Part one of a two part series.

The exportation of samples must be transacted through Mexican Customs.

Should your company be actively soliciting buyers of its products from among maquiladora manufacturing companies, and be contemplating the delivery of commercial samples to Mexico to prospective customers, it is important to know that there is a specific way to get the task done.

Since the act of sending commercial samples to Mexico requires a formal Mexican Customs entry, it is important to keep in mind that everything imported into the country by a prospective Mexican buyer must be assigned a value for Customs’ purposes. This is the case, even though, the shipment of a “sample” will not immediately result in a monetary exchange between the exporter and the prospective buyer. Because of  the need to comply with Mexican Customs’ requirements associated with sending samples south of the border, the first step to take in the pursuit of this goal is to engage with a Mexican customs broker, or a party that is experienced in negotiating the process of importing goods for this purpose.

Mexican customs brokers, or otherwise experienced parties are cognizant of the fact that when sending commerical samples to Mexico, goods can be sent only to a party, or parties, that are listed in Mexico’s Importer’s Registry, which is kept by the country’s equivalent of the IRS, the Secretaria de Hacienda y Credito Publico (SHCP).

Samples must be classified under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) by the broker, or knowledgeable party. Any taxes or duties that may be required to be paid to Mexican Customs authorities by the importer upon entry of the sample, or samples into Mexico will be determined by its HTSUS classification.

Experienced customs brokers, and knowledgeable parties, will be adept at working within Mexican Customs law, and the rules of the NAFTA, to perform the importation of the item or items on a tax and duty free basis, if possible.  Also, since, in most instances, samples are clearly identifiable as merchandise with no commercial value beyond display, the vast majority of such items are exempt from payment of taxes or Customs levies of any kind.

When sending commercial samples into Mexico, it is important to know what qualifies items as such.  According to the U.S. Commercial Service:

“Samples are considered all the items and/or products, which due to quantity, weight, volume or other appearance conditions, indicate without any doubtthat the items could only be used as a merchandise sample or to set up purchase orders.”

To be considered samples, items sent to potential buyers in Mexico must:

  • Not exceed one dollar in declared value;
  • Be clearly marked as a sample, or colored or shaped in such a fashion so as not to be suitable for commercial use;
  • Not be contained in commercial packaging. If commercial packaging is used to contain a product sent to a potential by for non-commercial purposes, the word “sample” must be clearly visible.

Sending commercial samples to Mexico is a limited concept under the country’s Customs laws. If for some reason, items sent as samples to Mexico do not fit within the criteria established above,under some circumstances, U.S. exporters can take advantage of the rules that apply to temporary imports into Mexico. This issue will be discussed in part two of this article.