The Art of Taxation

by on April 26, 2010 at 7:20 am in Economics, The Arts | Permalink

In Mexico, visual artists can pay their taxes with art works.

That's the deal Mexico has offered to artists since 1957, quietly amassing a modern art collection that would make most museum curators swoon. As the 2009 tax deadline approaches, tax collectors are getting ready to receive a whole new crop of masterworks…

There's a sliding scale: If you sell five artworks in a year, you must give the government one. Sell 21 pieces, the government gets six. A 10-member jury of artists ensures that no one tries to unload junk.

Under the program, the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit now owns 4,248 paintings, sculptures, engravings and photographs by Diego Rivera, Rufino Tamayo, Leonora Carrington and other masters.

Click on "Colecciones Pago en Especie" at to see the art works which have been used to pay taxes since the program began.

The Mexican government accepts all styles of painting for the program so, unlike in America, in Mexico you can have taxation without representation.

1 Jeff Smith April 26, 2010 at 7:52 am

Alex, Alex, Alex … a truly masterful pun. Well done!

2 John S. April 26, 2010 at 8:27 am

This is great but it should be open to everyone, not just artists. And the benefits should accrue to more than just state-owned art museums. What if you were allowed to make direct contributions to federal agencies, then deduct the contributions right off your tax bill? So if you were really interested in foreign aid, you could contribute money to the State Department. Or if you thought national defense were a high priority, you could contribute to the Army. This would be a much more democratic way of allocating tax dollars.

3 Michael Heller April 26, 2010 at 8:31 am

Last I heard Mexico has one of the lowest rates of tax collection as a proportion of national income in the world, so — unfortunately for the artists — this must be one of its most efficient methods of collection. If the government could persuade Carlos Slim to give one in five telephone connections in lieu of tax the country might soon have overflowing public coffers.

4 JG April 26, 2010 at 8:45 am

Good pun, but in DC there is plenty of taxation without representation.

5 Tom April 26, 2010 at 9:21 am

I think I’d be afraid of what bad habits an accountant would pick up working for the federal government. I may not want him back.

6 Zach April 26, 2010 at 11:44 am

You can also have taxation without representation in the US, if you are under 18 or live in Washington DC…

7 david April 26, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Although I can’t point to which provision this violates, I have the unshakeable feeling that this runs contra to the spirit of this guide to the perplexed.

I thought this was a TC post until the pun.

8 Bill April 26, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Here’s another way to get a tax deduction for art and for a political contribution, nonetheless. A twofer.

Make a film called “Hillary: The Movie”.

If it doesn’t make money, there are a lot of deductions for filmakers, so scr-w the government with a tax deduction for your political commercial, er, sorry, movie.

9 Charles C. Johnson April 26, 2010 at 7:17 pm

I have to wonder: What does the Mexican government do with all of those paintings? Would it not be net beneficial to sell off the paintings to drug lords (or anyone who can afford them)?

I’m also wondering how that panel decides what is and is not art. Isn’t that the age old question?

10 Kat April 26, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Clearly someone needs to inform this guy.

11 k April 29, 2010 at 6:53 pm

Nothing new. in the 70´s the french government seized Picasso´s ( a communist) works in payment for inheritance taxes from his heirs.
The Netherlands government, at the times of the dutch disease, had tons of “artworks” that resulted from the subsidies to artists .

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