IRS Art Appraisal Process

Nobody at the IRS knows a fine piece of art when they see it. Okay, that’s harsh and I’m perpetuating a stereotype that every IRS employee is robotic, boring, and unimaginative. There are thousands of IRS representatives and certainly a huge variety of backgrounds, interests, and personalities.

But its true what I say about their collective knowledge of art. The IRS outsources its art appraisal to an unpaid panel of 25 experts known as the Art Advisory Panel. If you’re hoping for some tax relief in the form of a low appraisal, you better think twice. These guys know their stuff; most of them are experts from renowned museums and galleries in New York.

According to the IRS, the Panel assists the IRS by reviewing and evaluating property appraisals submitted by taxpayers in support of the fair market value claimed in works of art involved in Federal income, estate and gift tax cases in accordance with the Internal Revenue Code. The IRS turns to its panel during an audit involving a piece of art with a claimed value of $50,000 or more. Or maybe the threshold is $20,000. According to the 2010 Annual Summary Report (which I looked through in its entirety and unfortunately did not see one single picture), its $20,000. Of all IRS publications, one would think at least this one should have some artwork, but no. Just words.