If you’re lucky enough to have the opportunity to work overseas and you find yourself needing to take work goods with you, chances are you’ll need to obtain an ATA Carnet. 

An ATA Carnet allows you to take goods out of the UK temporarily without having to pay duties and import taxes when entering the listed countries. Now at a glance there doesn’t appear to be a lot of information about the process. However, our experience has shown there are many steps and it is quite time consuming.

Getting started

Firstly, if you’re applying from the UK you’ll need to create an account with the Chamber of Commerce through the ATA Carnet page. Make this a priority as you’ll have to wait for it to be approved before starting your application. 

Writing your list

Once approved you can begin your process in the ATA Carnet portal through clicking on the new application button. Here you will come across a page where you can type in your list or download a form to fill in. Downloading the form is helpful as it states clearly the various codes you need for each item, making it a clear way to get started. It also allows you to have a copy saved to your system in case there are any problems. 

It is worth noting that we had issues uploading our completed form to the system, but it was easy to transfer the information into the boxes on their website (just time consuming).

The form requires lots of in-depth details so at this stage we recommend lining up all business goods you plan on taking in the cases you plan on taking them. This means that if you’re stopped at customs everything is organised as per your list, so it easy to go through. It is also important at this stage to have some scales to weigh each item.

The details

So let’s get down to the details of what you’ll actually need to do! Firstly, you’ll need the item name and a brief description of the item followed by its serial number (SN), for example ‘blackmagic ursa camera c/w/ bodycap SN XXXXXXXX’ (c/w/ stands for complete with). If there’s no serial number simply put NSN for no serial number. The remaining columns then ask for the number of items (e.g. 3 of the same SD cards), the weight and unit of measurement of the item(s), value in GBP, country of origin code, and goods type ID code (all found on the form). You will also need to keep a running tally of the quantity of items along the left hand side. 

Things to know

As this was our first time applying we spoke directly with the ATA Carnet department, here is some additional information we obtained: 

  1. The value of the items should include VAT.
  2. The country of origin refers to where the product has come from – the brands headquarters (google helped us here). The downloadable form has a list which tells you the country code for each country.
  3. When you list items, always state the make. If you cannot see a make on some items then at the bottom of your carnet state “make stated where known”.
  4. Anything consumable cannot be on a carnet – such as tape. The weight will change as it is used and is therefore consumable. You can take these items, just don’t put them on your application. 
  5. When we submitted our Carnet online we added a note saying it was our first time applying so would appreciate any feedback, which we received 15 minutes after submitting our application – it was a very thorough process. 

Additional advice

Although this now seems more straight forward, you’ll likely find as you go through this process you’ll probably have a lot of questions. We recommend calling the ATA Carnet office directly and obtaining for an email address of an employee so you can ask as you go, ours was very helpful. Alternatively, the ATA Carnet page on the London Chamber of Commerce website has a question form, they get back to you fairly quickly.

Once our form was approved we then moved through to the payment phase. The Carnet has one fee for members of the London Chamber of Commerce, and one cheaper fee for non-members, these fees are stated on their website prior to logging into the portal. There is, however, an additional fee. This fee provides insurance for your goods should anything happen and can be taken out for various lengths of time depending on your needs. You can take out this insurance with them directly (paying for whatever length of time you need); pay a large upfront fee; or see if your insurance company will sign a letter (available on the portal at this stage) saying they cover ATA Carnets, which waivers this fee.

Once our application was approved and all fees we paid we received our Carnet with a “how to use” document within 24 hours. 

Final notes

  • The Carnet works in around 70 countries, all of which are listed when you start the application. You can also chose a ‘worldwide’ options but there are still some countries that do not accept this – I’d discuss this further with the Chamber of Commerce directly.
  • The Carnet lasts for 12 months.
  • Taiwan has its own version which you need to apply for separately.
  • If different people will be using the carnet each time, you can state ‘Any Authorised Representative’ as the name for the application, then create a letter of authority on company headed paper stating that whoever is travelling that has the authority to use the ‘Carnet Number ********’.
  • If you’re renting equipment some websites offer an ATA Carnet list where they provide the information for you so it is easier to apply. 
  • You should alert the airline that you will be travelling on that you have an ATA Carnet so they can let the destination airport know, smoothing your arrival.
  • Where possible, try to gain the help of a ‘fixer’ on the other side who speaks the local language who can help you through customs.

The good news is, once you’ve done one you know how to do it, and you can use it as a template for all future ATA Carnets.

May Sweeney

Marketing Executive