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ATA Carnets: Can I use these to get goods into Europe? Part 1

(S,P) Many businesses struggle to get goods into the EU. Some say ATA carnets are a way to fast-track entry to Europe. Not so fast!, argues Arne Mielken of Customs Manager Ltd.

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. We imagine the case of a UK business sending an engineer to the EU. How would the company go about using an ATA Carnet?

  1. In Part 1 we look 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 Part 2, we look at the specifics. How does an ATA Carnet look? What are its features? And what is a Carnet de Passages en Douane?

The ATA Carnet procedure

The ATA Carnet often referred to as the "Passport for goods", is an international customs document that permits the tax-free and duty-free temporary export and import of certain goods for up to one year. The acronym ATA is a combination of French and English terms "Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission”. Your business can an ATA Carnet in more than 80 countries.

You can use it to:

  • temporarily export goods for use outside your own country; and,

  • claim relief under temporary admission on goods that you import for temporary use into another (the third country to yours).


The ATA Carnet allows the business traveller to use a single document for clearing certain categories of goods through customs in several countries without the deposit of import duties and taxes. So long as the goods are re-exported within the allotted time frame, no duties or taxes are due.

The main benefits can be summarised in:

  • it simplifies customs clearance of goods in exporting and importing countries by replacing customs documents that would normally be required,

  • it provides financial security for customs charges potentially due on the goods that will be used in the countries visited,

  • it helps to overcome language barriers and having to complete unfamiliar customs forms.

Using the ATA Carnet will mean that your business will not pay customs charges. It also simplifies clearing your goods through customs and replaces the customs documents that your business would normally need to complete. However, it does require the provision of financial security for customs charges.

Goods covered

TA Carnets cover the usual and unusual: computers, repair tools, photographic and film equipment, musical instruments, industrial machinery, vehicles, jewellery, clothing, medical appliances, aircraft, racehorses, artwork, prehistoric relics, ballet costumes and rock group sound systems. ATA Carnets do not cover perishable or consumable items or goods for processing or repair.

The most common uses include but not limited to:

• exhibitions and fairs

• professional equipment

• commercial samples and goods for testing purposes

• sports equipment.

Goods should be intended for return to the country they were initially exported from. They cannot be processed or repaired other than the routine maintenance necessary to keep them in their original condition.

Example: Presenting ATA Carnets in the EU

For customs purposes, the EU is treated as a single territory so a carnet does not need to be presented in each EU country visited, only at the place of first entry and exit from the EU.

What would a typical engineer do who wants to use an ATA Carnet?

The engineer of your UK business can use the ATA Carnet upon entry into the EU, regardless if with van or plane. The ATA Carnet would cover only the equipment used for set-up, service, maintenance and repair, not devices that you may take out of the EU for repair.

An ATA Carnet presented to customs in the EU is considered as an application for authorization for temporary admission provided the EU’s conditions are met:

  1. The Carnet must have issued in a contracting party to the ATA Convention or Istanbul Convention and endorsed and guaranteed by an association forming part of a guaranteeing chain as defined in Article 1(d) of Annex A to the Istanbul Convention.

  2. It must relate to goods and uses covered by the Convention under which it was issued.

  3. It must be certified by the customs authorities. So, your UK business should make sure that an HMRC customs officer can stamp the Carnet at the port or airport your goods are being shipped from.

  4. It must be valid throughout the customs territory of the Union.

Responsibilities of your UK businesses’ engineer as ATA Carnet holder

When the engineer travels with an ATA Carnet they may become the Carnet holder and their name will be on the front cover of the Carnet. The holder of the ATA Carnet is automatically responsible for any customs charges that may become due if they either do not:

  • use the goods correctly

  • re-export them from the country you visit

Carnet holder to the EU must also make sure they

  • show the Carnet to customs for stamping each time the goods enter or leave the EU / UK meaning that the Carnet must be presented to customs each time the goods are imported, exported or pass through a country.

