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Chinese Tariffs Dip Into The Pocket Of SWFL Nonprofit

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Andrea Perdomo
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WGCU
Wil Revehl of Ontree.org, removes an invasive fern from a tree planting site at Lakes Park in Fort Myers.

Update: As of Aug. 22, OneTree.Org has raised enough money to cover the tariffs imposed on the fundraiser tote bags. The founders of the organization plan to pick up the bags from the Port of Miami by the end of the week, barring any unloading delays.

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For more than 18 months, the trade war between the US and China has kept the global economy on edge culminating with last week's volatile stock market ride and some economists now fearing a recession.  Even the non-profit world is not immune, as local non profit OneTree.org recently learned.

Wil Revehl founded the organization in 2007 with one goal in mind: to plant as many trees as possible to combat deforestation.  

"I’m just trying to save the planet here," Revehl said. "This is not a business where we’re trying to make a buck or anything⁠, we’re just trying to plant some trees⁠—especially here in Florida,⁠—it really needs it."  

OneTree.org, like many nonprofits, relies on donations to do its work. Revehl started a fundraising campaign on the website Kickstarter, that used custom tote bags as an incentive for donors. But the bags are made in China, and that's where the problems began.

"I did not even think of tariffs at all, but I really just don’t know how tariffs work," Revehl said.  "I just had no idea that would even be a factor at all, and nobody mentioned it." 

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OneTree.org

Not the bag vendor, or the customs broker One Tree used to help import the bags.  The tarriffs didn't come up until it was time to have the bags shipped. 

"It was like I had been suckerpunched and I was seeing stars," Revehl said.

That's when Revehl's customs broker told him the tote bags he had ordered from China would be coming to the U.S. with a 25 percent tariff, or tax tagged onto them. 

The taxes are not charged on the shipping costs of having items brought into the U.S.—they’re charged to the invoice of the items purchased from China. 

“And I feel like a fool, I guess I should've studied tariffs," Revehl said. "It just literally never crossed my mind, this has not been a thing in my life time.”  

Revehl figured he would be in the hole about $500 to $700 in order to ship the bags to those who donated to his campaign, but the added cost of the tariffs is actually going to set him back a little over two thousand dollars—money that he says the nonprofit simply doesn’t have.

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OneTree.org

"We’re gonna get these tote bags, no matter what," Revehl said. "Even if I have to put them on a credit card and, you know, just lick my wounds for a while…these bags are gonna be here. I’m not gonna let them sit at the port in Miami."

Revehl said he hopes to have the bags in his possession by the end of the month.