Unable to flip the bird

Robert Rauschenberg, _Canyon_, 1959

Robert Rauschenberg, Canyon, 1959. Oil, acrylic, pencil, paper, fabric, metal, buttons, nails, cardboard, printed paper, photographs, wood, paint tubes, mirror string, pillow, & bald eagle on canvas. National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.). (C) Rauschenberg Estate/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY, via Wikipedia

2007 saw the demise of Ileana Sonnabend, a legendary purveyor of art created after 1945. Among the famous works in her considerable estate was Robert Rauschenberg's Canyon, a canonical, influential mid-century work well known from survey texts and studies of formal and thematic innovation in contemporary art. The work is neither a painting nor a sculpture, though it includes attributes of both. The artist called it a "combine", and it brings together a variety of media, art supplies, scraps, miscellaneous material, and things.

One of these things is a stuffed bald eagle. Continue reading….

Last 5 posts by David Byron


  1. says

    Do you guys have a lackey thinking up post titles, or do you do them yourselves? I stand in highly amused awe.

  2. Chris R. says

    How did they go from 15 million to 65 million? That's some thuggery right there.

  3. VPJ says

    Can someone explain to me the IRS' logic?

    The IRS wants money
    The Sonnabend estate has money
    Therefore the art is worth $65 million

    Simple, no?

  4. Mike K says

    I can see charging some tax on it, but it doesn't make sense to me to charge penalties when people act in good faith.

  5. Joe Pullen says

    @Grifter – IRS Logic cannot be explained. It is an oxymoron.

    As an example from prior year tax codes.

    “Stolen property. If you steal property, you must report its fair market value in your income in the year you steal it unless in the same year you return it to its rightful owner. “

    Um yeah because we all know someone who steals is going to be honest enough to report that to the IRS.

    Or this one. “If you receive a bribe include it in your income.” See prior stupidity above.

    BTW same rule for kickbacks and other illegal activities.

  6. says

    Maybe it's because I need to go to bed now, but I'm finding this desk-poundingly hilarious. Ballsier than a sporting goods store. WTF?

  7. Orville says

    If it is worth $65 million, can't it be given to the IRS to pay off part of the tax debt?

  8. Grifter says

    @Joe Pullen:

    But that makes sense, honestly, even if it is weird; it's how they caught Al Capone, after all.

  9. htom says

    Orville — If it is worth $65 million, can't it be given to the IRS to pay off part of the tax debt?

    That was my first thought. What was the insured value (if any) before the sale was prohibited? Could it be sold to a Native American museum?

    Is this not a "taking" that is forbidden?

  10. trizzlor says

    Can we start up a collection so these poor folks can recoup more of their $1 billion inheritance?

  11. eigenperson says

    If the IRS thinks the work is worth $65M, they should accept it in lieu of $65M in cash. Or, to be fair to the IRS, since they probably would incur significant costs in processing such a nontraditional payment, at least they should accept it in lieu of half its value, or $32.5M, in cash.

    trizzlor: Regardless of how rich they are, they deserve to be treated justly.

  12. Ben says


    I think you write that in the sarcastic sense of "they have enough money already, and this is insignificant when compared to their overall wealth."

    If not, then ignore me (well, you may of course ignore me either way… But the following will not pertain to you if you were being sincere).

    I have come to agree that an individual's capacity to direct 'their' resources (to anyone or anything) after death is a detriment to society/our species. It encourages monoculture which may be more efficient in a "predictable-future" sense, but is far less adaptable than diversity.

    Individual's do not enter into our society on "equal footing" – those with low socio-economic status are disproportionately predisposed to certain maladies (both mental and physical), as well as certain hazardous occupations and lifestyles.

    However, I do not see a satisfactory alternative to a system like our own. If we take the totality of someone's resources after they die, it would only encourage those individuals to gift their wealth to kith and kin before they expire. It is a biological necessity to attempt to put your own offspring in as advantageous a position as possible, so it seems improbable that we would be able to entice the populace into rising above their animal instinct.

