Private Treaty Sales

Tax incentives for acquisitions - Acceptance in Lieu - Cultural Gifts Scheme - Private Treaty Sales - Conditional Exemption

This scheme applies to cases where a work of art or object would be liable for inheritance or capital gains tax if sold on the open market. A vendor can avoid this tax by selling privately to certain museums and galleries or organisations such as the National Trust.

Under the scheme, both museum and vendor share the value of the exemption; the museum can buy the object for a fair market value less the tax that would have had to be paid on the open market (typically purchasing the object at 70% of its market value).

As a sweetener, the museum also pays the vendor 25% of the tax value, thereby making the sale more financially beneficial to the vendor than selling on the open market. For instance, in a case where capital gains tax of 20% applies, a museum could acquire a painting valued at £50,000 for £30,000 plus £5,000 to the vendor.

Regarding private treaty sales of conditionally exempt items, vendors are asked (but not obliged) to give three months’ notice of an intended sale to offer an institution breathing space to raise funds. Objects may potentially be sold privately if funds cannot be raised in time.

Read details of the arts council’s current notices of intention of sale here.
The scheme is administered by the arts council's Collections and Cultural Property unit. Museums are advised to contact the unit’s senior advisor Anastasia Tennant at for further information.

Detailed guidance on how Private Treaty Sales are conducted can be downloaded here.

General links and resources

The Art Fund: A guide to giving art

Arts Council England: tax incentive schemes

The Heritage Lottery Fund
The Art Fund

The National Heritage Memorial Fund

Scotland’s National Fund for Acquisitions

V&A Purchase Grant Fund

Preservation of Industrial and Scientific Material (PRISM) fund: England and Wales

Northern Ireland Museums Council acquisition fund