Main Idea: A strong command of the HTSUS and how your facts may apply can open up significant and surprising opportunities for duty-savings for importers.
In ruling HQ H327171 (Nov. 22, 2022), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) discusses the tariff classification of certain items (including jackets, hats, sports bags, globes, and blankets) imported for the 2023 Winter World University Games by Schure Sports USA Inc. The University Games are organized by the Federation Internationale du Sport Universitaire (FISU), which is based in Lausanne, Switzerland and is responsible for organizing worldwide sports competitions for student-athletes. The World University Games are held every two years in different host cities throughout the world and bring together athletes from 150 countries to compete in 25 summer and winter sports. The upcoming Winter Games will be held January 12-22, 2023 in Lake Placid, New York.
Prior to importation, the items will have been sold to the event’s Organizing Committee and Schure will be the importer of record and the ultimate U.S. consignee. Each imported product will reflect the logos “Lake Placid 2023” and “FISU World University Games Winter.” Following importation, the Organizing Committee will distribute the items among participants, game officials, and volunteers free of charge. The items are not for sale among the general public. CBP discusses the applicability of subheading 9817.60.00, HTSUS, which includes duty-free treatment and provides for:
Any of the following articles not intended for sale or distribution to the public: personal effects of aliens who are participants in, officials of, or accredited members of delegations to, an international athletic event held in the United States, such as the Olympics and Paralympics, the Goodwill Games, the Special Olympics World Games, the World Cup Soccer Games, or any similar international athletic event as the Secretary of the Treasury may determine, and of persons who are immediate family members of or servants to any of the foregoing persons; equipment and materials imported in connection with any such foregoing event by or on behalf of the foregoing persons or the organizing committee of such an event, articles to be used in exhibitions depicting the culture of a country participating in such an event; and, if consistent with the foregoing, such other articles as the Secretary of the Treasury may allow.
Legislative history materials provide insight on the motivations and purpose of creating subheading 9817.60.00, HTSUS. The House and Senate Reports state that:
The Committee [World University Games Organizing Committee] recognizes the importance of international athletic events and the tremendous efforts of the athletes and participants. Although athletes and other officials connected with certain sporting events are currently afforded duty-free treatment for their personal belongings and equipment under current law, such treatment will expire in December 2002. This legislation will give athletes and participants of future competitions certainty regarding their future duty liability.
S. Rep. No. 503, 106th Cong., 2nd Sess. (2000), and S. Rep. No. 503, 106th Cong., 2nd Sess. (2000).
CBP examines several threshold questions to determine whether the items imported by Schure are eligible for duty-free treatment under subheading 9817.60.00, HTSUS. First, CBP considers and finds that the imported items are not for sale to the general public and, therefore, constitute “articles not intended for sale of distribution to the public” in satisfaction of provision 9817.60.00, HTSUS.
Second, CBP considers whether the World University Games are a “similar international athletic event held in the United States” for purposes of the tariff provision. This iteration of the World University Games will take place in the United States and, similar to some of the exemplars in subheading 9817.60.00, HTSUS (“the Olympics and Paralympics, the Goodwill Games, the Special Olympics World Games, [and] the World Cup Soccer Games…”), the World University Games are a competition organized by an international sports organization that involve athletes from various countries. CBP drew further insight from prior agency determinations. In HQ H174206 (July, 22, 2011), for example, CBP found that the America’s Cup (an international sailing competition) was a “similar international athletic event” for purposes of the provision ruled that it was also a qualifying international athletic event for purposes of subheading 9817.60.00, HTSUS. Based on CBP’s past reasoning and the facts at issue in this ruling, the World University Winter Games are a similar international athletic event consistent with those named under tariff provision 9817.60.00, HTSUS.
Lastly, CBP examines whether the imported items constitute, “equipment and materials imported in connection with any such foregoing event by or on our behalf for the foregoing persons or the organizing committee of such an event…” The imported items were sold to the Lake Placid 2023 World University Games Organizing Committee for distribution to participants, game officials, and volunteers and, therefore, are materials imported in connection with the Games and on behalf of the Organizing Committee. The logos “Lake Placid 2023” and “FISU World University Games Winter” on each item further support the connection between the imported goods and the qualifying international athletic event.
Based on the facts and analysis described above, the items imported by Schure for the 2023 World University Games satisfy each requirement under subheading 9817.60.00, HTSUS, and may enter the United States duty-free.