Processing Charitable Contributions for Hurricane Irma
Information derived from U.S. Customs Cargo Systems Messaging Service
September 21, 2017
The following is a guide on how to process merchandise imported for relief efforts of Hurricane Irma, both for gifts accepted by FEMA via the IAS CONOPS* and those being imported by U.S. charities (or other private entities) to assist with diaster relief.
What is IAS CONOPS?
International assistance system (IAS) concept of operation (CONOPS)
Under the IAS CONOPS, the importation has been sanctioned by the State Department as an approved shipment after FEMA exercises it gift acceptance authority, and the following is true:
- the goods are eligible to be entered without the payment of duty or taxes.
- The requirement for advanced electronic filing of cargo information may be waived for these shipments.
- For IAS goods, upon arrival at a port, a paper cargo manifest must be provided by the arriving carrier and screened by the port for high-risk factors in accordance with CBP policy.
- Also, arriving foreign shipments processed under these guidelines must be logged and tracked locally by the port in accordance with existing policies to document the following:
Port of Entry, Importer, Consignee, Description of Goods, Quantity, Country of Origin of the Goods, Destination of the Goods, Certification that the Goods were Approved for Importation under the IAS
Shipments of emergency relief supplies, identified by CBP as having been accepted by the United States through the State Department, will be allowed to proceed without FDA review or PN data being submitted. FDA will attempt to obtain the information they require regarding such shipments in advance of arrival either through CBP or other means and will distribute this information to their field personnel as soon as possible.
CBP may not remit the duty on the entry of any goods imported for disaster relief by a private group or individual pursuant to 19 U.S.C. 1322(b), unless the recipient is a recognized tax-exempt charitable organization. These private groups or individuals must provide a letter from the charity, on the charity’s letterhead, with the charity’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS) number(s), and a statement that they are willing to accept the imported goods.
How to Determine if Charity is Qualified?
To determine if a charitable organization is in fact an established and eligible charity, CBP personnel may verify an organization’s tax-exempt status on the IRS list web site at www.irs.gov/charities, under subheading, “Search for Charities.” The organizations that qualify as tax-exempt charities are listed in the Exempt Organizations Select Check electronic search tool. However, not all organizations eligible for tax-free deductions may be listed in the publication. If the charitable organization is not found, CBP personnel may verify an organization’s tax-exempt status and eligibility to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions by directly calling the IRS at 1-877-829-5500.
This method of verification is only for U.S. charitable organizations and may not contain information on international relief organizations. For example, the charity Oxfam has tax exempt status under 26 U.S.C. 501(c)(3) and appears on the IRS list, while Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) does not appear on the list, but nevertheless appears to have tax exempt status 26 U.S.C. 501(c)(3) status in the United States. In any case, the burden is on the importer to show that the recipient of the goods is an established charitable organization. This information is applicable to all charitable organizations, including religious organizations with 26 U.S.C. 501(c)(3) status.
In all cases where the imported merchandise to be processed under 19 U.S.C. 1322(b), is known to have other government agency requirements, every effort should be made to advise the responsible agency in order to provide them the ability to conduct inspections and make their own admissibility determinations based on their mission needs and requirements.
Any merchandise that does not meet the above criteria for the IAS CONOPS or donations to charities can still be entered under established entry procedures.
For questions about State Department approval for the admissibility of foreign goods for disaster relief, please contact Ms. Carol Chan, USAID, Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) at email@example.com or (202) 712-0841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Any questions or concerns regarding this guidance should be addressed to Mr. Randy Mitchell, Director, Commercial Operations Revenue Entry Division, at email@example.com.