The ATA Carnet
Simplified Customs Procedures for "Tools of the Trade"
Q. What is an ATA Carnet?
The United States acceded to the Customs Convention on the ATA Carnet for the Temporary Admission of Goods (known as the ATA Convention) in December 1968 and began issuing ATA Carnets at the end of 1969. ATA Carnets are intended to reduce the burdensome customs paperwork confronting the commercial traveler. The ATA Carnet is a global customs document used to obtain temporary admission of certain goods into the territories of countries that belong to the ATA Convention, without paying duty or value-added taxes on those goods. The ATA documentation accompanying the goods bypasses the time-consuming task of filing numerous customs documents otherwise required by each of the individual ATA member countries into which the goods are temporarily imported. The Carnet also provides a financial guarantee to foreign customs officials that, in the event the goods which have been temporarily admitted are not re-exported, import duties and taxes will be paid.
Q. What is contained in an ATA Carnet document?
The Carnet document has a green cover page which provides the names of the Carnet holder and issuing association, the Carnet issue date, the Carnet number, the countries in which the Carnet may be used and a complete description of the goods covered. Two yellow sheets in the package are to be used upon exportation from and re-importation back into the issuing country. White sheets are used for the temporary importation into and re-exportation from the second or additional countries. Blue sheets are used when transiting through countries.
Each sheet contains two parts – a counterfoil, which remains in the Carnet and describes the actions taken by Customs officers each time goods enter or leave a country, and a detachable voucher, which contains a list of the goods covered by the Carnet and serves as the required Customs document.
Q. How is a U.S.-issued ATA Carnet processed by Customs?
When leaving the United States, the holder of a U.S.-issued ATA Carnet presents the Carnet and the covered goods to a Customs officer. The Carnet is reviewed for completeness and accuracy and the goods are examined to ensure that they match the Carnet list. The officer then validates the Carnet document and certifies the appropriate exportation counterfoil and voucher. The Carnet and the U.S. Customs-certified export voucher are returned to the Carnet holder who retains the voucher as the permanent record of the Customs transaction. (Note: The Carnet does not affect export control requirements such as the filing of a shipper’s export declaration or the requirement to obtain export licenses). Upon return to the United States, the holder of a U.S.-issued Carnet presents the Carnet and covered goods to a Customs officer for examination. The officer certifies the appropriate re-importation counterfoil and voucher and returns the Carnet to the holder for further use or surrender to the issuing association. (Note: On U.S.-issued Carnets only, the vouchers of the yellow exportation/re-importation sheets will not be detached, but will remain with the document when departing or returning to the United States).
It is the responsibility of the Carnet holder to present the Carnet to the Customs authorities when entering or leaving a country in order that the necessary verification and certification of the appropriate vouchers and counterfoils can take place. Failure to do so may result in a claim being made. A claim is a notice from a Customs authority of the country of import that a violation of the Carnet system has occurred and payment of duties, taxes, and penalties are required.
Q. What kinds of goods are covered?
Virtually all goods are covered by ATA Carnets. Ordinary goods including vehicles, apparel and jewelry, computers, photography/video and sound equipment, repair tools, and industrial equipment, or extraordinary items such as philharmonic orchestras and Olympic horses can all be covered if they qualify as a "tool of the trade." Examples of tools of the trade include goods for exhibitions and fairs, commercial samples, and professional equipment.
Q. What goods are not covered?
Merchandise that does not qualify as a tool of the trade is not eligible to be covered by an ATA Carnet. ATA Carnets also do not cover such items as: postal traffic, disposable and hazardous items, and consumable goods (food and agriculture products).
Q. Who issues ATA Carnets?
In each member country, organizations affiliated with the International Bureau of Chambers of Commerce are designated to issue Carnets to residents for use abroad. In the United States, that function is performed by the U.S. Council for International Business (USCIB). More information on the USCIB can be found at their web site at http://www.uscib.org/ .
Q. Are there fees associated with the ATA Carnet?
Certain fees are connected with applying for an ATA Carnet. In addition, other additional costs including security and expedited service may also apply. More information about associated costs can be found on the USCIB web site at http://www.uscib.org/ .
Q. Where are ATA Carnets accepted?
An updated listing off all countries and territories that accept ATA Carnets can be found on the USCIB web site at http://www.uscib.org./ .
Q. How long is the ATA Carnet valid?
The ATA Carnet is valid for up to one year from the date of its issuance, during which the Carnet may be used for an unlimited number of exits from the United States and entries into foreign countries. The ATA Carnet will only cover goods that are returned to the United States within 12 months.
Q. What if the ATA Carnet is expired?
Although no penalties or duties will be assessed by the United States for an expired U.S.-issued Carnet, a foreign government may assess penalties if the Carnet expires before the U.S. merchandise is exported from that country. The U.S. Customs Service will assess liquidated damages for foreign-issued Carnets that expire before the merchandise is exported from the United States.
Q. Under what circumstances might a claim be filed?
A claim consists of a notice issued by the customs authority of a foreign country in cases where there is no record that merchandise was re-exported. Examples of this would be: where the Carnet certificates have not been properly validated by either U.S. or foreign customs; where goods have been lost, stolen, or destroyed; where there is an improper or inadequate description of the merchandise on the general list; or where goods have not been re-exported in a timely fashion.
Q. What happens if the goods are not exported?
ATA Carnet holders who sell, donate, or otherwise dispose of any goods listed on the Carnet will cause the issuing organization to be assessed liquidated damages equaling 100 percent of the import duties and taxes (the issuing organization will then attempt to collect all such moneys from the Carnet holder that violated the terms). Additional charges may also apply in some cases, since some countries where violations occur hold the Carnet issuer and holder equally responsible (including normal duties and taxes as well as liquidated damages).
For additional information, contact: Carnet Headquarters, U.S. Council for International Business (USCIB), 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036; Tel: (212) 354-4480, Fax: (212) 944-0012; or visit the USCIB web site at http://www.uscib.org./ . Further information may also be obtained from the Importing & Exporting link on the U.S. Customs Service website, at http://www.customs.ustreas.gov/ .
For questions or comments contact:
Office of the Chief Counsel for International Commerce
U.S. Department of Commerce
Revised August 2002
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U.S. Department of Commerce | International Trade Administration