An Australian Government initiative to encourage gifts of culturally significant items to cultural institutions

The Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program provides tax incentives to encourage gifts of culturally significant items from private collections to public art galleries, libraries, museums and archives.

The National Library has received a large number of books, manuscripts, paintings, photographs, maps, and oral histories from donors who wished to obtain the benefit of a tax deduction. The Library is appreciative of the benefits of the Cultural Gifts Program and we welcome offers of materials from individuals and organisations that are interested in making use of the Program. Policies relating to acceptance of gifts by the National Library under this Program can be found below.

The Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts administers the program in accordance with the gift provisions of the income tax law and with the advice of an expert committee, the Committee on Taxation Incentives for the Arts.

Tax incentives

  • The general rule is that the average of the GST inclusive market values specified in valuations from approved valuers for the gift is fully tax deductible, with some exceptions (see overleaf).
  • Donors can elect to spread the deduction over a period up to five income years.
  • Gifts are exempt from capital gains tax.

Donors can also claim a tax deduction for the costs of obtaining valuations specifically for this program.

Other benefits

Donors can take pride in the knowledge that their gifts contribute to the development of Australia’s public collections. The donations also help to preserve Australia’s cultural heritage for the benefit of present and future generations.

The information above has been sourced from the website of the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.

For more information on this program please consult the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program website. For further details on donating collection material to the National Library through the Cultural Gifts Program, please contact the Development Office or the following collection areas:

1. Acceptance of gifts by the National Library

Gifts are only accepted if they fall within the National Library's Collection Development Policy. This should apply also to subsequent gifts from the same donor. In general, the gifts should be of sufficient research value that the Library would have been prepared to purchase them if they had not in fact been offered as gifts. Photocopies and other copies of some types of unique materials may be accepted, provided they only form part of a larger gift and on the understanding that they will be given a low monetary value by the valuers.

2. Minimum value of gifts

Cultural Gift donations are not accepted if it is evident that their market value is very low. At the very least, the value must exceed the cost of the valuers' fees and the administrative costs incurred by the National Library in arranging valuations and preparing the paperwork. The minimum value that is acceptable is likely to vary according to format, as the costs of organising valuations differ considerably. Material that clearly has a value of less than AUD $500 is not accepted and only in special circumstances are gifts worth less than AUD $1000 accepted. If the material offered is of low market value donors are asked to consider making it an outright gift or, if this is not acceptable, offering it for purchase, on the understanding that the payment will be relatively slight.

3. Frequency of gifts

The National Library does not accept more than one Cultural Gift from a particular donor in a single financial year, unless the second Gift comprises a different format of material than the first. The Library may accept gifts from a particular donor in two or more consecutive years, but it will not necessarily arrange the valuations for each gift. Depending on the quality of the material, the availability of valuers and the number of gifts currently on offer, the Library might inform a frequent donor that they will have to organise the valuations themselves. The Library may still be willing to pay the valuers' fees. In such cases, donors may be told that in their own interests it would be better to present material at longer intervals.

4. Access restrictions

In the case of manuscripts and oral history recordings, the National Library is willing to accept materials that will be held under closed or restricted access, provided that such restrictions are reasonable. However, as restrictions affect the market value of the material (on the assumption that most potential buyers would not be willing to accept any restrictions on use), the Library seeks to establish at an early stage if restrictions are likely. If so, it informs the valuers accordingly. Manuscript valuers have been directed by the Taxation Incentives for the Arts Committee to take into account access restrictions.

5. Ownership of copyright

Donors are required to indicate whether they are transferring the ownership of copyright of the gift. In some instances, particularly with offers of photographs, the National Library may decide to decline the gift unless copyright is transferred. In other cases, the gift may be accepted, but the valuers will be notified that copyright has not been acquired and this is likely to affect the valuation.

6. Ownership of materials

The National Library will establish at the time of accepting a gift who holds the main legal title to the material. In the case of complex collections, however, the question of some items belonging to others may arise only after detailed examination, especially if valuation takes place before the gift is actually received by the Library. Valuers are required to draw to the Library's attention any groups of material or items that probably should not form part of the collection. If there is any uncertainty, the Library seeks clarification before the paperwork is finalised. Materials acquired by donors in the course of their official duties will normally be excluded from valuations or will only be valued at a nominal amount.

7. Commissioning of valuations

While donors are entitled to arrange their own valuations, the National Library normally commissions the two valuations and pays the valuers' fees. The valuers who are selected are known to have expertise and experience in assessing the category of material, they have a full understanding of the requirements of the Program, they have proved to be prompt and reliable, and they do not charge excessive fees. Valuers are chosen from the Approved Valuers document published regularly by the Committee on Taxation Incentives for the Arts.

8. Acceptance of valuations by the Library

If there is a significant discrepancy between the two valuations, the National Library firstly asks the valuers to reconsider their valuations and, if they adhere to their decisions, it seeks a third valuation. The Library will then normally submit to the TIA Committee the two closest valuations, but if the discrepancies are still marked it may submit all three valuations. Library staff do not seek to influence the valuers in any way, though they may express views if asked by valuers. The TIA Committee has stated that in submitting the certificates of donations, the donee institutions are implicitly endorsing the valuation. Consequently, if the Library considers that the valuations are either much higher or much lower than their probable market value, or if it strongly suspects collusion between donors and valuers, it will seek a third valuation. Partly depending on that valuation, it may then inform the Committee that it cannot endorse some or all of the valuations.

9. Acceptance of valuations by donors

Cultural Gift donations are expected to be unconditional and if the National Library arranges the valuations there is no requirement that the donors approve the valuations. Nevertheless, the Library does inform donors of the average of the two valuations before submitting them to the TIA Committee. If donors are unhappy with the valuations, they are free to arrange new valuations, in which case the Library would submit all the valuations to the TIA Committee. Failing that, the Library will consider returning the gifts. In such cases, it expects the donors to reimburse it for the cost of the valuations.