Paul L. Caron

Friday, December 16, 2005

Bobblehead Tax Deductions

Rehnquist_bobbleheadTom Goldstein at SCOTUSblog is auctioning off his William Rehnquist bobblehead doll:

We will work with the winning bidder to find a worthy legal services organization to receive the money. The winner makes a donation in the amount of the winning bid, takes any relevant tax deduction, and we send the bobblehead doll (plus a quill from oral argument) as an expression of our thanks. Our preference is that it be an organization displaced by Hurricane Katrina, or the Supreme Court Historical Society, but we feel confident we can work it out with the winner.

Only 1,008 Renhnquist bobbleheads were made by the Green Bag and distributed to subscribers. The eBay auction is here.

The post says the "[t]he winner makes a donation in the amount of the winning bid [and] takes any relevant tax deduction."  But Tom notes that prior auctions of Rehnquist bobbleheads have yielded "more than $2,000 each."  So if this auction yields a comparable amount, can the buyer take a charitable deduction for any of the amount?  Or is the buyer treated as paying fmv for the bobblehead and Tom required to report income on the constructive sale of the bobblehead, followed a deductible charitable contribution by Tom?

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Hard to see it any other way. Since Tom's not picking the charity, it doesn't look like a gift of the bobblehead to charity, followed by the charity auctioning it off. Even if it were so characterized, since the charity would be selling it right away, I believe Tom's deduction would be scaled back to basis under IRC 170(e) anyway.

Posted by: Jack Bogdanski | Dec 16, 2005 7:25:43 PM