Exhibitions are temporary events that take place at regular intervals, during which a variety of exhibitors show their major products to a specific target public. In the scope of the preparation and the holding of the exhibition an exhibitor buys goods and services from suppliers, which serve as input for the actual holding of the exhibition.
Article 7 Swiss VAT Act contains the rules for determining the place of supply of goods. Article 153 Par. 1 Swiss VAT Regulation (‘MWSTV’) determines that the refund of VAT paid due on domestic transactions corresponds with the scope and limitations that apply on the right of deduction as laid down in Articles 28 to 30 Swiss VAT Act.
VAT Notice 52.03 of the Swiss customs authorities clarifies the administrative practice in case of import of goods by foreign suppliers for purposes of colportage, or sale during an event or an exhibition.
Article 9 (in conjunction with Article 2) Swiss Customs Act, and the Customs Convention on the A.T.A. Carnet for the temporary admission of goods (A.T.A. Convention), and Article 53 Par. 1 letter i Swiss VAT Act, regulate the relief for custom/VAT at import in connection with the temporary import of exhibition goods.
- refund requirements: foreign companies that attend class exhibitions, like for example Basel World, as exhibitor will have to pay attention to the Swiss VAT refund requirements that apply to exhibitions in general, for example in respect of the applicable tax period, the final invoice requirement, the invoice requirements in general, the VAT treatment applicable on combined/ancilliary supplies, or possible domestic supplies.
- booth production costs: important exhibitions are the opportunity to leave a memorable impression on the target public, for which reason exhibitors normally spend huge amounts for the design and correspondening construction of the exhibition booth. Although these constructions embed and are part of the marketing message that the exhibitor wants to communicate, for purposes of Swiss VAT the booths keep their character of goods and are treated accordingly. From a Swiss VAT perspective the supply of an exhibition booth takes place at the moment the exhibitor accepts the constructed booth, which is normally after installation at the exhibition within the Swiss tax territory. Under such circumstances the Swiss VAT charged on advance or final payments in connection with the supply an exhibition booth can be claimed in the Swiss VAT refund request for the calendar year in which the exhibition has taken place.
- client hospitality: a class exhibition like Basel World induces accommodation and catering costs for the foreign exhibitors. The Swiss VAT on expenditures for refreshments, dinner parties or accommodation for clients or invited journalists can be claimed by the foreign exhibitors in the scope of the regulation for refund of Swiss VAT to foreign companies -provided the requirements have been met. The entitlement to refund will exist as long as the expenditures have been made for business purposes -which is normally the case. Attention must be paid to the Swiss VAT refund requirements that apply to exhibitions in general.
- selling during exhibition: in case a foreign exhibitor sells one or more of the exhibited goods during the exhibition, the Swiss VAT treatment will depend on a number of circumstances, like whether the foreign exhibitor is registered or not for purposes of Swiss VAT, whether at import in Switzerland the sold goods have been placed under the customs regulation for temporary import or not, whether the sold goods -when at import in Switzerland been placed under the customs regulation for temporary import- are exported after their sale and within the deadline for re-export. In VAT Notice 52.03 on Import of goods by foreign suppliers for purposes of colportage, during an event or an exhibition, the Swiss customs authorities have laid down their administrative practice rules, among other about the VAT treatment in case of sale of exhibited goods during an exhibition in Switzerland. Foreign exhibitors, not registered for purposes of Swiss VAT, should take notice of these practice rules, in order to be aware how the Swiss VAT treatment is handled respectively about who becomes liable for Swiss VAT.
- Carnet ATA: foreign exhibitors usually make use of the ATA carnet -an international customs document- for temporary import of goods (other than goods that are consumed) in the scope of an exhibition in Switzerland. A major advantage of the ATA carnet is that at temporary import in Switzerland no security has to be provided for the goods covered by the document. Normally, chambers of commerce in the country where the foreign company has its place of establishment provide information about the carnet ATA and the procedural requirements that apply.
- VAT at import: a foreign exhibitor who in the scope of an exhibition within the Swiss tax territory imports goods may -under certain conditions– claim refund of the paid Swiss VAT at import. To that end the foreign exhibitor must be mentioned as importer in the import declaration respectively the import document (VAT) that is issued by the Swiss customs authorities upon import (‘Veranlagungsverfügung MWST’ or Décision de taxation TVA’).