ATA Carnets – What the heck are they and why should I use one?

300x225xata-carnet-passport-300x225.jpg.pagespeed.ic.fY8PaWXKT5So you are looking to ship something from the US to a foreign country. Is it for temporary import? Is it for commercial samples? Well, you’re in luck because you’re going to learn about how to avoid paying import duties using a little known secret called ATA Carnets.

Carnets are also known as Merchandise Passports. The USCIB (Untied States Council for International Business) is the governing body for issuing ATA Carnets. These international customs documents are for temporary imports. Here is a list of countries that participate in the ATA Carnet program. Below is an except from USCIB.

ATA Carnets ease the temporary importation of commercial samples (CS),  professional equipment (PE), and goods for exhibitions and fairs (EF).  They facilitate international business by avoiding extensive customs procedures, eliminating payment of duties and value-added taxes (minimum 20% in Europe, 27% in China), and replacing the purchase of temporary import bonds.

Benefits of Carnets
Carnets save time, effort, and money.

  • One document – one application.
  • Good for one year.
  • Accepted in 80 counties and territories.
  • Covers commercial samples, professional equipment, and goods for exhibitions and fairs.
  • Eliminates duties, taxes, and temporary importation bonds (TIBs).
  • Payment in U.S. Dollars.
  • Paperwork in English.
  • Easy exit – easy re-entry.
  • No uncertainty, no hassles.

Merchandise Covered by Carnets

  1. Virtually all goods, including commercial samples, professional equipment, and items for tradeshows and exhibitions, including display booths.
  2. Ordinary goods such as computers, tools, cameras and video equipment, industrial machinery, automobiles, gems and jewelry, and wearing apparel.
  3. Extraordinary items, for example, Van Gogh Self-portrait, Ringling Brothers tigers, Cessna jets, Paul McCartney’s band instruments, WorldCup class yachts, satellites, human skulls, and the New York Philharmonic.
  4. Carnets DO NOT cover: consumable or disposable goods (e.g., food and agriculture products) giveaways, postal traffic or goods subject to repair.

Information provided by the Untied States Council for International Business

Here is a real example of how we helped someone ship a catapult from USA to UK using an ATA Carnet. In this case we helped “Captain Bob” ship a catapult and his Punkin Chunkin to the UK for an event. Even though this real life example uses a catapult shipment, it could have easily been a race car, instruments for a touring band, or anything that would be determined short term and temporary.

Captain Bob and his musketeers reached out to us and wanted to ship his catapult to an event that was being held in the UK. Before shipping his catapult to the UK, we asked him if he was familiar with temporary imports and that there were actually a couple things he could do. One was to pay the import tax and get refunded once the catapult leaves the UK. This of course would tie up money. The other option was to use an ATA carnet, which was a merchandise passport. After deciding to use an ATA Carnet, we loaded his catapult onto a RoRo ship. Basically we Rolled on and Rolled off his catapult.

If you have any questions regarding temporary imports, ask in the comments below.

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