May 2013 | Nate Pedersen

Cultural Gifts Scheme Unveiled in Britain

The British government launched the Cultural Gifts Scheme in March, which offers tax incentives to individuals who make contributions of "pre-eminent" items to cultural institutions while they are still alive. Individuals making such donations are eligible for a reduction in their income or capital gains tax by 30% of the object's value. Thus, a gift of a rare book valued at £500,000 to a special collections library would result in a tax reduction of £150,000.

The first contribution under the new scheme was made to the British Library earlier this month when Hunter Davies, the Beatles' biographer, donated a group of manuscripts of Beatles lyrics including "Strawberry Fields Forever," and "In My Life" handwritten by John Lennon. The British Library maintains a Beatles collection in its popular Treasure Gallery.

Davies was quoted in The Independent about his donation: "I want my Beatles collection to be kept together, in one place, and on public display, and the British Library is the perfect home for it... Working on a new book about The Beatles lyrics made me determined that the British Library should have the world's best public collection of Beatles manuscripts. I'm really pleased the Cultural Gifts Scheme has helped me make this a reality."

The Cultural Gifts Scheme is administered by Arts Council England. It is intended as a complement to the successful Acceptance in Lieu Scheme, which allows individuals to donate heritage items while paying the Inheritance Tax . Both schemes are parts of recent initiatives to encourage philanthropic giving.

Corporations are also eligible to receive a tax reduction if they donate qualifying materials under the Cultural Gifts Scheme, however they receive a reduction in their tax of 20%, rather than a 30%, of the object's value.