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

Donna Yates (Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research , University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom)

Journal of Financial Crime

ISSN: 1359-0790

Article publication date: 31 December 2015




This paper aims to discuss the key aspects of the international trade in antiquities and the practice of philanthropic donation of objects 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 incentivisation 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.



The author has received funding for this research from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ERC Grant agreement n° 283873 GTICO, the Leverhulme Trust and the Fulbright Program.


Yates, D. (2015), "Museums, collectors, and value manipulation: tax fraud through donation of antiquities", Journal of Financial Crime, Vol. 23 No. 1, pp. 173-186.



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