That Florida State Collection of Arthropods formula was developed by Howard V. Weems, and began to be widely promulgated in the early 1980s (see Weems' 1983 article in Association of Systematics Collections Newsletter 11: 32-33). It is true that it was not objectively based or backed by data. There have, however, been a few attempts to evaluate the costs of preparation. The first was published by Gary F. Hevel, collection manager at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, in 1988 in Insect Collection News 1: 6-7. Steve Ashe, director of the Snow Entomological Museum, University of Kansas, published another in 1991 in Insect Collection News 6: 15-16. I came up with one myself for a grant proposal while I was at the MCZ.
Nowadays museum acquisition funds have greatly declined, but purchases were common during the last century, and both the Smithsonian and AMNH made significant purchases within the last 25 years. From these, and others, it would be possible to come up with fair market value.
James M. Carpenter
Peter J. Solomon Family Curator, Hymenoptera
Chair, Division of Invertebrate Zoology
American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, NY 10024, USA
voice (212) 769-5611
fax (212) 769-5277
This entire issue is rife with difficulties. As I recall, ~15 years ago, an IRS rep came to ECN and said that real "market value" is established by the actual market, not by some "independent" appraiser's say-so. To the best of my knowledge, there is not much of a record established from sales, except perhaps for some butterfly collections. I have seen "independent appraisers" use a formulaic document that I think came from the Florida State Arthropod Collection, with values for pinned, labeled specimens, paratypes, etc., which has no basis in reality. Donors need to realize that they are the ones who are going to be in trouble with the IRS if they take some giant tax deduction based on an inflated estimate. A collection's value certainly has nothing to do with the effort invested in it (e. g., travel costs), or even the value of the pins.
In any event, public collections need to avoid any hint of conflict of interest, such as recommending an "independent" appraiser to a potential donor.
Professor Andrew V. Z. Brower
Evolution and Ecology Group
Dept. of Biology
Middle Tennessee State University
Murfreesboro TN 37132 USA
From: Entomological Collections Network Listserve <[log in to unmask]>
on behalf of Menard, Katrina L. <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, January 19, 2016 8:02 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: specimen donations and appraisals
You should also check if your institution is part of the AMA; part of the accreditation of the American Museum Association is that its a conflict of interest to appraise. You could not only get in trouble with the IRS but also cause your institution to loose accreditation.
Yes, such a practice could cause problems with the IRS for all future donors and recipient institutions. An outside appraiser should be involved in the final appraisal and not the recipient institution.
Don R. Davis
Entomology NHB 105
P.O. Box 37012
Washington, DC, USA
I don't know if any of you have encountered this issue but I just heard from some folks here in California that a museum back east has been soliciting Lepidoptera collections from private collectors here. They are also providing appraisals of the collections donated. The last one I heard about was an appraisal for $150,000. I checked with my CPA who specializes in federal and state tax law and got the following information.
1. Recipients of donations should/must not be the ones providing the appraisals of the donated material.
2. Anything valued at over $5,000 with an appraisal from the recipient of the donation is considered fraud by the IRS, which will make the deduction invalid and may lead to legal action by the IRS against both the donor and the recipient.
I know it is difficult to find folks willing to do appraisals of donated insect specimens but it is essential that this be done with a neutral party's signature.
Lynn S. Kimsey
Bohart Museum of Entomology
Univeristy of California
One Shields Ave.
Davis, CA 95616