by Selma Canas | November 7, 2023
The ATA Carnet is a unique international trade tool allowing duty-free entry of goods on a temporary basis. Every year $175,000+ carnets are issued covering goods valued at $25 billion in 87+ countries and territories. Every carnet country has a national guaranteeing association, typically the Chamber of Commerce. In the United States, it is the US Council for International Business (USCIB). The USCIB appoints service providers, such as Boomerang Carnets, to issue carnets, which are valid for one year.
What is an ATA Carnet?
An ATA Carnet is a customs document that provides for temporary import duty and tax deferment for commercial samples, professional equipment, and goods for display at trade shows that will be brought back within the one year that the carnet is valid. It is an agreement and financial backing that guarantees customs duty and tax payment if the goods are not brought back. These three categories are universally accepted by most carnet countries but only one may be used when filing the carnet:
- Commercial Samples: for companies that will be demonstrating the goods to a potential buyer such as jewelry, clothing, or technology.
- Professional Equipment: for companies who will be using their equipment for some purpose, like a filmmaker or musician.
- Goods for Display at Trade Shows: for companies who will be participating in a trade show or exhibition and need to show or demonstrate their products.
Allowable goods include aircraft, artifacts, livestock, defense equipment, medical equipment, professional equipment, and much more. Non-allowable goods include consumable and disposable items, such as marketing collateral given away during a trade show.
ATA Carnet Usage
ATA Carnets are item-specific and can be used multiple times in multiple countries within the one-year validity. Some countries limit the usage to less than one year, such as Mexico for six months. Carnets can be issued directly to the exporter or their freight forwarder and cover both hand-carried items and cargo shipments. Users must be mindful of the expiration date or re-exportation deadline, as failure to re-export by this date results in foreign customs filing claims, with the carnet holder liable for charges. Goods regulated by other agencies (e.g., USDA or ITAR) must comply with respective regulations. Upon expiration, the carnet must be returned to the service provider to close out the bond.
ATA Carnet Document Specifications
The ATA carnet document contains seven color-coded sheets. The front green cover records the official identification, dates, US customs activation, and list of goods. The second and sixth yellow pages record the US exportation and re-importation validation by US customs. The third and fourth white pages record the importation and re-exportation validation by foreign customs. The fifth blue page records transit entry and exit, if applicable. The back green cover records notes on the use of the ATA carnet and a list of foreign guaranteeing associations.
Users should thoroughly understand their obligations as carnet holders, follow instructions on the carnet document, and seek training if necessary. Boomerang Carnet offers training and online reports, ensuring carnet holders remain informed of their expiration dates. Despite responsibilities, ATA Carnets are cost-effective, providing significant savings in import duties and taxes for the carnet holder.