Results 1 to 4 of 4

Thread: Your IRS At Work?

  1. #1 Legend
    Join Date
    Jan 2004

    Your IRS At Work?

    Is this how our tax system should work, in your opinion?

    Pair inherits $65M sculpture, but can't sell it to pay $29M tax bill

    Heirs of a wealthy New York art dealer were left a $65 million sculpture that might just be more trouble than its worth.

    Illeana Sonnabend, who died in 2007, left an art collection worth an estimated $1 billion. But one item in particular, Robert Rauschenberg's “Canyon,” is an heir's nightmare, a lawyer's dream and an IRS conundrum. The bequest comes with a $29 million tax bill, but since the piece includes a stuffed eagle, it can't be sold.

    Lawyers for Sonnabend's children and beneficiaries, Nina Sundell and Antonio Homem, are hoping federal tax collectors change their valuation of the item, since they're stuck with the piece - and the taxes on it. But for now, the IRS isn't budging, and the case may be decided by a jury.

    “We are hopeful for it to be resolved before a trial,” tax attorney Ralph Lerner told

    Federal law makes it a crime to possess, transport, sell or otherwise convey a bald eagle, whether it is alive or, as in this case, stuffed. Sonnabend got an informal waiver from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1981 that allowed her to keep the piece, considered a masterwork of 20th century art. (Rauschenberg got a waiver for the artwork by showing that the bird had been killed and stuffed long before the restriction was enacted.)

    Sonnabend died in 2007 at age 92. The estate tax, which at the time of Sonnabend's death stood at 50 percent on estates above $1 million, was suspended in 2010 as part of the Bush-era tax cuts, which were renewed and remain in effect until the end of this year.

    Placing a value on an item that cannot be sold is no easy feat. The venerable auction house Christie’s placed the value of "Canyon" at zero. The IRS initially put it at $15 million, then jumped the figure to $65 million when Sundell and Homem refused to pay, according to The New York Times.

    The IRS, which declined to comment on the matter, is not only asking for $29 million in taxes, but also an $11.7 million “gross valuation misstatement” penalty, according to Forbes.

    Sundell and Homem, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, have paid $471 million in federal and state estate taxes related to the collection and have already sold roughly $600 million worth of art to pay those taxes, Lerner told

  2. #2
    Hall Of Fame
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    An item that cannot legally be sold and has no use should have $0 in value.

  3. #3
    All Pro
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Quote Originally Posted by doggin94it View Post
    An item that cannot legally be sold and has no use should have $0 in value.

    The value is completely hypothetical until a buyer agrees to a purchase price. If the item can't be sold, then there is no buyer, and technically there is no value.

    Selling overseas could be an option, but it is illegal to transport the item, whatever that means.

  4. #4
    Hall Of Fame
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Donate it to the Smithsonian and take the 65 million dollar deduction the IRS put on it.


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts

Follow Us