Museums, collectors, and value manipulation: tax fraud through donation of antiquities

Yates, D. (2016) ‘Museums, collectors, and value manipulation: tax fraud through donation of antiquities’. Journal of Financial Crime 23(1)

This article is available as a pre-print on the Journal of Financial Crime website:


To discuss the key aspects of the international trade in antiquities and the practice of philanthropic donation of object to museums that allow for certain types of tax deduction manipulation using a case of tax deduction manipulation from Australia and a case of tax fraud from the United States as examples.


Two thoroughly researched case studies are presented which illustrate the particular features of current and past antiquities donation incentivization schemes which leave them open to manipulation and fraud.


The valuation of antiquities is subjective and problematic and the operations of both the antiquities market and the museums sector are traditionally opaque. Because of this tax incentivisation of antiquities donations, is susceptible to fraud.


This paper presents the mechanisms of the antiquities market and museum world to an audience that is not familiar with it. It then clearly demonstrates how the traditional practices of this world can be manipulated for the purposes of tax fraud. Two useful case studies are presented and one of these case studies has never been academically published before, despite it being the cause for a change in Australian tax law.