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October 19, 2016 • David Carrillo • Log In to Post Comments

Self-employed professional writer and 20-year college professor donates book collection collected over many years.  Many books were provided by publishers and from other writers for review and/or for course evaluation other books were purchased for personal use.  Any books purchased as self-employed writed were expenses in year of purchase i.e. no capitalized and depreciated.  Given that these books except those purchased for personal use had a zero basis can taxpayer take a charitable donation for FMV of all the books?  ( Books were lumped together as a "Book collection".  It seems like professors donating their book collection is a common occurance but I can't seem to find much in the way of answers regarding zero basis issue. 


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I had a similar problem several years ago with a retirement age college professor of ancient cultures who had traveled the world over many decades and put together a significant collection of writings, research and photographs.  Over the years, we wrote off much of his travel and other costs as employee business expenses.  Now the materials were of museum quality, and he wanted to donate and take a charitable contribution.  We ran into the same zero basis problem.  It was also very difficult to value the collection, due to there only being a handful of experts other than himself.  It got so frustrating, he kept the collection.  My recommendation at the time (he left our engagement a few years later) was for him to organize but keep the collection until death, then bequeath it to his wife, who was about 20 years younger.  I believed she would get a step up in basis at death to FMV (unlike keeping the same basis had he simply gifted it to her), and then she could make the contribution and take the deduction, while also making sure he received the accolades for creating the collection.  

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