    So, being that the rate of sudden, unexpected deaths are much higher in the lower socio-economic strata than in the higher tiers, it would seem to benefit the advantaged all the more.

    We cannot ban the process of gifting altogether (well, we could – but it seems unwise to attempt to force the citizenry away from altruism).

    So having some reasonable mixture of "you may leave some to your relatives, friends, acquaintances and favored charities – but you must also leave an equal portion to the most disadvantaged among our society." Seems a practicable approach.

    What alternatives would you propose?

  13. StephenM3 says

    Hey now trizzlor, that sarcasm is uncalled-for. These kids worked damn hard for their mother's/grandmother's/aunts fortune, and deserve every penny of it.

  14. trizzlor says

    Ben, I pretty much feel the same way you do on this issue, and I think a 40% estate tax on inheritance over $1 million is more or less in-line with what you're proposing (how well the government spends that money on the needy is a separate question, to be sure).

    My sarcasm was borne out of the fact that I have generally low sympathy for people who think they deserve more of what someone else gives them, I have even less sympathy for those people when they are receiving an obscenely large sum and their case is still being appealed. All that said, I think it's a neat story, I just don't think it actually tells us all that much about the IRS or the estate tax structure.

  15. Allen says

    How to realise the value and stymie the IRS at the same time: transfer the piece to a Native American tribe, who is allowed to have such things, and then write the IRS determined value off as a charitable gift.

  16. says

    Human stupidity might be boundless, it seems that tax laws are universally doubly so!

    Quick question after having a quick read through of that very hard to read code.

    If you assume the bird was obtained prior to June 8, 1940 then possession of it is neither a criminal nor civil offense (on first glance) then would that also apply to the possession of the item once taken out of the specific physical ownership of the original possessor and given to their estate once they are deceased? Or instead would the estate/executor be criminally/civilly liable under full reading (if not intent) of that code?

  17. Matthew Cline says

    I can see charging some tax on it, but it doesn't make sense to me to charge penalties when people act in good faith.

    This might just be an urban legend, but I've heard that the IRS doesn't consider acting in good faith to be a defense. That is, I've heard that if you ask an IRS employee for clarification about taxes, and that clarification turns out to be wrong, then following that advice will get you in trouble.

  18. ttl says

    Why should anyone's property or money be confiscated by the state after death? Do people really think govt will spend it more wisely than the people the dead person wanted to have it? Shrug. Gonna go watch Harry's War.

  19. Erik B says

    I'm certain it is insured, probably for tens of millions of dollars. I would say the valuation of the piece should be based on the compensation that would be paid if it were accidentally destroyed (by a fire natural disaster, etc).

    You can be sure the owners wouldn't be valuing it at zero if they were talking to insurance agents (and I'm sure the museum its at has it insured at an above zero value).

  20. Agent V says

    I suggest giving the piece to the IRS. Let them determine how to sell it without breaking the law doing so. I'm sure they have lists of Chinese businessmen who'd be perfect for the sale.

  21. Isaios says

    @ Matthew Cline If your accountant makes a mistake, you're not supposed to be held liable for the mistake, so that while you'll have to tax what was left out, you're not supposed to pay a penalty. Thing is, the tax court has been rather harsh on several occations (against the tax-payer, that is). You need to prove that the accountant/lawyer is a professional, you need to provide all relevant information and rely "in good faith" (I really dislike that expression) on the accountant. But EVEN THEN, you might get a whap. The funniest I know is woodsum.TC.WPD.pdf. (No time to check, but I think it's the correct .pdf)

    @ttl How many inheritors do you know that takes a portion of their inheritance, and together with some friends build themselves an interstate, only to allow free use by the hoi polloi? Or as a hobby dredges rivers? Or controls forest fires as a picnic outing activity? Yeah, I kinda think the State generally does spend the money better… I happen to LIKE roads you see. And air traffic control. And Schooling. And sustainable fishing banks. And wildlifepreserves. And public research. Etc, etc ad nauseum.

