In an annual report, the Arts Council England confirmed a record total of £64.5 million worth of art was allocated to U.K. public institutions through the British government’s Acceptance in Lieu (AIL) tax scheme. The total tax settlement from those acquisitions amounts to £40 million across 52 cases.
Through the program, which exists as a provision under U.K. tax law, owners of valuable artworks can offer them to the country in exchange for credit used to offset estate taxes. According to the organization’s 2019 report, the government committee placed 46 objects totaling a value of £58.6 million in public museum collections. The tax settlements from those works totaled £33.6 million. Since 2010, the panel has reported a total £423 million worth of art allocated to museums through the government program and £264.1 million in tax settlements. Museums incur no cost for acquisitions made through the tax plan.
During the process, a committee of experts commissioned by the Arts Council England determines the market value of the object, which are not made public, with tax settlement percentages varying by each individual case. The council then aids in allocating it to a public institution. In September, a rare illustrated manuscript by Paul Gauguin dated 1903 was gifted to the Courtauld Institute in London. Sotheby’s Tax, Heritage and U.K. Museums department in London advised the owner, an heir of German textiles manufacturer Erich Goeritz in the acceptance-in-lieu process. The work was exchanged to satisfy £6.5 million in inheritance tax.
Among the major works reallocated to the public through the program is Edouard Manet’s portrait of his relative Jules Dejouy, distributed to the National Museum Wales. Along with the Gaugin manuscript, the Manet was first acquired by the German textiles manufacturer Erich Goeritz in the early-20th century. Others accepted in 2020 included Jean-Étienne Liotard’s large-scale works in pastel; an important series of paintings depicting a drag ball in British theatre; an archive of Jeremy Hutchinson QC, and a collection of Lucian Freud’s prints.
With many public institutions shuttered due to the pandemic and facing financial strain, the program’s increasing figures means a strengthening buffer for museums to acquire major works to their permanent collections. “Despite the challenges facing the cultural sector, there is some cause for celebration in knowing that cultural artefacts with a market value of nearly £65 million have entered public collections across the UK this year, which is a record high for the schemes,” said the Arts Council England chair Nicholas Serota in a statement.
Representatives for the Arts Council England referenced the impact of the pandemic on the museum sector. “While the success of the schemes for this reporting year is cause for celebration, it was, of course, followed by what is undoubtedly one of the most challenging periods we have endured in our lifetimes,” said Edward Harley, Chairman, Acceptance In Lieu Panel in the report’s introduction.
Another plan, the Cultural Gifts Scheme detailed in the annual report allows for donors to gift works during their lifetime in exchange for tax benefits. The record figure for the report marks the first time that the full budget of £40 million, the total amount of tax allowed for settlement under both schemes facilitated by the Arts Council England, was utilized.