Student Note on Nazi-Era Claims and the Internal Revenue Code

Joseph F. Sawka has a student article in Volume 17 of the the Miami International and Comparative Law Review, “Reconciling Policy and Equity: The Ability of the Internal Revenue Code to Resolve Disputes Regarding Nazi-Looted Art”.  A copy can be downloaded here.  He argues that one way to mitigate the harms which can occur when an innocent current possessor of a holocaust-era work of art that should be returned to claimants might be to allow the innocent current possessor to receive a tax deduction through a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.  An interesting proposal, here is his abstract:

During World War II, the Nazi regime plundered numerous amounts of cultural property and artwork throughout Europe. Many of the items found their way into the hands of good-faith purchasers in the United States. With the growth in technology and communications in the last fifty years, claims for the return of the stolen property have become more prevalent. However, principles of legislative policy and moral equity tend to conflict in litigation involving Nazi-looted art. Should a good-faith purchaser with a large investment in an item be forced to surrender it? Are courts suited to handle the deep emotional, psychological, political, and moral underpinnings associated with the context of World War II? As litigation costs rise exponentially, it is often vital for parties to find alternatives to litigation. This article explores the ability of the Internal Revenue Code, via Section 501(c)(3), to solve disputes involving Nazi-looted art claims. When property, such as artwork, is indivisible, the result of litigation is usually winner-take-all. However, the Internal Revenue offers an alternative solution. It can allow the good-faith purchaser and claimant to emerge without a total loss.

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