    <Edited by David to fix link markup.>

    Edited by Patrick to fix David's incorrect emphasis markup.

    <Edited by David to repair Patrick's sad attempt at error correction. And because I can.>

  22. Andro says

    TTL –

    Yes, the government must redistribute the wealth to others, like Solyndra, Halliburton (still in business and getting no bid contracts from the current administration), and other corporations. Some also goes to social programs and is then parceled out, in relatively tiny increments to citizens who by choice or circumstance are down on their luck, medically needy, or sophisticated enough to game the system and make a living on handouts.

  23. jb says

    Matthew Cline,
    It depends on who you ask. The tech support guy? Not so much. But there's such a thing, I believe it's called Letter Rulings, where you ask the IRS how you should handle a particular issue, and they respond in a letter specifically about your exact situation (so not at all useful for the next guy) which tells you how to approach the issue. If you do it that way, you're golden.

  24. Nicholas Weaver says

    Whats really ridiculous is part of the theory behind the huge valuation: They could sell it in secret to some rich Chinese collector. So the valuation is premised on the estate performing an illegal act

    I personally think property-tax type valuations should always have an included option: If the tax authority thinks an item is of value $X, they must also commit to buy it for .75 * X, since that acts to limit the amount of stupid overvaluing in place.

    The .75 is because the value of the item to the taxing authority may be less, and having it be at 1.0 would be far too easy to abuse in the other direction.

  25. Joe Pullen says

    I’ve never seen act in good faith. Case in point. I remember one year that was a really good year for me financially. I ended up paying essentially 42% on every dollar earned (Clinton was in office don’t ask). I’m pretty sure I bought the USA an F16 fighter plane with my taxes that year.

    Anyway, the IRS reviewed my return and determined that . . . . . . wait for it . . . . . . . . I had not paid enough taxes. They wanted another 8K on top of the obscene amount I had already paid.

    So, I had my tax attorney go over my return that had been done by someone else. He found some losses on stock that had not been accounted for and a variety of other things that been deducted. He prepared an amended return which showed the IRS actually owed me about $632.

    The IRS is all of its infinite efficiency continued to send me threatening letters stating they would freeze my checking account and seize the 8K the hard way. At the IRS the left hand has no clue what the right hand is doing. My tax attorney (an ex IRS guy) got a hold of an IRS advocate and told them to cut out their shit or else. They finally quit threatening me and refunded me the $632. My hope is they learned to leave me alone but somehow I doubt it. Bottom line, make sure your tax person is ex IRS – they hate the IRS and they know just how to deal with them.

  26. Luis says

    Agent V already said it, the easiest solution is to pay all the taxes due “in kind” by handing over the painting to the IRS at their own estimative value; they cannot say it is overpriced since they were the ones to put the price tag on it.

    That way the family can pay their taxes according to the IRS rules and the piece would end up in a museum since the IRS would not be able to sell it

  27. Random Encounter says

    Allen nailed it. If the IRS says it's worth $65M, donate it to a Native American charity that can legally accept it and write off the $65M.

    If they can't legally do that they need to appeal, because a valuation based on illeagle activity needs to be appealed.

  28. Demosthenes says

    Joe Pullen:

    "IRS Logic cannot be explained. It is an oxymoron."

    No, it can be explained. It's one of the easiest ways to make sure that if you get caught stealing, or taking bribes/kickbacks, that the federal government will have something to put you away on. Another way is through the enactment of mail fraud laws…which was ACTUALLY what Capone was sent up for.


    "My sarcasm was borne out of the fact that I have generally low sympathy for people who think they deserve more of what someone else gives them, I have even less sympathy for those people when they are receiving an obscenely large sum and their case is still being appealed."

