Mexican artists pay taxes in art

Mexican artists pay taxes in art

Last month, FP highlighted five of the weirdest tax laws in the world. One of those five tax laws discussed was Ireland’s artist tax exemption, under which rule artists are tax-free to help soften their often meagre earnings. USA Today reports that Mexico has a similar rule, though they’ve apparently copied the old feudal-model of taxation — but instead of providing foodstuffs to their lords, artists are allowed to produce works for the government in lieu of income tax:

"It’s really an amazing concept," says José San Cristóbal Larrea, director of the program. "We’re helping out artists while building a cultural inheritance for the country."

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.

The rule has been in place since 1957, and has contributed to a flourishing Mexican art museum scene, with other pieces being loaned out for exhibitions worldwide. As one would expect, the creation story is plenty amusing:

The art program was the idea of two muralists, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Gerardo "Dr. Atl" Murillo. In 1957, an artist friend of theirs was about to go to jail over tax debts so the two men approached Mexico’s tax director and talked him into an art-for-amnesty deal.

Soon the tax office was accepting original art on a regular basis. In 1975, the Payment in Kind Program became an official part of the tax code.

Sorry to all writers, filmmakers and musicians, but the provision is only for visual art.