What it is:
A qualified appraiser is a person authorized to produce a qualified appraisal.
How it works (Example):
A qualified appraisal is a document that formally describes the value of a piece of property, usually exceeding $5,000. For example, let's imagine that John wants to donate a painting to his favorite charity. He believes the painting is worth $20,000. Instead of simply putting a $20,000 deduction on his tax return for the year, John gets a qualified appraisal of the painting. A qualified appraiser puts the value of the painting at $22,000. John files IRS Form 8283 with his tax return and deducts $22,000.
The IRS has very strict guidelines about who can be a qualified appraiser. Among other things, the appraiser must have a professional appraiser designation from a national appraiser organization, the appraiser must perform appraisals regularly, the appraiser must meet certain education requirements, and the appraiser must meet other guidelines as the IRS deems necessary. A qualified appraiser can't be the donor, the donee, anyone party to the acquisition of the property, or an employee or relative of anyone involved.
Why it Matters:
To prevent tax fraud, the IRS requires people who want to deduct certain large charitable donations to get qualified appraisals for those items, and those appraisals must come from people who are knowledgeable and disinterested parties. The IRS can impose penalties of 40% for a gross misstatement of a donation (and even a 20% penalty for just a "substantial" misstatement), and it can also penalize the appraisers involved in the misstatement.