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November 30, 2015

Senate Panel Scrutinizing Private Art Museums' Tax Breaks

The Senate Finance Committee is seeking financial and operational information from several galleries and museums opened by wealthy art collectors to determine whether the centers provide enough public benefit to justify their tax exemptions, writes The New York Times.

Utah Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, the panel's Republican chairman, sent letters this month to nearly a dozen institutions, ranging from the small Brant Foundation Art Study Center in Greenwich, Conn., to the Broad, the $140 million museum that builder and arts patron Eli Broad recently opened in Los Angeles. The committee requested information on the facilities' visiting hours, donations, trustees, valuations, and art loans.

The Times reported earlier this year on the proliferation of small museums housing individual collections, the donations of which are tax-deductible. Some of the museums are located on or near their founders' estates and keep very limited opening hours or allow public visits by appointment only.

"While more information is needed to ensure compliance with the tax code, one thing is clear: Under the law, these organizations have a duty to promote the public interest, not those of well-off benefactors, plain and simple," Mr. Hatch said in a statement.