Richmond: $1.2 million tax receipt flap sparks review
Library to probe its appraisal process
A furor over the issuing of a $1.2 million tax receipt for the donation of 46,730 rare Chinese books has led Richmond Public Library to conduct an internal review of its practices.
The city-funded library came in for harsh criticism earlier this month after issuing the receipt, which could result in an estimated $520,000 tax credit for Chinese businessman Dr. Kwok Chu Lee and his wife.
The books’ value was ascertained by Victoria bookseller and appraiser Bjarne Tokerud — who was chosen by chief librarian Greg Buss — and whose credentials were questioned in a Vancouver Sun column, written by David Baines.
Baines also raised concerns with the appraisals themselves, before coming to the conclusion that — without suggesting criminality and acknowledging all Canada Revenue Agency rules had been followed — the library’s checks and balances for such a large transaction were completely inadequate.
Now, after the first meeting of the library’s board since the questions were raised, the library’s governing body has tasked Buss to “examine the processes” it goes through for such a transaction.
What changes will be made, if any, are unclear, said city council’s library liaison and board member Linda Barnes.
And although there was no suggestion Buss had done anything wrong, the board also wants to keep a closer eye on any future large-scale transactions.
“We’re quite satisfied that the appraisal was done accordingly, but we are checking to see what we can improve on,” Barnes told the News Thursday morning.
“To be honest, this was the first large donation we’ve had and, do I think it was done correctly? Yes.
“Can there be processes improved? Probably.”
Barnes said that before any appraisal takes place for a larger than usual donation, the appraiser’s qualifications may have to come before the board for discussion.
“I think the board would like to be more informed of what is happening and have more details of when an appraisal is happening,” added Barnes.
Buss told the News that he intends to review the whole process (of receiving a large donation, to appraising, to issuing a tax receipt) from “beginning to end.”
“We don’t want to put people off donating, but I will be looking at the whole thing and come back with any findings to the board next month.
“Questions have been raised and we recognize that the board is going to be more involved than in the past.”
In the instance of appraising Lee’s donation, Buss himself went to UBC’s Asian library, where he was steered in the direction of Tokerud.
Buss said that, to keep the appraisal free of any interference, the appraiser did not and cannot come into contact with the benefactor (Lee) during the process. “The appraiser has to be totally impartial,” he said. However, Buss told how, during the physical appraising of the collection, Tokerud attended Lee’s Richmond home to appraise the books. Buss claimed that Lee was in Hong Kong on business at the time of Tokerud’s visit.
As for getting a second opinion once an appraiser has reached a value, Buss admitted it is something he “might consider” as part of the review process.
Buss told the Sun previously that he did not believe, for a second, that Lee’s donation was motivated by receiving a massive tax receipt, noting the benefactor’s passion for books and philanthropy.