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What is 'Fair Market Value'

Fair market value (FMV) is, in its simplest expression, the price that a person reasonable interested in buying a given asset would pay to a person reasonably interested in selling it for the purchase of the asset or asset would fetch in the marketplace. To establish FMV, it must be assumed that prospective buyers and sellers are reasonably knowledgeable about the asset, that they are behaving in their own best interests, that they are free of undue pressure to trade and that a reasonable time period is given for completing the transaction.

BREAKING DOWN 'Fair Market Value'

Given these conditions, an asset's fair market value should represent an accurate valuation or assessment of its worth.

Practical Uses of FMV

The concept of FMV is widely used across many areas of commerce. For example, municipal property taxes are often assessed based on the FMV of the owner's property. Depending on how long the owner has owned the home, the difference between the purchase price and the residence's FMV can be substantial. Professional appraisers use standards, guidelines, and national and local regulations to determine a home's FMV.

FMV is also often used in the insurance industry. For example, when an insurance claim is made as a result of a car accident, the insurance company covering the damage to the owner's vehicle usually covers damages up to the vehicle's FMV.

FMV and Taxation

Worldwide tax authorities are always ensuring that transactions, especially those made between people not dealing at arm's length, are realized at FMV, at least for tax purposes. For example, a father who is retiring may sell the shares of his business to his daughter for $1 so that she can carry on as the owner of the family business. However, if the FMV of the shares is higher, tax authorities such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may well recharacterize the transaction for tax purposes, and the father will need to pay taxes on the disposition of the shares as though he had sold them at FMV to a third party.

Another field of taxation where FMV regularly comes into play is the donation of property, such as artwork, to charities. In these cases, the donor usually receives a tax credit for the value of the donation. Tax authorities need to ensure that the credit given is for the true FMV of the object and often ask donors to provide independent valuations for their donations.

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