not pay any substantial taxes, they are greatly affected by various U.S. tax rules. The individual receives a deduction for donations of art to museums, the estate gets a deduction for bequests, and the corporation gets a deduction for charitable gifts. Art museums also are not taxed on investment income or on some "related" business activities. This paper reviews the logic for these rules and discusses their economic effects. In combination, this set of tax provisions is found to have a tax expenditure that is larger than direct federal expenditures on art museums in the U.S. The amount of this tax expenditure or implicit subsidy has been falling in recent years because of reductions in the marginal personal income tax rates at which individuals deduct gifts. High income taxpayers are found to be the most responsive to marginal tax rates, and they also tend to give the largest amounts to the arts. Therefore the level of the top personal marginal tax rate is particularly important to art museums. Simulations here suggest that the personal marginal rate reduction in the Tax Reform Act of 1986 could reduce gifts to the arts by as much as 24 percent.

Suggested Citation

  • Don Fullerton, 1990. "Tax Policy Toward Art Museums," NBER Working Papers 3379, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3379
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    1. Slemrod, Joel, 1989. "Are Estimated Tax Elasticities Really Just Tax Evasion Elasticities? The Case of Charitable Contributions," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 71(3), pages 517-522, August.
    2. B. Douglas Bernheim, 1987. "Does the Estate Tax Raise Revenue?," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 1, pages 113-138 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Clotfelter, Charles T, 1980. "Tax Incentives and Charitable Giving: Evidence from a Panel of Taxpayers," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 13(3), pages 319-340, June.
    4. Ralph L. Nelson, 1970. "Economic Factors in the Growth of Corporation Giving," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number nels70-1.
    5. Boskin, Michael J., 1976. "Estate taxation and charitable bequests," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(1-2), pages 27-56.
    6. Clotfelter, Charles T., 1980. "Tax incentives and charitable giving: evidence from a panel of taxpayers," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 319-340, June.
    7. Feldstein, Martin S & Taylor, Amy, 1976. "The Income Tax and Charitable Contributions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 44(6), pages 1201-1222, November.
    8. R. A. Schwartz, 1968. "Corporate Philanthropic Contributions," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 23(3), pages 479-497, June.
    9. Reece, William S, 1979. "Charitable Contributions: New Evidence on Household Behavior," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(1), pages 142-151, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Charles T. Clotfelter, 1990. "The Impact of Tax Reform on Charitable Giving: A 1989 Perspective," NBER Working Papers 3273, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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