Canada Debates Whether Gift of Leibovitz Photos Is Also a Tax Dodge

An adviser to the government panel described the arrangement in notes to the tribunal as “a tax grab,” according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, or CBC, which first reported on the impasse. That characterization was vigorously disputed by Harley Mintz, the Deloitte Canada partner, now retired, who bought the Leibovitz material in 2013.

“We were asked,” Mr. Mintz said in an email, “to help facilitate a major gift to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia that would provide it with a unique collection of art from one of the world’s most praised photographers and that is exactly what we did. Instead of being celebrated, it has been met with resistance, for reasons that we do not understand.”

The odyssey of Ms. Leibovitz’s collection provides a window into the process by which governments work to bolster cultural enrichment by underwriting private donations of art with tax deductions. In Canada, where such deductions receive more government scrutiny than in the United States, the process can include disputes over the national significance of the art, as well as its value, and sometimes, questions regarding whether a donor’s motives are more philanthropic or opportunistic.

The museum is in the midst of its fourth application to have the collection accepted by the panel, the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board, which certifies donated works as nationally significant and then determines their value.

The panel has granted such status to only 762 of the prints, at a value of $1.6 million.

In the meantime, the entire collection is in storage and Ms. Leibovitz has received only half of the promised $4.75 million. By contract, she does not receive the rest of the money unless the government panel signs off, according to Mr. Mintz.

Just how this ambitious, but now stalled, art initiative was born remains unclear. Ms. Leibovitz, through her gallery, declined to comment. The museum said through a…

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