Monday, 13 April 2015

Searching for the money tree — part five

Marinus van Reymerswaele, 1539
Variously known as The moneychanger and his wife, or The tax
collector and his wife, both subjects are common for this artist.

Note the talon aspect of their hands save for the hand of
the man who tightly grasps the coin he is placing on the
scale to check the weight. Before milled coinage, and
back when money had intrinsic value, the "hammered"
coins were frequently clipped or shaved at their edge
to profit on the metal or (rarely) to adjust the weight
before being distributed. Squeeze your thumb against
your forefinger and note the pressure that is needed for
your thumb to assume this shape.
Physical immortality continues to elude us and the vultures wait to pick our bones clean (if you are a Tibetan Buddhist, this is no metaphor). In this instance I am not talking about greedy relatives fighting over your estate; or funeral directors pushing for the purchase of the deluxe model of casket. I am talking about the tax man. Of course, we all know about death taxes in some countries. Here in Canada, there is no such thing, but the collector still has to be aware of another tax: capital gains. Laws will vary from country to country so make sure you know what your heirs might have to face.

For me, a dedicated coin collector summons up an image of someone without a lot of money in their bank account; an average job; function rather than fashion expressed in their wardrobe; and a car that has seen much better days. Oh, and a collection that might make the curator of a numismatic museum drool. This is not true in every case, of course, but it is far truer than the public's image of the billionaire collector sipping brandy in the vault beneath his mansion as he drools over his collection.

I have often heard collectors say that they plan to leave their collection to a museum. Perhaps they think that this will avoid some problems for their family, or that their name will be remembered as a donor, but they are mostly thinking about how the collection might benefit future studies. If you have such warm and fuzzy thoughts in your head, snap out of it and read this piece from a Canadian lawyer: Donating Art - Not as easy as you may think... . Like the confidence trickster, the tax man can see you coming. He knows that what you bought for next to nothing sixty years earlier can now be sold for a handsome sum and he wants part of that action and knows that capital gains tax can be obtained from your heirs even if you think you can avoid the problem with a donation to a museum. He sucks you in at first, with the promise of a tax break if you donate to a public museum, but that just makes sure that the taxman gets a free appraisal so that demanding the requisite capital gains tax is a simple matter. So your heirs end up with your meagre bank account and the old car and a tax bill that is worth more than the rest of the estate put together.

But there is much more in that law firm's article than the capital gains tax problem, and laws vary from country to country so do your research and give it all some very serious thought. Remember, though, that once an official appraisal is issued your fate is probably sealed. There is also mention in the article of cultural property laws and many of the proponents of such are also tricksters and con-men. I will sharpen my scalpel and dissect those for you tomorrow.

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