    Oh, where to start? First, if I own something, it's mine, yes? I get to decide what to do with it. If I give it to you, it's yours. The willing transfer of ownership is what underlies the concept of "deserve." If these people were given everything this woman had owned, they deserved it, and that's all there is to it. Second, the amount at stake makes no difference. If I willed you money and the government took half, what difference does it make whether the willed amount was $2 or $2,000,000? In fact, why doesn't the government take 40% (or whatever the estate tax is) of the value of everything willed to anyone?

    The estate tax is the worst tax there is. It is a federal tax on things that have already been federally taxed, which is unjust. It wipes out a large portion of the value of an estate. And it does so to no good purpose. I don't see how anyone can support it.

  29. perlhaqr says

    Isaios: Except the person from whom the inheritance is being inherited already paid taxes on the money being inherited, which went to fund all of those things you name.

    Why should the government get a cut every time a dollar changes hands?

  30. Grifter says


    Per Wikipedia:
    "Following a long trial, on October 17 the jury returned a mixed verdict, finding Capone guilty of five counts of tax evasion and failing to file tax returns."

    Was he convicted of something else?

  31. Grifter says

    @perlhaqr, Demosthenes:

    I've heard that "Taxes have already been paid" argument before.

    Can you expand on it? On its face, it seems to not make sense. After all, I get taxed when I am paid my wages, even though, as part of income to the business I work for, it was taxed. I fail to see (and I'm not arguing, I'm genuinely asking) how the government doesn't always "get a cut every time a dollar changes hands" already.

  32. C. S. P. Schofield says


    I am tentatively for 86ing the death tax for a couple of reasons;

    1) While I am aware of the existence throughout history of rich swine, and particularly of rich swinish children of rich swine, I find it difficult to imagine any inherited fortune being used in a fashion more detrimental to society as a whole than giving it to the State.

    2) The death tax pretty much ensures that any enterprise that starts out as one man's vision, with a personality, will end up as just another cookie-cutter corporation, managed by suits according to the very latest buzzword bingo. I think that this corporate mentality is a heavy contributor to incidents where a large corporation is publicly petty in a way that does huge amounts of damage in PR terms. The example I like best is the summer, some years back, when the lucky man who found that summer's McDonald's Instant Win $1,000,000 piece gave it to his pastor, and McDonald's spent three days saying "They're non-transferable, we aren't obliged to pay it" before somebody at corporate finally realized that this was a PR catastrophe.

    It seems to me that leaving money in the hands of "The Rich", who are not a monolithic entity, is less likely to create a monoculture than giving it to what IS a monolithic (not to say moronic) entity, BTW.

  33. Treestump says

    That people talk about the death tax is proof how utterly f'd this country is. What ever happened to "Its mine, not yours, so F*ck you", I'll do with it what i want? If they want ivory back scratchers, or if they wanna feed the poor, its neither mine nor your business. But I'd sooner high five a guy who blew every dime on coke and hookers before he died, rather than give a penny to the government. Because god only knows that when you give money to an organization thats sole purpose is to waste money, its gonna get used better by them. Hell, take the coke and hookers options. At least the money is going to the 'socially and economically disadvantaged…"

  34. Isaios says

    @perlhaqr The goverment should get a cut every time value is transacted because all transactional interactions are valueadditive. (Apologies for this, I'm not used to talk about economics in English.)

    In the normal course of things, you will pay taxes on your income, then pay sales taxes on goods you buy with said income, and then some more when handing it down the line. This is only a problem when the taxations are inappropriate (in sum, not practise). So demanding 50% taxes on the first 100.000 USD and 25% on all goods and services (not that I know your rates mind (we have 25% as a general rule in Norway)), but demanding only 0.5% on everything AFTER 100.000 USD is highly inappropriate and weighted. The same follows in most instances of inheritance law. Inherited wealth has traditionally been the hallmark of a ruling class. Usually indolent. (I have nothing personally against indolence, but it's hardly an expression of the American Dream in cases other than as a result of your own hard work or ingenuity.)

