International Boycotts not Supported by the United States Government

U.S. federal regulations prohibit the University or its personnel from agreeing to participate in any international boycott not supported by the U.S. government, such as the Arab League boycott of Israel. Violation of these regulations could result in fines being imposed by the U.S. government.

These regulations are broad and complex, regulating for example: (a) agreeing not to do business with a distributor with Jewish employees; (b) agreeing to stamp an invoice with the statement “We certify that goods are not of Israeli origin;” and (c) approving a letter of credit with the notation that “the goods cannot be shipped on a vessel that calls at Israeli ports.”

Under certain circumstances even the receipt of a request to cooperate in a boycott must be reported to the U.S. government. Boycott-related requests involving any of these activities may be oral or written, and may appear as provisions in a proposed bid invitation, contract, purchase order, letter of credit, research or other agreement that calls for boycott-related information or action.

If Columbia personnel receive a boycott related request, immediately contact Columbia University's Office of General Counsel (OGC) before responding further to the request. OGC will advise you on how to proceed, and assist in filing any required reports with the Commerce Department.

In addition, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) maintains a separate set of boycott rules and regulations that require annual reporting of operations in or related to boycotting countries, as well as receipt of, and action in response to, boycott requests. These laws deny some foreign tax benefits to persons who cooperate with certain boycott requests. It also requires annual reporting by Columbia (not the individual Columbia employee) of business activities in boycotting countries. The Treasury Department publishes a list of these countries in the Federal Register each quarter. The current list includes:

  • Iraq
  • Kuwait
  • Lebanon
  • Libya
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Syria
  • Yemen

If Columbia personnel are engaging in any operations in or related to boycotting countries, report such operations to the Tax Director of the Controller’s Office. The IRS defines “operations” broadly to include purchasing, leasing, financing, extracting, constructing, transporting, contract negotiating, site selecting, and other activities. Operations must be reported even if no boycott requests are received.

For additional information about the Anti-Boycott regulations, visit the Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security Office of Anti-Boycott Compliance (OAC).

Examples of prohibited boycott requests can be found on the OAC at: