The ATA Carnet is an international Customs document that permits the tax-free and duty-free temporary export and import of goods for up to one year. It is used to clear customs in 87 countries and territories without paying duties and import taxes on merchandise which will be re-exported within 12 months.
An ATA Carnet can be used for practically all kinds of goods of any value, and can provide a simple entry and exit to and from a single foreign country (or for numerous multi-destination journeys) during the validity of the Carnet.
The validity of an ATA Carnet can never exceed one year, and all goods listed on the ATA Carnet must return to the UK. Failure to re-export all or some of the listed goods from an overseas market results in the payment of applicable duties; failure to remit those duties results in a claim from the foreign customs service to the importers’ home country, and possibly fines as well.
A full list of the 87 countries and territories involved in the ATA Carnet scheme is available from the Chambers of Commerce which are responsible for issuing ATA Carnets.
Until the UK leaves the EU, there is no requirement for British companies to list on an ATA Carnet for temporary shipment the goods or samples they may be taking temporarily to EU countries for tradeshows or on sales trips.
SPECIAL NOTE: Since September 2017 companies taking collections of jewellery and other higher-value items have begun to experience difficulties in exporting and reimporting sample collections, when travelling to and from France. These have included rigorous inspections of personal luggage, and demands for paperwork proving ownership and origin of the collection (for VAT and duty collection purposes), and have resulted in entire collections being impounded and duty, VAT and fines being charged on entry into the UK. For this reason, we strongly advise exhibitors of all types of merchandise to list their sample collection (and display aids, if any) with prices, on a Proforma Invoice on their headed paper, addressed to themselves at their hotel/accommodation, and referring to the exhibition at which they are showing, and the dates that the collection will be out of the UK. Take an original and two additional sets of the Proforma Invoice with you, which you can show to Customs at either end of the journey, and leave with them.
ATA Carnets are essential for smooth temporary export and reimport of samples and other goods for most of the UK’s major markets countries outside the EU (for example the USA, Canada, Japan, China etc.)
Once the UK leaves the EU, depending on the agreements which may come into force between the EU and the UK on the subjects of the Single Market and the Customs Union, it is possible that UK companies will need an ATA Carnet to take samples and goods temporarily into EU countries and back again.
SPECIAL BENEFITS FOR UKFT MEMBERS
UKFT is a Member of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC). All UKFT members can now benefit from an excellent discounted rate when applying for an ATA carnet, as well as on other export and import documentation processing fees. An ATA carnet can be processed electronically by GBCC in as fast as 3 hours! See separate sheet for details of charges.
If you are trading with countries outside the EU on a wholesale basis, you will need an EORI number. UK companies can find this here.The process varies according to whether you are VAT registered in the UK and whether you intend to make customs declarations yourself. You will need to look up your Harmonised Commodity Codes (HCC) for each product to be able to calculate the duty and VAT rates for goods whether you are selling wholesale or shipping direct to a consumer. If you are using a delivery service like UPS, Yamato (for Japan) or DHL, they may be able to simplify this for you but it still the exporter’s responsibility to understand the rules and get the paperwork right.
Once you know the Commodity Code of your goods, you can check the specific duty rates and any special requirements/exclusions on the EU Market Access Applied Tariffs Database for the specific duty rates in the country you are selling to. The duty must be calculated on your FOB price. You need to be sure which column you are looking at for the duty. It is mostly likely to be MFN (Most Favoured Nation) but you should always check which countries are included in case there are any changes.
Specifically if you are selling to the USA, there may be temporary exclusions, tariff hikes and quotas on certain products manufactured or having their legal origin determined as being outside the EU. For example, the USA has levied additional tariffs and exclusions on certain goods from China. Additional information can be found on the USA Customs website or The Office of Textiles and Apparel in the USA.
If you are selling to Canada, Canadian duty rates and regulations differ substantially from those in the USA and there is a CETA Free Trade Agreement on goods between the EU and Canada. More details can be found here.
It is the responsibility of the exporter to understand the duties, tariffs and any other requirements relating to their product and its origin in the country they are selling to. UKFT members can contact UKFT for more help and guidance.
For temporary exports, please also see UKFT’s briefing on ATA Carnets.
The following notes are for guidance only; they do not constitute legal advice and are given in good faith. UKFT disclaims any liability resulting from actions taken after reading these notes.
DO YOU NEED TO REGISTER FOR VAT?
You do not have to register for VAT in the UK until your annual turnover exceeds £85,000, but you may find it advantageous to do so before then, especially if you are an exporter and if you plan to exhibit abroad. It will give you more credibility when dealing with overseas buyers. It will make payments to suppliers easier and can be beneficial to your cash flow. If you are buying fabric or getting your collection made in Italy, for example, you will have to pay Italian VAT if you are not VAT-registered.
If you are exhibiting at a trade show in Europe and are not VAT-registered in the UK, you would be charged the local VAT (as much as 20% or 25%, depending on the country VAT rate) on the full stand costs and you would not be able to claim this back. Find out more .
If you plan to export or import goods either within or outside the EU, an EORI (Economic Operator Registration and Identification Number) will simplify your export administration, and your relationship with HM Customs and Excise. Registering for one is free and simple. More information is available here.
If you are doing a lot of importing and exporting across the supply chain, you should also consider applying for Authorised Economic Operator status (AEO). This concept is based on exporters and importers complying with internationally recognised standards of practice, which enable them to have a closer relationship with customs authorities and to simplify their paperwork. You can read more here.
See our downloads section for more details on your VAT responsibilities.