Charitable Giving, Sequestration, and Instrument Passport Proposal

March 12, 2013

League Testimony Supports Charitable Giving Incentives
Incentives for charitable giving remain on the table as Congress and the White House debate budgetary and tax policy issues. The House Ways & Means committee is in the midst of a fact-finding and public engagement process to inform comprehensive tax reform, and hosted a February 14 hearing exploring possible changes to the tax deduction for charitable giving. Under discussion are a wide array of proposals, some to expand tax deductions and others to curtail them, and while members of the committee offered many statements in support of the charitable sector, several members posed questions as to whether nonprofits are sufficiently focused on serving urgent community needs. The League has submitted testimony to the committee urging protection and expansion of charitable giving incentives and illustrating the public value orchestras contribute in partnership with other community-based nonprofit organizations. With the House, Senate, and President all weighing options for tax reform, this area is certain to be one of ongoing debate throughout the coming months, and is a priority policy area for orchestras and our national partners in the broader nonprofit sector.

Sequestration and the Arts
What do the messy debates in Washington over spending limits and across-the-board 5% cuts to domestic spending mean for your orchestra? 

o    If your orchestra is an NEA grant applicant, please stay tuned for further details. There is one more major round of NEA grant announcements anticipated this coming spring, and the agency is required to make reductions in core grant-making funds as a result of the sequester. The 5% cut to the NEA’s overall FY13 budget also means advocacy to protect and restore funding in the next budget year – FY14 – is particularly important.

o    If your orchestra engages international artists – as ever, start the visa process as early as possible to brace for any staffing impact that might be felt in visa processing centers here in the U.S. and at consulates abroad. Remember to consult www.artistsfromabroad.org and League staff for any help you might need with the visa process.

o    If your orchestra partners with public schools, be aware that the cut to domestic spending will impact the federal resources that flow to support public education programs and can also impact direct funding of the Arts in Education program of the U.S. Department of Education. Strengthen your orchestra’s local, community-based advocacy efforts to seek greater access to arts education in public schools.

Instrument Passport Under Consideration
Important news for orchestras and individual musicians touring internationally! Musicians carrying instruments with endangered species materials (such as ivory, tortoise, and rosewood) require special permits in order to cross borders in compliance with international and domestic rules. Note that this permitting process is separate from the duty requirements and carnet process familiar to most musicians. This week, the U.S. is proposing an instrument passport concept for consideration by the parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which may streamline the process for complying with certain international permit requirements. The League, in partnership with the American Federation of Musicians and The Recording Academy, has been in communication with U.S. Fish and Wildlife as it pursues an initial international discussion of the passport proposal. The current rules for obtaining permits are quite complicated, as there are layers of CITES requirements, plus each country's own domestic rules - and there is not a central resource for understanding what is required when traveling to multiple countries. While a streamlined process and the expressed interest in facilitating international travel with instruments is welcomed, the League, together with our national partners, is asking the U.S. and its international counterparts to ensure that any new approach takes into consideration the practical issues of cost and time involved with obtaining permits. The current CITES meeting concludes on March 15. Whether the passport concept is formally adopted, recommended for further consideration, or tabled, the League will stay in close contact with U.S. Fish and Wildlife to seek clear guidance on how musicians can comply with permit requirements. Please stay tuned!

Show Your Value
Invite your member of Congress and their staff to see your orchestra in action. Congress will take a break from D.C. and return to their home districts March 23 through April 7. These are perfect times to schedule a meeting with your Representative and/or to extend an invitation for them to see how your orchestra serves your community.