Exhibiting overseas? Save money with an ATA Carnet

David Rae

ATA Carnet's - A passport for goods

Attending exhibitions or trade shows can be a fantastic way of showcasing your business. They allow your branding, products and services to reach thousands of people interested in your industry from across the world, and after years of living in an online world, meeting people in person has an even greater impact.

Although impactful, exhibition costs can escalate, from booking the stand to the design of the booth to then shipping the goods to site, it’s good to know money can be saved on VAT, duty and customs clearance through using an ATA Carnet.

What is an ATA Carnet?

An ATA Carnet is a document which shows that the goods being exported are never meant to enter “commerce” or free circulation in the destination country.

After a set amount of time the goods will need to be re-imported to the country of origin which is why they are duty and tax free.

If the goods are not re-imported to the country of origin within the period agreed, then they will be deemed to have “entered the commerce of the destination country” and will become liable for duties and taxes as a permanent import.

You can get Carnets for two, six or twelve months periods. It normally takes 5 days to apply for and receive an ATA Carnet, but there are also next-day express options.

However, it’s wise to leave more time for application as The Chambers of Commerce, which issue the Carnet, may have questions which will need answering before you will be allowed to ship.


What can an ATA Carnet be used for?

You should include any goods that will be imported and brought back for the trade show like. These goods can be anything that is transported or even hand-carried goods that you bring along like:

  • Trade show booths or stands
  • Network routers for demonstration
  • Photographers camera equipment
  • Vehicles for exhibition
  • Clothes for fashion shows
  • Sets and props for theatre
  • Samples of goods (which cannot be consumed or given away)

It’s best not to mix goods on an ATA Carnet with others that are not tax exempt on the same shipment so that there isn’t any confusion when going through customs.

As the goods are not going to be sold to anyone, it will not be possible to write a commercial invoice instead as that would require an “importer of record”.

What’s needed for the documentation?

On an ATA Carnet, a lot more detail is needed for the documentation than on a commercial invoice, like:

  • Serial numbers for every item
  • What the items are going to be used for
  • Professional equipment or commercial samples
  • The number of trips needed

The authorised representative (normally the company handling your freight) will also need to be listed as they will be the ones who are present during both export and re-import and Customs officers will need to be made aware.

Click here to find out more details about an ATA Carnet from the UK government website.


What are the benefits of using an ATA Carnet?

Due to less customs formalities, loads are more secure and cross borders quickly and easily – meaning that when working to a tight deadline, or moving time sensitive goods, an ATA Carnet is the perfect option.

So if your goods delivery is time sensitive then this is a perfect solution to get them there quickly or to hit a delivery deadline.


What do you need to think of when exhibiting?

 Businesses often forget about the details for offloading and building their stands and materials. Some things to bear in mind are:

  • Where’s the consignment getting offloaded and who’s transporting the stand to where it’ll be set up?
  • Is there a warehouse where the exhibition organisers want delivery of goods and is there an arranged delivery date and time?

Once you’ve got your ATA Carnet in order, all that’s left to do is to shine on an international stage!

If you have any questions or worries about getting your business to an overseas exhibition then please speak to one of our experienced Account Managers who will be happy to advise you.

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