    There are certainly many taxes, and tax practices, that should be seriously re-worked (for instance, removing taxation on primary residence, while retaining taxation of secondary residences, leisure homes and commercial properties), but inheritance tax is not high on the (my) list.

    To be precise: I would like to see no tax on a significant sum, perhaps the first 250.000 USD as well as no tax on parent primary residence (so a poor-ish (with limited liquid funds) child won't have to sell the family home when the parents pass away).

    In this particular case, the actions taken by the IRS are clearly improper. Not because of the taxation, but because the inheritors are prevented (by law) to realise the value they are being taxed for. It's like taxing a land-owner after assessing a nature preserve as prime real-estate.

    I hope I was at least passably clear. >_<

    PS: The link I so utterly failed to provide previously (to my chagrin and public shame) was http://www.ustaxcourt.gov/InOpHistoric/woodsum.TC.WPD.pdf which displays the difficulty of proving good faith. I also found a summary of the case (I won’t attest to anything other than the summary being accurate as far as my prior knowledge allows me to judge) here: http://www.mahanyertl.com/mahanyertl/blame-the-tax-preparer-defense-fails-in-us-tax-court/795/

  35. Troll Feeder says

    @ Andro • Jul 24, 2012 @3:58 am

    "Some also goes to social programs and is then parceled out, in relatively tiny increments to citizens who by choice or circumstance are down on their luck, medically needy, or sophisticated enough to game the system and make a living on handouts."


    100% of tax revenues — that's all $2.2-plus trillion the federalm government confiscates every year — goes to welfare transfer payments. Social Security, SS Disability, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, etc etc.

    Everything you people complain about the productive class not wanting to pay for is actually paid for on credit. All of it. Military, roads, police, fire, and teachers (though why on Earth are local services paid out of federal tax receipts?) bridges to nowhere, crony corporate boondoggles, NIH grants, all of it.

    All your — your?! who am I kidding, right? — all of your grand parents' federal tax payments go to welfare.

    It's not a big mystery, either. Look at the charts and tables immediately following the blithering text in any recent presidential federal budget proposal. The expenditures and receipts from the previous few years are presented for reference.

    I'll gladly and without complaint pay for the public roads. I will never stop complaining about being forced to pay for your food.

  36. DFCtomm says

    I have to disagree with Ben and Trizzlor on the estate tax. Our financial/monetary system is already designed to destroy wealth. Low interest rates and a constant, relatively, low inflation rate ensure that you won't be preserving your fortune in a bank account. You'll have to face the challenges of the markets, and with today's volatility, good luck. I see no reason for such a high estate tax when our system is already designed to disadvantage old money.

  37. says

    1. I think David broke the site, which makes me oddly smug.

    2. I thought that "exporting a bald eagle" was a euphemism.

  38. says

    @DFCtomm Are you saying that your inflation rate is higher than the basic savings rate? Or that it's higher than ALL savings rates? From what I see, the US has between 3.5% and 1.5% (in later years), but I can't find any numbers on bank rates.

    At any rate, it's rather rare for the wealthy (or even the modestly well-off) to put the majority of their liquid assets in a savings account. Capital is much better either invested or locked down. Stock portfolios, direct ownerships, wine, property, art. The more diversified, the better.

    It’s also quite common for large sums with little movement to recieve far better rates than small sums with high mobility (which causes certain other problems, only in part countered by how the financial institutions utilise those saved assets).

    If the free market presents such a terrible risk (and what an utterly delightful irony that is for a Socialist like myself), then one must either accept a small annual loss (by inflation) or accept the risk of utilising capital. This is just as much a risk/reward analyses as any such taken with the intent of investing.

    It’s also important to recall that wealth is not money (or any capital) directly, but the MOTION of capital within a system (this is incidentally why it’s so desireable to have a large, strong middle-class). As such, it’s in the interest of the state (in the meaning of the people as a whole, not as in the government) to promote the USE of capital (which is why you pay for other people to eat). The more one Dollar is spent in a year, the more people have HAD that Dollar, and been able to spend it on goods and services (which in turn makes the Dollar move more).

