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What Is an ATA Carnet?

On: January 25, 2017    |    By: David Noah David Noah    |    3 min. read

What Is an ATA Carnet | Shipping SolutionsI recently got an email from someone who was frustrated about the amount of duty and taxes they were paying on the tools they were shipping to other countries. They were using these tools to install equipment that their foreign customers had purchased, and then they were returning the tools back to the United States once the installation was complete. It was eating into their profits.

I told this frustrated exporter to take a look at using an ATA Carnet. And since I didn't know a lot about them, I thought it was a good time to learn more. So we talked with Curt Wilson, president of Boomerang Carnets, to find out what they are, who can use them, and how they’re used.

Understanding ATA Carnets

An ATA Carnet is an internationally recognized temporary international customs and temporary export-import document. ATA carnets are used in 86 countries and territories that are members of the carnet system. (Another kind of carnet, called a TECRO/AIT carnet, is used only in Taiwan.)

An ATA carnet allows users to clear customs without paying duties and import taxes on merchandise that will be re-exported within 12 months. Carnets are also known as merchandise passports or passports for goods.

When to Use a Carnet

Carnets are useful for anyone who needs to transport merchandise that might be cost-prohibitive under normal exporting circumstances.

Symphonies that tour internationally, one-man photography crews, sports teams, and even small traders sharing commercial samples with potential buyers can benefit from carnets. ATA Carnets can be used for equipment and merchandise shipped overseas for a tradeshow or exhibition to avoid paying customs duties and import taxes such as VAT or GST.

Most types of merchandise can be listed on a carnet, and nearly all types of goods and equipment can be transported under the ATA Carnet. (Here’s a list of what you can transport with a carnet.) Merchandise not covered by a carnet includes consumable items such as agricultural products, food, seeds, fertilizer and pesticides; explosives; disposables and postal traffic.

Carnets are used primarily for three types of merchandise:

  • Commercial samples,
  • Professional equipment (tools of the trade), and
  • Goods for fairs and exhibitions (limited to six months)

Applying for an ATA Carnet

ATA Carnets may be obtained from two officially-appointed Carnet Service Providers: Boomerang Carnets and Roanoke Trade Services. Exporters may also contact other parties including brokers and freight forwarders who can assist with the preparation of an ATA Carnet; however, the carnets will be issued by one of the two designated service providers.

Exporters can obtain ATA Carnets and carnet bond services via an online application process.

According to Wilson, a carnet can be issued and delivered within one day. Getting a carnet requires four simple steps:

  1. Gather the information listed on an application checklist.
  2. Register for an online account.
  3. Login to complete and submit the online carnet and bond application.
  4. While logged in, provide payment method and method of overnight delivery.

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David Noah

About the Author: David Noah

David Noah is the founder and president of Shipping Solutions, a software company that develops and sells export documentation and compliance software targeted at U.S. companies that export. David is a frequent speaker on export documentation and compliance issues and has published several articles on the topic.

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