Works of Art Exemption

This exemption provides a property tax exemption for certain works of art that are made available for display in an art gallery or museum (see Revenue and Taxation Code (section 217).

One of the primary requirements to qualify for the exemption is that works of art must be available for public display in the art gallery or museum for a period of 90 days during the 12-month period immediately preceding the lien date for the year for which the exemption is claimed. Available for display requires actual display or documented willingness to display for a specified period. Viewing by "appointment only" is insufficient. Unlike most other exemptions, there is no requirement that the art work be on or available for display on lien date January 1.

The Works of Art Exemption applies to artwork that is generally assessable except that it is loaned to a qualifying museum or art gallery. Assessable works of art include, but not limited to those displayed in a for-profit museum or gallery or those displayed in a business or office (i.e. décor).

The museum in which works of art is displayed must be publicly owned or one that is regularly open to the public and operated by a nonprofit organization that qualifies for exemption under section 23701d. Regularly open to the public means that the museum was open to the public not less than 20 hours per week for not less than 35 weeks of the 12-month period immediately preceding the lien date for the year for which the exemption is claimed.

The following works of art are eligible for the Works of Art Exemption (section 217(a)):

  1. Original paintings in oil, mineral, water, vitreous enamel, or other colors, pastels, original mosaics, original drawings and sketches in pen, ink, pencil, or watercolors, or works of the free fine arts in any other media including applied paper and other materials, manufactured or otherwise, that are used on collages, artists' proof etchings unbound, and engravings and woodcuts unbound, lithographs, or prints made by other hand transfer processes unbound, original sculptures or statuary.
    1. Sculpture and statuary shall include professional productions of sculptors only whether in round or in relief, in bronze, marble, stone, terra cotta, ivory, wood, metal, or other materials, or whether cut, carved, or otherwise wrought by hand from the solid block or mass of marble, stone, alabaster, or from metal, or other materials, or cast in bronze or other metal or substance, or from wax or plaster, or constructed from any material or made in any form as the professional productions of sculptors, only.
    2. Original when used to modify the words "sculptures" and "statuary" shall include the original work or model and the first 10 castings, replicas, or reproductions made from the sculptor’s original work or model with or without a change in scale, regardless of whether or not the sculptor is alive at the time the castings, replicas, or reproductions are completed.
    3. Painting, mosaic, drawing, work of the free fine arts, sketch, sculpture, and statuary shall not include any articles of utility, articles designed for industrial use, or any articles that are made wholly or in part by stenciling or any other mechanical process.
    4. Etchings, engravings, and woodcuts, lithographs, or prints made by other hand transfer processes, shall include only works that are printed by hand from plates, stones or blocks etched, drawn, or engraved with hand tools and do not include works that are printed from plates, stones or blocks etched, drawn or engraved by photochemical or other mechanical processes.
  2. Original works of the free fine arts that are not described in number one listed above, are subject to regulations as the board may prescribe, to prove that the article represents some school, kind or medium of the free fine arts. Original works of the free fine arts shall not include any article of utility or any article designed for industrial use

The Works of Art Exemption applies only if the artwork is available for display in:

  • a publicly owned art gallery or museum
  • a museum that is regularly open to the public and that is operated by a nonprofit organization that qualifies for (income tax) exemption pursuant to section 23701d.

To apply for the Works of Art Exemption, a claim form must be filed each year with the assessor of the county where the property is located. The claim form, BOE-260, Certificate and Affidavit for Exemption of Work or Art, is available from the county assessor.

The artwork must meet the qualifications for the exemption each year and the claim must be filed annually with the assessor by 5:00 p.m., February 15, for the preceding January 1 lien date (the exemption is waived if the claimant fails to file by February 15).

Works of art owned by a public art gallery or museum or a welfare exempt non-profit organization are exempt under California Constitutional Provisions, Article XIII, Sections 3(a), 3(b), or 4(b). Works of art owned by individuals or trusts in which the beneficiaries are individuals and used for private enjoyment are exempt under Article XIII,Section (m). This exemption does not apply to any works of art loaned by any person who holds the artwork primarily for purposes of sale (section 217)(d)), which may be exempt under business inventory.