    Whether these systems function WELL or not does not negate the value of the system, it merely calls for significant reform. (And from all I know of American fiscal policies, there probably should be a rather … vigorous reform at some point.)

    @David Thanks! I seemed like a proper tosser there. My appreciation for making it less obvious. :p

  39. newton says

    Burn it. And watch the IRS squirm as their $30-million-dollar "penalty" goes up in smoke…

  40. says

    @David @Patrick It seems like the initial markup snafu is still … snafu'd. Apologies :p

    @Ken Maybe you should try this time? ^_^

  41. defendUSA says

    It's a small understanding, but there are graduated rates of tax on estates that allow for heirs to (try) keeping the wealth for future generations. I believe they call it a "Dynastic" trust..at least in a normal situation. The bird obviously had to be dead when it was used for the work, so how can it be noted as federally protected? Dead Animals are not to be protected are they and if so, why not carry the lunacy out and make the tax code "fair" Simply more oversight of oversight until it all becomes utter bullshit.
    It seems absurd that if it were valued at nothing then the IRS should not be allowed to tax it,period.

  42. NL_ says

    Also, I believe it sits in a museum (MOMA) per an arrangement with the feds. So their ownership is even more attenuated.

    Erik B: the NYT article says that MOMA insures the painting, so it does have a value, but the policy details are confidential.

  43. David Gillies says

    The analogy to declaring some land a nature preserve but then demanding property tax on it is very apt. On the face of it this would seem to violate the Takings Clause of the 5th Amendment, but there are innumerable instances where people have been deprived of the value of their property without being deprived of its ownership (so-called 'regulatory taking'). It's manifestly unjust and leads to perverse incentives and moral hazard (quick: what do you do if you find actual, live, bald eagles on your property, never mind stuffed ones? Answer: shoot, shovel and shut up.)

  44. says

    @David Gillies We have a truly ridiculous example of the concept in Norway. All historical artifacts are property of the State, and protected by law (breach of the law can result in significant fines).

    If then a farmer (or developer) discovers a Viking site (ship, tomb, village etc) on his land, he is required and directed to report the find, and then wait untill an archeological team can excavate and inspect. The inspection is then supposed to lead to either removal of the object, or lead the government to buy the land (it's usually for fair value, but perhaps not optimal value) to preserve a greater find.

    Unfortunately, it sometimes takes… a significant amount of time to even GET the archeologists there. Not to mention the delays in excavations due to the leading Professors having other obligations.

    This confluence leads to a powerful incentive to at least bury the thing back up, if not excavate and destroy it.

    How many times this has happened, we can only speculate on, but the thought of historical treasures going unexamined is saddening.

  45. B-Line says

    Remove the bird, donate it to a museum/indian tribe (or keep it) and sell the remaining artwork. It's value may take a hit but not as large a hit as what they are looking at currently.

    Alteration of a pre-existing artwork you own is not forbidden as far as I am aware.

  46. M. Scott Eiland says

    Utterly despicable. I'd suggest dragging a herd of smug IRS officials in front of an angry House committee to show cause why Congress shouldn't metaphorically geld them for abuse of authority.

  47. Zexufang says

    Next step…
    The IRS mandate to enforce ObamaCare medical payments and debts.

    Need an operation but cannot pay?
    All the government will demand is that YOU donate your left side, unnecessary, spare kidney to the Democrat Party…

  48. Leif says

    Pretty sure the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 actually would have prevented the trade of the artwork from its point of inception. You are not supposed to possess bird parts covered under MBTA, but more importantly you sure as hell can't sell and profit from them.

  49. Ben says

    Apologies for the delayed response. A friend abducted me, took me to the coast and then subjected me to a batman movie.

    The notion of exclusive ownership of something being an intrinsic element of that thing does not withstand careful examination. Everything we achieve is a byproduct of human society. Even if a single individual could gather, refine and assemble raw materials into an automobile the knowledge of the myriad processes involved is a byproduct of your participation in society.

