Carnets - All you need to know
Everything you need to know about ATA Carnets
If you're sending a crew to shoot abroad, then you may need to raise a Carnet. Some countries require a Carnet, others don't.
If your trip originates in the UK and stays within the European Union you do not need a Carnet but should use a duplicate list
Which countries require a Carnet? See Carnet Countries
If your destination doesn't require a Carnet, you should still use a duplicate list for trips originating in and returning to the EU
This guide to Carnets will tell you which countries need a carnet and which don't, where to go to get a carnet and how to complete the paperwork - and what to do with it once you've used it.
Step by step summary of how to raise and use a carnet.
- Check if your trip includes a "carnet" country. See Carnet Countries
- Draw up an equipment list including serial numbers, values and countries of origin exampledownload template
- Get dimensions and weights of the flight cases
- Apply for your carnet and pay the fee
- Lodge the monetary security with the carnet issuer - bank guarantee, bond, cash or their own scheme
- Carefully check the carnet when it arrives
- Make photo copies of the carnet - keep a copy at base
- Nominate a "carnet holder" who must be travelling
- Get the carnet holder to sign the carnet - this can be done at the airport
- Go to customs BEFORE you check the bags in
- Fill in the first yellow "exportation" voucher and get it's counterfoil stamped. See example.
- Check the stamped counterfoil - make sure the voucher number is correct
- Check your bags in for the flight, go airside and relax - you've completed stage 1
- Fill in the first white "importation" voucher ready for customs - I normally do this before I leave the plane
- On arrival at your destination, reclaim your bags and check that nothing is missing
- Make sure you find a customs officer and have the carnet "importation" counterfoil filled in and stamped
- Repeat this process every time you leave or enter a carnet country
Follow this link to find out which countries require a Carnet
or refer to the table below.
If your trip does not include a carnet country you should still use a duplicate list
The following countries accept the Carnet system. Correct as at Dec 2016
*Taiwan - is covered by a separate agreement between the EC, Taiwan and the International Chamber of Commerce called an EC/CPD/China-Taiwan carnet. Other than a different colour code the conditions for its use, the goods for which it can be used and EC Customs procedures are identical to those for the ATA carnet.
When you must have an ATA Carnet
If you are travelling with professional equipment to a country which takes part in the ATA Carnet system, you must have a Carnet
A carnet is an international shipping document that allows you to leave your home country, enter another for filming or other purposes and come home having exported and imported your equipment as often as you like without the need to pay import duty or tax.
Not having a Carnet can cost you money
Whilst you are free to travel without a Carnet, it's extemely inadvisable to do so. You may well be stopped by customs as you enter your destination country and you will probably be charged import duty at a set percentage of the equipment's value. Given that a shooting kit can run to in excess of GBP 100,000 , paying a percentage of this to customs would be a serious set back to your budget or credit card. You would also have to fill in a number of forms which would in theory allow you to reclaim this money when you leave the country. The whole process would be time consuming, messy and potentially very costly.
How the Carnet avoids you paying import duty
Having a Carnet basically allows you to prove to customs that the equipment has not been sold in the country you are visiting and is therefore free from import duty. It lists all the equipment and shows that you have returned all the items to your home country and that nothing has been left in any of the countries you have visited on your trip.
List where you are going and what equipment you are taking
Once you’ve decided that your trip includes a carnet country, you need to make a list of all the countries you will be visiting including those where you are just in transit. Then you need to draw up an equipment list. This list details the items you are exporting from your home country. It should list the item’s name, its serial number, weight, value in your home currency and US Dollars, and it should state which box it is travelling in. By the time you have listed all items that you wish to take filming with you, it should look something like this:
Raise an Insurance Bond
This is NOT an insurance document - the equipment values you declare on a carnet are not relevant to any insurance claim you may make on your production insurance in the event of loss or damage. You will also need to raise an insurance bond or lodge a monetary security with the carnet issuer and this will be based on the total value of the goods listed in the carnet. Some production companies choose to use a lower but credible value for equipment listed on the carnet so that if items are lost, the duty payable is based on this lower value rather than the full replacement value. Whether or not you choose to down value your equipment is up to you and we cannot advise either way.
Send the equipment list and travel itinerary to your carnet provider.
You should tell them which countries you are travelling to and how many times you expect to go in and out of each country, e.g. crossing the border between USA and Canada means that with UK equipment you have to have your carnet authorised each time you leave USA and each time you enter Canada. On a long filming trip snaking back and forth across their border, you’ll become very experienced in clearing a carnet and you'll also get through a lot of import / export vouchers.
Ask for extra vouchers in your Carnet
The carnet-raising authority needs to know how many carnet countries you are entering and leaving to give you sufficient vouchers in your carnet for each entry and exit. On any carnet, you should have an even number of coupons – one for exit from home country, one for entry to country A and exit from country A, one for entry to country B and exit from B, then one for re-entry to your home country. Remember to tell the carnet agency if you are only in transit in a carnet country. They will issue blue “transit vouchers” at the rear of the carnet for this purpose, but be clear with the agency. If you stand any chance whatsoever of actually entering the transit country to film, then go for a set of entry and exit coupons instead. It's also a good idea to have a few spare voucher pairs in case your schedule changes. Don’t take risks in not having the correct paperwork.
Once you have detailed the countries you are visiting or travelling through, then the authority can issue your carnet. They usually send them via secure post or courier, so remember to allow for this in your schedule when working out when to apply for a carnet in time to have it in your hand for travel. And you’ll have to pay for it up front too.
