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ARTFUL DODGERS; Aristocrats pay tax bill with portrait ... and get to keep it.

A family of Scottish aristocrats have "donated" a pounds 600,000 painting to pay tax debts - but are being allowed to keep the portrait at home.

The Duke of Roxburghe handed over the portrait of John Ker, 3rd Duke of Roxburghe, to the National Galleries of Scotland.

The gift means the 43-year-old Duke - who is one of Scotland's richest aristocrats - will not have to pay the inheritance tax due on the estate of Mary, the Dowager Duchess of Roxburghe.

However, the historic painting by Pompeo Batoni will not go on public display at the National Galleries of Scotland in Edinburgh.

It will remain at the Duke's ancestral home of Floors Castle - where the public have to pay pounds 4.50 a time to get into the 200-roomed building.

The Duke's painting was one of four to be accepted yesterday by the Government in lieu of tax.

The other three are surrealist paintings valued at pounds 3million from the estate of marmalade heiress Gabrielle Keiller.

They will be displayed in a public gallery.

All four paintings were donated under the terms of the Inheritance Tax Act 1984.

Normally cash-rich beneficiaries have to pay large tax bills on property and estates they have inherited.

However, under the terms of the 1984 Act, certain works of art may be accepted by the Government in lieu of the tax.

The art works are allocated to eligible institutions and the Scottish Secretary oversees individual cases and rules on the acceptability of various works.

The rules say any paintings donated must be made accessible to the public for free.

But a spokeswoman for the twice-married Duke - who is worth pounds 60million - insisted: "If people come to see the painting, they will have to come into the castle and for that they will have to pay."

Yesterday, the SNP condemned the move and said the donation of works of art to settle tax bills should only be permitted if the works were moved to public collections.

A spokesman said: "Where works of art are genuinely handed over to the public and are moved from private collections to public collections then there may some merit in such a scheme.

"But in other cases, for example the Roxburghe situation, it seems to be a convenient accountancy procedure in that the painting will remain on the same wall, in the same room in the same house.

"If the painting remains in a private collection it becomes a convenient tax avoidance scheme and a bit of a scam."

However, Scottish Arts Minister Sam Galbraith said the acceptance in lieu of tax arrangements provided valuable opportunities to acquire works of art.

He said: "I am delighted to be able to add these pre-eminent paintings to our national collections.

"The portrait of John Ker, 3rd Duke of Roxburghe is an important acquisition for the NGS and it is right that it should remain in its historical setting at Floors Castle."

The donation of the paintings from the Keiller estate - which will be handed over to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh - was also welcomed.

The gallery's keeper, Richard Calvocoressi, said the paintings, by Francis Bacon, Max Ernst and Yves Tanguy, were an exciting addition to their collection.

He said: "They have been painted by some of the finest artists of their kind in the 20th Century."

The Inland Revenue said only articles of outstanding national heritage value were accepted as a tax exemption.

Last night, the Daily Record was refused permission to view the Duke's portrait at Floors.

Estate stonemason Richard Connell said: "There are certain times you can see it when the castle is open to the public or an appointment can be made.

"When the gates are closed the Duke wants his privacy.

"I mean, you can't knock on the doors of art galleries at Glasgow at night and expect to see paintings."

The Duke owns 50,000 acres of land, including Kelso race course. He has also built a golf course.
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Author:Rafferty, Stephen
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 4, 1998
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