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England Tax Battle Over Painting Worth $15 Million

By December 26, 2012Estate Planning

Reynolds_OmaiThe Castle Howard in London possesses a specific painting that has been the subject of a nearly 12 year long battle over capital gains taxes.  The painting is entitled Omai and is a romantic portrait of one of the first Pacific Islanders to visit Europe as painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds.  It is considered to be Mr. Reynolds’ finest work and has been a constant fixture on the walls of Castle Howard for centuries.

However, in 2001 the painting was sold to fund the divorce of Simon and Annette Howard. The government feels that the piece of artwork should be subject to capital gains tax, as would be true for the sale of most any valuable piece of property.  However, the lawyers of the estate claim that the artwork is a part of the estate and an essential draw for visitors to Castle Howard.  Thus they feel that it should be considered a “plant” used in the running of the house as a business and should thereby be exempt from the tax levy.

Her Majesty’s government lawyers are fighting against the executors, but not much headway has been made.  This decision, however, could be a vital one to many other wealthy “landed” families with valuable collections that are attempting to shield their assets from taxes.  If items considered pertinent to the running of the household as a viable business are declared free from capital gains tax, it would make many of these families very pleased indeed.

The government lawyers do have a strong case however, especially because, as they recently pointed out in court, the sale of the artwork did not affect the number of visitors to Castle Howard.  In fact, the number of visitors has actually increased by approximately 10% in the years after its sale.  It seems the executors may have a difficult time proving the painting as an essential part of the home’s business with those statistics.

Only time will time how the judge will decide in the case.  But this verdict could affect many families in England and will be a major decision in interpreting their tax laws.

One way to avoid a step up in basis for capital gains taxes here in Arizona and New Mexico is to create a Living Trust.  This is a vital step in helping you or your beneficiaries to avoid paying those additional taxes.  For more information, contact our offices today at 888.222.1328 for a free consultation with an MH estate planning attorney.

About Morris Hall:
At Morris Hall, we have focused our legal practice on estate planning for over 40 years.  Along with estate planning, our attorneys help clients and their families with matters of probate, trust administration, wills, power of attorneys, business planning, succession planning, legacy planning, charitable gifting and other important legal aspects.  We also have divisions in financial, real estate and accounting to help you incorporate all of your planning together, ensuring that everything works perfectly for your needs and situation. Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Cave Creek, Tucson, Prescott, Flagstaff and Arrowhead.  Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

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