This is the most common question that is asked to me. Obviously the answer isn't completely black and white.
To start, the requirement changes from one country to the other. Generally speaking, there are 3 categories:
1. Registration not possible: Some countries just don't allow non established entities to register for VAT. Some special incentive programs might be in place for professional meetings (such as in Cancun Mexico).
2. Registration possible but not required: Few countries fall under this rule. Japan for example requires registration based on the past two fiscal years if a certain threshold of sales has been met. So for one time events, registration isn't required. Obviously, if you aren't registered you generally can't claim the taxes back on expenses. Effectively, leaving money on the table.
3. Registration required. Most European countries and Australia require registration with or without a set threshold. Once registered your association will have to collect sale taxes on sales and will be allowed to claim back all the sales taxes paid out on expenses.
We can assist your association to determine the sales tax liabilities in a given host country so your board of directors or members can make an informed choice.