Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio January
The Law & the Planner
By Jonathan T. Howe,
TAKING GOODS OVERSEAS
The legal ins and outs of moving meeting materials between
Planners rarely think of themselves as importers and exporters,
but that is precisely the role they fill when bringing meeting
materials into the United States through customs or sending them
overseas for an event.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, the regulations for importing goods for
trade shows and meetings have been tightened, and new U.S. Customs
requirements and inspections are slowing down the process. Taking
goods and materials out of the States to a foreign destination,
however, is more than slow; it can be downright complicated.
A KEY DOCUMENT
When moving commercial samples and products into another country,
the best route is to get an ATA Carnet, named for an English-French
amalgam for “temporary admission.” This document allows for the
duty and tax-free importation of merchandise while avoiding many of
the usual customs paperwork and formalities required for entry into
87 countries. The carnet also provides a guarantee against any
duties that might be charged if you fail to re-export the
A list of all countries that accept the carnet can be found at
the U.S. Customs Web site (www.customs.gov/impoexpo/impoexpo.htm) or through the
United States Council for International Business (www.uscib.org).
The carnet covers commercial samples, professional equipment and
advertising materials. In most countries it also will allow for the
importation of computers, electronic equipment and other support
materials for temporary use. The carnet does not, however, allow
any goods to be brought in for reselling.
In the shipping process, the carnet is presented along with the
goods to a customs officer. The document is reviewed for
completeness and specificity. The customs officer then validates
the document and certifies other appropriate exportation documents,
such as packing lists.
It’s the duty of the holder to present the carnet to customs
when entering or leaving a country. Those who fail to do so might
have to pay duties, taxes and penalties.
The three basic components to the carnet application process are a
list of items to be exported/imported, a security deposit and the
application itself. The amount of the security deposit will vary. A
carnet generally can be obtained through the USCIB in New York City
either electronically or by mail.
The carnet is valid for the entire year it is issued, allowing
for multiple entries into various countries. It does not require
that all of the goods be shipped at the same time to the same
place. The carnet also can be used by those bringing similar goods
into the United States.
Some countries have further imposed limitations on the carnet.
Exportation of goods under a carnet to India, for example, can be
used only for a government-sanctioned exhibition or meeting.
Smart meeting planners will retain a qualified professional
representative, such as a customs broker or freight forwarder, to
handle all aspects of the paperwork, to ensure compliance with laws
and regulations, and to get the goods to the venue on time.
The above applies to materials that will be used during the
meeting, with leftovers carted back to the United States. For
speaker gifts and attendee giveaways, your best bet is to buy them
locally, thus avoiding tariffs and more complicated customs
If you are planning to give away awards and plaques, take a
picture of the item and show it on a screen. Send the award itself
directly to the recipient, so he doesn’t have to lug it home and
declare it at customs.Jonathan T.
Howe, Esq., is a senior partner in the Chicago and
Washington, D.C., law firm of Howe & Hutton, Ltd., which
specializes in meetings, travel and hospitality law. Legal
questions can be e-mailed to him at email@example.com.
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