Zero Fair Market Value for Antiques?

The antique trade is in an uproar about what’s being called “the ivory mess,” and new regulations by the Fish and Wildlife Service may affect the valuation of many estates.

At issue are small amounts of ivory in pianos, antique furniture, violin bows, jewelry, knives, clocks, canes, sculpture, silver teapots, pens, guns and even billiard cues.  New rules and enforcement guidelines may render these items not only illegal to export or import, but also unsalable within the United States.

Heirs will be surprised to discover that auctioneers may now be unwilling to accept these antiques for sale, and because of lack of marketability, appraisers are likely to value them at zero.  The dilemma for tax preparers is that, as demonstrated by the recent Sonnabend case, the Internal Revenue Service may challenge a zero valuation even when an object can’t legally be sold.

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Posted by Lewis J. Saret, Co-General Editor, Wealth Strategies Journal.