Will the $10K from the Utah Treasure Hunt get taxed?

Utah Treasure Hunt

UTAH (ABC4) – As it turns out, the $10,000 treasure found by Andy Swanger near Heughs Canyon Trail on Monday afternoon won’t quite be as big as advertised.

According to the Utah State Tax Commission, Swanger’s discovery qualifies as additional taxable income, and as such, he will have to pay both state and federal taxes on it, depending on which tax bracket he falls in.

At most, he could be paying 37% in federal income taxes and 4.95% in state taxes.

John Valentine, the state’s tax commissioner, tells ABC4.com his guess is that Swanger, who works as a police officer for West Valley City, will likely fall into the average federal tax range for Utahns, which is somewhere between 12 to 22%.

While it may seem odd to impose taxes on a buried treasure, Valentine explains there is precedence for such actions all around the world. Even in the days of swashbuckling on the high seas, privateers were expected to pay taxes to the government that had outfitted them for treasure-finding, be it the Spanish, English, or Portuguese crown.

Even modern finds have been subject to taxation.

In 2013, an anonymous couple discovered more than 1,400 gold coins with an estimated value of $10 million on their rural property in the Sierra Nevada area. After a strict reading of the Internal Revenue Code, it was found that the income made from the sale of the coins would be taxed, Valentine recalls.

Finding $10,000 in the Utah wilderness is no different, says Valentine. The income will be taxed.

Naturally, the taxation on the treasure can be done both ways. It’s possible that the buriers of the treasure, John Maxim and David Cline, could use the experience as a possible tax write-off, should it be categorized as a business expense. Such a venture could also be classified as a charitable donation if the proper conditions are met, although Valentine states he doesn’t know the entirety of the project founded by Maxim and Cline.

The buriers themselves, however, say they will not be seeking a tax benefit or write-off, even though they say they have considered creating future treasure hunts as a possible business of sorts.

Cline explains that he has no interest in learning about the complicated nature of the tax code and is considering the money that he and Maxim buried this year, as well as the $5,000 from last year, as nothing more than a gesture meant to spark excitement in the community.

“I don’t know anything about taxes so maybe I do it as a business write-up for next year, but it was definitely a gift the last two years,” Cline tells ABC4.com.

Regardless of how much the state and federal government will demand as a result of Swanger’s findings, Valentine still considers the Draper father, who wore a t-shirt emblazoned DAD when he found the treasure chest, to be a very lucky man.

“Still a good payday,” Valentine says. “No matter how you look at it.”

When asked on Monday what he planned to do with the money, Swanger replied to ABC4.com that after paying a few bills off, he and his wife are hoping to take their family on a vacation, likely to Disneyland in Southern California.

To Cline — who had never met Swanger prior to congratulating him for finding the treasure and has since had to juggle his own demands by the national media in addition to requests for Swanger’s contact information — the money couldn’t have ended up in better hands on July 5.

“I couldn’t imagine a better person finding it,” he says. “He’s a father of three, he’s a veteran, which just worked out so perfectly with the Fourth of July, and I’m just so stoked for him.”

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