Mexican Artists Pay Taxes in Paintings

The Mexican government has figured out a way to dramatically simplify the payment of taxes, at least for one segment of society: artists.  Mexican artists who elect to participate in the program must donate good quality works of art to the government based on the number of works sold during the tax year.  Here’s how it works.  If an artist sells 1-5 paintings, then that artist must pay a tax of 1 painting.  If 6-8 paintings are sold, then 2 paintings must be donated.  The maximum number that any artist is required to donate is six.  The “Payment in Kind” program began in 1957 and is very popular among artists of virtually every skill level.

Virtually every skill level because if you can’t sell your art, then the government doesn’t want it.  In fact, even some art that can be sold is not very good, but tax collectors still accept it.  And what is done with all this artistic “revenue”?  It adorns the halls of government buildings and public spaces all across the country.  Its actually quite a fantastic “win win” for the artist who gets to avoid paying taxes in currency and also may benefit from the public display of his/her pieces.  Those who participate in the Payment in Kind program are required to donate a quality piece of art that is of similar value to the pieces that were sold and also that is representative of the particular artists body of work.  There are art experts on staff at the Mexican Tax Administration Service who make sure the artwork meets these standards.  But since there is a chance the government will display the donation, most artists are motivated to donate some of their best stuff.

The Mexican government has amassed an impressive collection of paintings and other artwork from some of Mexico’s finest contemporary artists.  But, because the program is open to anyone who sells art, it has also accumulated a huge collection of garbage that nobody would dare hang on their wall.  That might be the biggest drawback…that, and all the actual revenue that the country is missing out on.

Ai Weiwei’s Story Told in New Documentary Film

Filmmaker, Alison Klayman, has documented the life and work of Ai Weiwei in a film that premiered at Sundance this past weekend. Ai is known on this blog for his tax problems (“problems” that were likely invented by the Chinese government as a way to appear to incarcerate him for legitimate reasons), but is recognized around the world as one of China’s most outspoken dissidents.

“Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” tells the story of Ai through exclusive interviews of the artist himself and those that are close to him. See a high quality preview of the film here: ai-weiwei-evolution-of-a-dissident.html.

“Individual freedom . . . independent thinking and expression . . . those are the core values of my activities.

~ Ai Weiwei

Ai often uses his art to make strong political statements. This is a man who knows he could be snatched up at any moment by Chinese authorities for his provocative art and opinions. He knows that his life (or death) is in the hands of the government he criticizes. His courage and ambition are inspiring.