The Issue of Borders
I’ve entered The United States of America without too many problems. Unless you count the half hour drill by a security officer prior to departure a problem. I booked my flight via an agency and therefore did not need to fill in a whole lot of forms. My travel companion these first two months of my trip, Michiel, was less fortunate. Next to the ESTA form, he had to fill out three other forms with basically the same information to get into the US. an hour for his departure, he also got drilled by a security officer and even though he had booked a flight out of the US (which is obligatory), he had booked it to Mexico, which is considered by US officials as US territory. In a streak of wild panic he thus had to book another flight out of Mexico, costs: € 325,-.
Borders are cruel. I once had a lecture in which a professor stated that national borders are basically the constitutions of a feudal system, very much comparable to slavery. In the early days a person could be born as a slave, being bound by the rules and regulations a master (born as royalty for instance) would set upon him/her. Being born as a poor person in Africa nowadays isn’t that much different, as you only have the chances and opportunities available to you in your own country. People born and living in richer countries will do anything to keep you there.
This project is all about equal chances and the issue of borders is the biggest challenge. Not for people crossing it, but for their products. The challenge especially lies in the fact that every country wants a piece of the cake (tax and duties). It is vitally important for my project to keep this piece as small as possible.
How to avoid tax? In Holland a post-package is not subject to border-tax in case the total value of the content is below €22,-. Everything between €22,- and €150,- is subject to 19% Value added tax and above this price only paintings made by famous artists are excluded from taxes (wooden handicrafts are not). I will thus have to stay below €22,- (29,88 USD) to keep the ‘cake’ affordable, or – for bigger products – below €150 (203,70 USD) and accept that this will include 19% extra taxes.
I am still researching the tax-implications for this project (for developing countries there are some special rules). In any case on arts and handicraft there is 6% income tax, which have to be added to the value. If you have any tax knowledge, don’t hesitate to share it in the comments below for tax-rookies like myself to learn from.
As I am writing this, I am now entering Washington DC for a meeting with president Obama to ask him whether he is also under the impression that Mexico is United States territory. With a bit of luck I will be blogging from there next week!