Customs House Series #4
IMPORTING CHARITABLE ITEMS
Wednesday, October 25, 2016
It is a common practice for Jamaicans living in the Diaspora to donate charitable items to their communities, to health centres, hospitals, infirmaries, children’s homes, schools, churches and other institutions. So, what should donors and their beneficiaries know, when importing and clearing charitable items through the Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA)?
- Which Act governs the importation of charitable items?
- Who can import charitable items?
- What are the guidelines for clearing items of charity?
- What benefits do registered charities enjoy?
The Charities Act
The guidelines for importing charitable items fall under the Charities Act (2013). The Act serves to maintain, protect and enhance public trust in charitable organisations, seeks to ensure accountability and that board members comply with their legal obligations. Any person or entity, incorporated or not incorporated, seeking to function as a charitable organisation must be registered with the Department of Cooperatives & Friendly Societies (DCFS), in order to obtain the prescribed benefits.
Donations to Charities
- The beneficiary must be registered in order to obtain the stipulated benefits.
- The donor must provide the name and address of the beneficiary or consignee.
- Shipments to multiple beneficiaries – each beneficiary must be named on the shipping documents.
Note to Schools
- Schools wishing to import charitable items, outside of their entitlements covered under the Second Schedule of the Customs Act (e.g. canteen equipment – stoves, refrigerators, etc.) must receive approval from National Education Trust (NET), before the items are shipped to Jamaica, in order to receive duty exemption and other prescribed benefits.
- Other persons or entities wishing to import charitable items for back-to-school fairs, for instance, must register with the DCFS before getting the items shipped into Jamaica, in order to receive the prescribed benefits.
- Approval for the importation of school supplies and educational/instructional materials/items covered under the Second Schedule of the Customs Act must be sought through the Ministry of Education’s Procurement Unit, before the items are imported into Jamaica, in order for duty exemption and other benefits to be given.
Clearing Charitable Items
- The charitable organisation must submit the original Approved Charitable Organisation Certificate (ACO), along with the shipping documents to the Collector of Customs.
- The Collector of Customs will verify the documents and return the original copies.
- Verified copies of the documents will be sent to the Customs Manager at the relevant warehouse.
- The consignee or authorised representative must proceed to the warehouse and follow the clearance procedures.
- Goods with a Cost Insurance and Freight (CIF) value of more than US$5,000.00 must be cleared by a licensed Customs Broker.
If items are being cleared on behalf of a consignee, the representative must present a letter of authorisation, signed and stamped by a Justice of the Peace (JP). The consignee’s Tax Payer Registration Number (TRN) card and valid identification must be presented to the Customs Official (photocopied documents must be signed/stamped by a JP).
Benefits to a Registered Charity
- No import duty charged, in most cases.
- No General Consumption Tax (GCT) charged, in most cases.
- Only fifty per cent (50%) of applicable Customs Administration Fee (CAF) applied.
- All other applicable fees will be applied.
Importation of a Motor Vehicle by an Approved Charity
- Motor vehicle – Full Import Duty, Environmental Levy and GCT are applied.
- Fifty per cent (50%) of applicable CAF applied.
- No Special Consumption Tax (SCT), no Stamp Duty (SD), no additional Stamp Duty (ASD) charged.
Auditing of an Approved Charity
The Customs Act gives the JCA the authority to audit any person or entity, including charitable organisations, in order to ensure that the items imported by the approved charity are used, or are being used for the intended purpose.