With power restored to only 22 percent of St. Thomas and 12 percent of St. Croix, private generators are in high demand, but paperwork hassles are frustrating some who are spending good money to bring more into the territory.
Asked about the delays, Gov. Kenneth Mapp said at his Friday evening news conference that officials should only ask for extra documentation if a person wanted an exemption from excise taxes or customs duties.
Reader Jeff Saplis of Sea Glass Properties told the Source he started sourcing and shipping in generators after Hurricane Irma and got in a dozen without difficulty a week ago. But Saplis said this week he found himself struggling all week to get another 10 generators cleared through the ports.
Asked what he was doing with the generators, Saplis said he was donating many of them and selling others at cost, depending on the level of need and ability to pay.
He sent representatives to St. Thomas Cargo three times to try to pick up the generators.
“The second time they went, they called me from there and said I needed a letter with the names and contact information for everyone that would be receiving one of the generators. And that it needed to be notarized,” Saplis said Friday.
He spent a day getting that information, found a notary and had it notarized. But that did not resolve the issue right away.
“So we went back Thursday and according to St.Thomas Cargo, the woman at Excise said they need to get their in-house counsel to see if it was acceptable,” Saplis said.
According to Saplis, he went back a final time on Friday, and was told he had to pay excise taxes of $700 on the 10 generators, then another $600 in customs duties, before he could take them.
Because of his frustration with the difficulty, lack of clarity and slow process, he canceled a subsequent order for more generators Saplis said.
But at his news conference, Mapp said the extra paperwork is necessary only if you are seeking an exemption from the excise tax and Customs duties, and if you pay the tax, no extra paperwork should be requested by V.I. officials, Mapp said.
“When you bring merchandise into the territory, we don’t ask who’s going to be buy your merchandise,” Mapp said.
However, merchandise that is donated is treated differently than merchandise which is to be given away for free. Only those generators that are to be donated require a notarized document verifying where those generators will be going before they can be released by customs, according to Mapp.
He said the reason for this documentation is because any items that are to be donated have specific exemptions when it comes to excise tax and customs fees and there needs to be an attested document in order to avoid fraud as to these exemptions.
However, those generators and other merchandise which are to be sold do not require any such documentation but do require excise tax and customs fees to be paid.
Mapp said if anyone is importing generators for sale and is asked for additional documentation as to where the generators are to be going after they have cleared customs, that individual should contact Internal Revenue Bureau Director Marvin Pickering, as this practice of requiring those selling merchandise to attest as to where the merchandise is going is not a legal practice.