    Even the most clever of simians would be unable to achieve anything akin to a modern, western lifestyle without the deep and broad sort of specialization we engage in.

    So, with this understanding (despite Ayn Rand and her suspect 'Objectivism'), if we consider the self sustaining nature of 'ownership' – do we as a society find that exclusivity in perpetuity to be useful/beneficial? Why? What benefit does it yield to allow resources to be coupled with any organization, be it a family, a like minded group of individuals or a 'corporation'?

    Is it simply another means of encouraging productivity (as the notion of exclusive ownership itself)? When used to equalize the socio-economic barriers (namely nutrition, education and access to medicine) what benefit can be derived? What is the difference between the equalization and perpetual ownership?

    I admit that I allow certain sentimental values (human life and the quality of that life) into my own calculus. All the same, the notion of "This is mine now, you are on your own' is pervasive, but ultimately contrary to our success as a species.

  50. trizzlor says

    Shorter Ben: "You didn't build that".

    Which, of course, was plainly true when that famous guy said it and yet no one seemed convinced. So before you start talking about the success of the species you'll probably need to deal with the fundamental view of "taxes as theft" and "government as the problem" that are taken as gospel.

  51. says

    I wonder if the artist would be pleased if they cut the piece into two parts and sent 40% of the piece to the IRS as payment for the taxes on it.

  52. John David Galt says

    I believe it is also a crime to possess the eagle, so the only solution for the heir is to refuse the artwork. Or offer a deal to the government, where the Smithsonian accepts it as a donation and the tax and penalty are forgiven.

    I don't know if the President has the power to make this sort of deal, but it would be a good idea if he could.

  53. says

    Isn't this law sort of ridiculous anyway? I mean, come on. The bald eagle is no more. He has ceased to be. He's expired and gone to meet his maker. He's an ex-bald eagle.

  54. says

    No indeed. He's merely pining.

    In fact, baldies are enjoying a resurgence now. My son shot this one just outside our home last September:

  55. says

    What a beauty. That was the shot of a lifetime!

    I'm glad the turkey didn't end up being our national bird. Nasty creatures.

  56. says

    A bit rich for a beauty blogger, but I'll be sure to use The Popehat Connection to purchase my drug paraphernalia, printing presses, and truckloads of fertilizer. ;)

  57. says

    People need to start thinking like rich people…

    Donate piece to Charity Museum.

    Write off full $65 million from tax burden of estate to I.R.S.

  58. Leif says


    The problem with owning protected species parts is that it creates an avenue to possess them legally though collection. It also creates a situation where the regulatory agency (in this case USFWS) would have to prove not only the possession of a species, but the origin. Illegal take of species would be increase and in the case of a bald eagle who typically doesn't breed until 5 or later, this pressure on the population could be devastating.

    In the real world, no federal charges are going to be brought someone that picks up feathers, and puts them in a vase. They are after the person who is shooting the birds and trafficking the parts. This just prevents the situation where illegal take is happening under the guise of collection.

  59. Zarathud says

    Not surprised to find a link to this here, but expected more. While I strongly disagree with the IRS conclusion, the tax is on the fair market value of the art — assuming a hypothetical, willing buyer and seller. Taxpayers regularly battle with the IRS over what factors that can be considered when determining the value, and the test assumes a willingness to enter into the transaction. The upcoming IRS meeting should result in a more reasonable value that takes into account the difficulties in selling the property, particularly with the recent headlines.

  60. says

    @Leif: I agree with the prohibition, I'll just use any excuse to quote Monty Python.

    Regardless, it doesn't seem particularly useful in the case of a long-dead bald eagle made into a spooky artwork.

  61. Gavin says

    @John David Galt:

    From what I understand, it is only illegal to possess the eagle if it was initially obtained illegally. That being said, if it was then you're right, it should be confiscated. If it was legally obtained then they should be able to transfer ownership of it legally too.