  • they tell customs authorities if the goods are no longer eligible for use under the Carnet, for example, they decided to leave them in the EU / UK or sold the goods; and, that they can show the Carnet and the goods when customs ask them to.

Consequently, an engineer arriving in the EU or UK should go through the red channel at customs if they were bringing the goods back in the baggage that were in temporary admission.

Carnet Countries & Territories - Where Can An ATA Carnet Be Used?

In 100+ countries and territories located in Europe, North America, South America, Asia, Africa and Oceania. More to come or may have joined since this article was written. Check for updates. *Countries ending with an asterisk are part of the European Union (EU). If goods are properly imported into one EU carnet country and re-exported from a second EU carnet country, the Carnet holder is unlikely to encounter any claims fees.

  1. Albania

  2. Algeria

  3. Andorra

  4. Antarctica

  5. Aruba

  6. Australia

  7. Austria*

  8. Azores (Portugal)

  9. Bahrain, Kingdom of

  10. Balearic Islands (see Spain)

  11. Belarus

  12. Belgium*

  13. Bosnia & Herzegovina

  14. Botswana

  15. Brazil

  16. Bulgaria*

  17. Canada

  18. Canary Islands

  19. Ceuta

  20. Chile

  21. China

  22. Corsica (France)

  23. Cote d'Ivoire

  24. Croatia*

  25. Curacao

  26. Cyprus*

  27. Czech Republic*

  28. Denmark*

  29. Estonia*

  30. European Union

  31. Faroe Islands (Denmark)

  32. Finland*

  33. France*

  34. French Guiana

  35. French Polynesia - Tahiti

  36. Germany*

  37. Gibraltar

  38. Greece*

  39. Greenland (Denmark)

  40. Guadeloupe (France)

  41. Guam

  42. Guernsey (United Kingdom)

  43. Hong Kong

  44. Hungary*

  45. Iceland

  46. India

  47. Indonesia

  48. Iran

  49. Ireland*

  50. Isle of Man (United Kingdom)

  51. Israel

  52. Italy*

  53. Ivory Coast see Cote d'Ivoire

  54. Japan

  55. Jersey (United Kingdom)

  56. Kazakhstan

  57. Latvia*

  58. Lebanon

  59. Lesotho (SACU)

  60. Liechtenstein (Admin by Switz.)

  61. Lithuania*

  62. Luxembourg*

  63. Macao, China

  64. Macedonia

  65. Madagascar

  66. Madeira (Portugal)

  67. Malaysia

  68. Malta*

  69. Martinique

  70. Mauritius

  71. Mayotte (France)

  72. Melilla (Spain)

  73. Mexico

  74. Miquelon (France)

  75. Moldova

  76. Monaco (Admin by France)

  77. Mongolia

  78. Montenegro

  79. Morocco

  80. Namibia (SACU)

  81. Netherlands*

  82. New Caledonia (France)

  83. New Zealand

  84. Norway

  85. Pakistan

  86. Poland*

  87. Portugal*

  88. Puerto Rico (USA)

  89. Qatar

  90. Reunion Island (France)

  91. Romania*

  92. Russia

  93. Senegal

  94. Serbia

  95. Singapore

  96. Slovakia*

  97. Slovenia*

  98. South Africa

  99. South Korea

  100. Spain*

  101. Sri Lanka

  102. St. Barthelemy (France)

  103. St. Martin/Sint Maarten

  104. St. Pierre (France)

  105. Swaziland (SACU)

  106. Sweden*

  107. Switzerland

  108. Tahiti (France)

  109. Taiwan

  110. Tasmania (Australia)

  111. Thailand

  112. Tunisia

  113. Turkey

  114. Ukraine

  115. United Arab Emirates

  116. United Kingdom

  117. United States

  118. Wallis & Futuna (France)

Example of a US Carnet Procedure Instruction Manual

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.

What to expect in Part 2

In Part 2, we look at the specifics. How does an ATA Carnet look? What are its features? And what is a Carnet de Passages en Douane?

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