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  1. Wealth
April 17, 2013

Can the Cultural Gifts Scheme Boost Arts Philanthropy in the UK?

By Spear's

A new scheme to encourage lifetime giving could prevent pre-eminent works of art leaving the UK, but there are problems

Frick, Guggenheim, Carnegie, Rockefeller: iconic names of American philanthropy in the arts. And now we can add Lauder.  

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York announced last week that Leonard A. Lauder has made the museum a gift of his billion dollar collection of 78 Cubist paintings, drawings and sculptures. In the UK, in contrast, it looks likely that Picasso’s £50 million Child with a Dove (which was under an export ban until December 2012) will leave the UK for Qatar as no UK charitable institution has been able to raise sufficient funds.  

Much has already been made of the philanthropy gap between the UK and the US, but will the recently launched Cultural Gifts Scheme, introduced in the Finance Act 2012 and launched in March 2013, inspire a new age of philanthropy in the arts in the UK?

Picasso’s Child with a Dove

This new scheme, administered by the Arts Council England, has been designed to encourage owners of pre-eminent objects (or collections of objects) and items associated with a historic building to donate them to the nation during their lifetime, rather than after their death, as with the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme.  

Crucially for the donor with a personal interest in a particular museum or gallery, the gift must be made to the nation and not to their museum or gallery of choice, although the donor may express a non-binding wish as to where the gift is displayed.  In return, the donor will receive a reduction in their personal tax liability of up to 30% of the donated object’s value (which can be spread across up to five tax years).  

Pre-eminent art

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To qualify for the scheme, the object must be approved by a panel of experts as ‘pre-eminent’. Does the object or collection have an especially close association with UK history and national life? Is it of special artistic or historical interest or of particular importance for the study of some branch of art, learning or history? Or does it have an especially close association with a particular historic setting?

The scheme will operate on a first-come first-served basis within an annual budget of £30m of relief, which will be shared with the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme. For some, aside from budget constraints, the scheme has limitations: for example, neither gifts by trusts, trustees and personal representatives, nor gifts of jointly owned objects (unless ownership is transferred into single ownership before the gift is made) are eligible for consideration.

Whilst donors may be motivated to make philanthropic gifts for many reasons, financial benefits included, most importantly for the development of philanthropic giving in the UK, the scheme offers the opportunity for donors to build a meaningful and long-term relationship with the museum recipient where donors can see first-hand how philanthropy in the arts can transform institutions and enhance our cultural life.  With the introduction of the scheme, can we wish upon JMW Turner’s Evening Star for our own billion dollar gift?

Emily O’Donnell is with private client law firm Maurice Turnor Gardner LLP

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