Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



This Article looks to the British national heritage capital tax system as a model to propose provisions in the United States Internal Revenue Code to aid in preserving the United States cultural and natural heritage. After an overview of the capital tax systems in Britain and the United States, Ms. Fogleman examines features of the British tax system that promote preservation of the national heritage. The British system conditionally exempts the owners of national heritage assets from estate or gift tax liability on the transfer of those assets in exchange for permitting public access to and maintaining the assets; allows owners privately to sell national heritage assets to conservation or preservation bodies and receive a higher net price than that available on the open market; and permits owners to deed national heritage assets to the nation in lieu of estate or gift tax liability previously incurred.

Ms. Fogleman applauds the British system. She states that since the British incentives encourage taxpayers to keep the property in private ownership in exchange for providing maintenance and permitting public access to the property, they encourage the preservation of historic houses and other nationally significant property for the public benefit. At the same time, the system decreases the financial burden on the British Government and the taxpaying public, since the government does not have to buy the property outright in order to preserve it.

Ms. Fogleman argues that United States tax law should in like manner encourage private owners of nationally significant property such as historic houses, outstanding scenic land, and works of art to retain ownership by conditionally exempting the owner from capital tax liability incurred on the transfer of the property. In exchange, the owner would maintain the property in accordance with specified standards while permitting public access. Ms. Fogleman also argues that United States tax law should include provisions creating a favored market for the purchase of national heritage assets by conservation and preservation bodies, and should include provisions permitting owners of national heritage assets to deed those assets to the nation in lieu of estate or gift tax liability. Property owners, the United States Government, and the public would all benefit from such a system.