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ATA Carnets: Explained Part 2

(S,P) ATA Carnets are complex. Part 2 of our mini-series explores the essentials businesses need to understand for efficient use.

In this two-part series, we take a closer look at ATA Carnets, what they do and what they do not do and overall how the system works.

  1. In Part 1 we looked at the fundamentals of the ATA Carnet and talk through a practical example. We also find out in which countries ATA Carnets are used.

  2. In this part, Part 2, we look at the specifics. How does an ATA Carnet look? What are its features? What are the common mistakes? What happens if goods remain in a country? And what is a Carnet de Passages en Douane?


The Carnet system provides for guarantees to be given by a national guaranteeing association (NGAs), to cover the import duty to which the importations will be subject in the event of a breach of the conditions of the temporary importation. NGAs are appointed by customs authorities and have joined an international guaranteeing chain (a risk management scheme administered by an international organisation).

If we go back to our example of the UK business from Part 1, they will be required to hold a guarantee, or other security, in case the goods are incorrectly used or not re-exported from the country visited. This would also need to be set up by your UK business.

If customs in the country visited are not satisfied that the goods have been re-exported or an ineligible use has been made, they will make a claim to the carnet association in their country for payment of the customs charges due.

Not returning the goods to the UK

Sticking with our practical example of a UK business, you’ll need to contact the customs authority in the country where the goods will remain to complete any customs documents they require and for them to note on the carnet which items are not being returned. As the goods are no longer a temporary export from the UK, you will also need to complete an export declaration in the UK to replace the temporary export made under the carnet.

How to re-import the goods to the UK

Present the carnet and goods to customs at the port or airport of arrival or designated point in the UK. Customs at the office of import will check and endorse the yellow re-importation voucher and stamp the matching counterfoil. The yellow voucher will be removed and the carnet returned to you. If goods are included in a passenger’s baggage and re-imported to the UK direct from a non-EU country, the carnet must be presented at the red point or channel.

Failing to present the ATA carnet when leaving the country visited

If the carnet is not presented, the carnet will not be discharged correctly. Customs in the country of temporary import may then demand payment of duty or ask for proof of the current location of the goods. If you’re asked for proof of re-export you maycontact customs in the country where the goods are located.

As long as the carnet was correctly presented on re-importation to the UK, they can issue a certified copy of the relevant re-importation voucher. If the appropriate voucher is not available or was not presented at re-importation, they may be able to arrange for you to present the goods for inspection so that we can confirm that the goods are in the UK. There may be a charge for each inspection.

Watch Out

Most problems are caused by:

  • giving an unclear or inaccurate description of the goods - for example, the description on the carnet should be comprehensive enough for customs authorities to identify the goods if the details on the ATA carnet are not clear, the importing customs authority may refuse to accept it - the release of the goods could then be delayed until a normal customs declaration is made; make sure that the description of each item is as full as practicable, photographs of the item can be very useful to aid identification

  • failing to present the ATA carnet to customs for endorsement at re-export - for example, if a carnet is not presented customs will not know the goods have been re-exported

  • using general lists - for example, if details are altered or changed after it has been issued customs authorities can refuse to accept the carnet

If there are any problems with the carnet it could result in a claim for payment of customs duty and taxes and/or a penalty being imposed. Any irregularity could also delay the discharge of the carnet.

How does an ATA Carnet look?

It comprises of a front and back cover, vouchers and counterfoils.

The front and back cover contains detailed information on the Carnet holder, the representative(s), the intended use, the issuer, the guarantor, the Carnet number, the validity, and the general list of goods.

Vouchers, differentiated by colours and titles, are used by holders as declaration and guarantee. Continuation sheets may be inserted if not enough space is provided on the cover or on the vouchers to show the details of all the goods covered.

The carnet can include any number of vouchers to allow the goods to be moved between many countries before their return or for multiple trips to be made using the same carnet.

To simplify the use of the carnet, the cover and vouchers are printed on coloured paper:

  • green - the cover sheet, this identifies the holder and their address, the holders representative (if applicable), the intended use of the goods, which countries the carnet can be used in and how long it is valid for; this front cover must be endorsed by the issuing association and signed by the carnet holder - it will normally be certified by customs in the country of issue

  • yellow - the exportation and re-importation vouchers, corresponding counterfoils are printed on a separate yellow sheet

  • white - the importation and re-exportation vouchers, corresponding counterfoils are printed on a separate white sheet

Carnets may also contain blue vouchers

The back of the green front cover and each voucher contains the ‘general list’ of the goods covered by the carnet.

Each voucher also contains a declaration which must be completed and signed by the holder or their representative each time the carnet is presented at export and import and re-export and re-import, including transport if applicable.

The vouchers will be stamped and removed as appropriate by the relevant customs authorities, they will then stamp the corresponding counterfoil on the carnet and return the carnet to the person who presented it.

One voucher must be provided to the foreign customs officials when entering the country and another when leaving.

This rule also applies when exiting and entering your own country.

After declarations, vouchers are kept by customs authorities to monitor and regulate temporary import and export.

Counterfoils, differentiated by colours and titles, are prepared for customs officials to commit transactions performed at border offices. Counterfoils can be used as key evidence to discharge claims should customs claim exempted duties and taxes at a later stage.

Carnet de Passages en Douane

A CPD Carnet, (Carnet de Passages en Douane) lets a business temporarily take a UK registered vehicle into the EU. This means a business does not pay the import duties in the EU when you drive through or temporarily stay in its territory.

The carnet allows travellers to temporarily import their vehicles, or other items of value such as broadcasting equipment, without having to leave a cash deposit at the border. It is, in essence, an international guarantee for payment of customs duties and taxes to a government should the vehicle or item not be re-exported from that country.

Persons who temporarily import their vehicles or items into countries where the Carnet is required must agree to obey the laws and regulations of that country and particularly the conditions of temporary importation.

The Carnet contains relevant information about the items or vehicle – make, model, colour, engine capacity, seating capacity, registration number, owner and value.

To obtain a carnet, the owner of the items is required to provide security based on the countries travelled to, age and market value of the items.

Generally, four types of security are acceptable from motoring organisations:

• Cash bond

• Banker's letter of indemnity

• Insurance policy

• Loss Prevention Security – US and Canada only

How Customs Manager Ltd can help

We advise on ATA carnets and help you get one quickly. We discuss your ATA carnet and supply chain needs and decide jointly on the most compliant, efficient and effective way to use it. This will ensure you enter and exit countries with your goods without delay.

Missed Part 1?

We looked at the fundamentals of the ATA Carnet and talk through a practical example. We also find out in which countries ATA Carnets are used.

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