Few people realize that every donation you make to a museum – whether it is cash or “stuff” – counts as a tax write-off, as long as you don’t receive anything in return for your donation. That means membership fees, tickets to special events, publication subscriptions, admissions, tuition for classes, etc. do not count.
Perhaps you have an artifact in your possession that a museum might want to consider for its permanent collection. Maybe your local museum is in the middle of a fund-raising drive to construct a new building or increase educational programming. Or you have something to contribute for a silent auction or basket raffle fundraiser. Or you own a paint business and you donated a few gallons in preparation for the next exhibition. Anything you give to a museum “free and clear” counts.
Now, how much can you write off?
That depends. If you gave a cash donation, it is cut and dry. Your deduction is equal to the amount you donated.
If you gave an artifact, it is a bit more complicated. You will probably want to hire an appraiser to look at it for you, unless you have a pretty good idea what it is worth yourself.
The museum will not provide a value for you. (See link to related article "Why Museums Cannot Provide Appraisal Values for Artifacts" above right) The Code of Ethics written by the American Association of Museums (AAM) and the International Council of Museums (ICOM) prohibits museum professionals from engaging in appraisal-related activities.
For your own records, it is recommended that you obtain an independent appraisal. Upon request, any museum professional will provide a list of resources to help you find an appropriate appraiser for your donation. Some museums require you to have the appraisal done prior to the donation. Others will make your donation available for inspection to the appraiser of your choice.
Your signed “Deed of Gift” (for artifacts) or a receipt (for all other types of donations) serves as proof of your donation for tax purposes. You will need to provide you tax advisor with this information in order to receive the appropriate tax deduction.