Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Stuffed and Mounted

The Washington Post reported today on an abusive tax avoidance scheme involving the donation of mounted big game animal trophies to various museums. Apparently, one particular appraiser has specialized in both valuing the trophies and arranging the donations. The valuations are often 5 to 10 times what the trophies will bring at established auctions. In one case, a museum sold mounts that had a total appraised value of $4.2 Million for only $67,000.

In addition to the tax abuse or, perhaps, tax fraud angle, the practice is in the sights of conservationists who content that "the trophies hunted are often endangered animals illegally brought into the United States." The question then is, Who Gnu?


Senator Chuck Grasslely's office yesterday issued a press release where he said in part:

The phoniness of this kind of donation calls out for congressional action. It looks like it's time for these self-enriching hunters to become the hunted. Big-game trophies and other non-cash contributions that give more tax benefits to donors than help to the needy are in the Finance Committee's cross hairs. There's mounting evidence that some taxpayers are using these gifts to play big-money games for personal enrichment. This abuse is no different than what we saw with car donations. With car donations, someone cheated on his taxes to the tune of hundreds of dollars and the charity got $50 out of it. With taxidermy donations, the museum gets a pittance for a dusty boar's head that sits in a railway car until it sells, while the donor gets big tax breaks. This is completely unacceptable. We need to take the tax cheating out of taxidermy. We need to close loopholes in the tax laws intended to foster charitable donations, and Tuesday's hearing sets the stage for reform legislation.

"Take the tax cheating out of taxidermy"? Who writes this stuff?