Countries you visit can claim import duty
If for any reason, one of the countries you have visited claims that you did not re-export some or all of your equipment, they can make a claim for the import duty to be paid. Money to cover any possible claim has to be lodged with the carnet issuer in advance in the form of a bank guarantee or cash or they may have their own indemnity scheme. The amount of this security will be based on the values declared on the carnet, the type of the equipment, the length of your trip and the countries you are visiting. The carnet issuer will let you know how much this will be.
You might have to pay import duty
There are several reasons why you may find yourself subject to a claim for duty and tax:
- Incomplete Carnet: an importation voucher does not have a corresponding export voucher
- Some items are missing when you exit the country (even due to loss or theft)
- Lost Carnet
So you can begin to see how important it is to keep the Carnet safe and to make sure it is correctly filled in and stamped at every stage of your travel.
Carnets can be raised quickly
Carnets can be raised in a hurry if you’re suddenly faced with a shoot that must go filming abroad tomorrow. However, this is not for the faint-hearted and experienced PMs and PCs should be consulted if you’re asked to do this.
Make time to gather all the information you need
Give yourself enough time to get all the information you need for the equipment list. The kit you are taking may be coming from a range of suppliers, e.g. camera hire company, lighting and grip company, freelancers, and climbing or underwater suppliers if you’re doing specialist filming. Give them time to get everything to you – you can’t afford to get this wrong and mistype or miss out a serial number.
Cost of raising an ATA Carnet
The cost of raising a carnet will depend on who you use as an issuing agent and can also vary depending on your home country so if you are preparing a budget, it's best to contact the issuer and ask for a quote. As a general idea, if you are issuing a carnet from the UK it will cost around GBP 130.00 (if you are a member of your local Chamber of Commerce) to around GBP 300.00 + VAT
Carefully check your Carnet document
When you receive the carnet, carefully check that it has the correct number of vouchers for your trip and that the equipment list, serial numbers and values are also correct.
Make some photocopies
It's a good idea to make a few copies of the front page showing the document number and the equipment list and distribute these around members of the team who are travelling as well as keeping a copy in the office. At least then, there is a record of the carnet if it gets lost.
Fill in the front page
Fill in the front page with the carnet holder's details. This is the person who will be resonsible for the carnet throughout the trip and can be any member of the team travelling but frequently it's the cameraman because he or she will know what's in each box and can easily identify bits of kit for the customs officials if need be.
Fill in the yellow exportation voucher
Before going to customs, the carnet holder fills in the front of the yellow exportation voucher:
Present your Carnet to customs before you check in
When you arrive at your departure airport allow yourself or your crew enough time to complete the carnet and get it stamped BEFORE they check-in.
Customs officers will want to inspect the equipment
There is no point turning up at Customs to have the carnet stamped if the cases have gone to baggage handling already – the customs official may want to spot check items and you won’t have them any longer! Worst case scenario is they wish to unpack every single case, so expect the worst and allow sufficient time. Sometimes, the customs officer may want you to check your equipment in with the airline before processing the Carnet. Doing it this way just takes a little longer, but you will have to oblige. Just make sure that you tell the check in staff that some items require customs clearance before being sent down to baggage handling.
On the back of the voucher is the "general list" - a list of all your kit, serial numbers and values. Turn up at customs with the completed voucher in the entire carnet, your flight ticket and your passport. The customs officer will disappear with your carnet and passport, tear out and keep the exportation voucher for their records and return shortly (although it can take up to 30 mins for some unknown reason) with a stamped receipt in your carnet. Congratulations! You have completed stage 1! You now have proof that you have exported your kit and customs have kept a record of what you have exported. Now all you have to do is complete this process every time you enter and exit a country on your trip!
Clearing customs at your destination
On entry to your first country, have the white importation voucher already completed ready for customs to inspect - do this on the plane before you land. A nice smiley face ready to make this as easy as possible for the customs officer will work wonders for an easy importation of camera equipment. You don’t want the entire contents of 30 filming cases spread out everywhere or the delay that goes with it. Remember, some customs officials have either never seen a carnet before or don’t want to see one, they’re hassle, so try to make it an easy process for them. However, in some countries where shiny filming cases are a novelty, they may want everything out just to be nosey.
More countries in your trip
Just repeat this process at each point of entry and exit throughout your filming trip. Make sure you come back to your home country with an entry and exit stamp for each country you've visited, and a stamped voucher for re-entry to your home country.
Not just airports
The procedure is the same for land and sea border crossings too.
Finalising your carnet when you return
Have one last check of the carnet in the comfort of your office before you book a secure courier or secure postal service to return it to the issuing authority for redemption. This doesn’t mean you get any money back, but it does mean that your government, which backed the carnet, doesn’t come after you for the cost of your “non export” of equipment from one of the countries you visited.
A word of caution
If your Carnet is not completed properly, then a country you visited may claim that you did not export the equipment from them and charge you import duty. This can be costly because for some countries, it’s more than 100% of the total value declared on the equipment list.
If you can't get your Carnet stamped by customs
There are occaisionally times when you simply cannot get the carnet stamped in time for your flight and missing the flight may not be a comfortable option. If this happens, then in theory, the country you left does not have a record of you exporting the items and you may be liable for import duty.
Tell your Carnet issuer as son as possible
Once all the vouchers have been returned and married up, one will be missing and the carnet issuing authority will wait for the foreign country to makes its claim. It then is a question of proving that you did not leave the items in that country and, providing you successfully re-imported the items into your home country and have a stamped voucher to prove it, the carnet issuer can present this to the foreign country as evidence and that may well suffice.
If you've lost your Carnet completely
If you have completely lost the carnet, and a claim is made, then you can arrange for customs officials to visit your premises and do a "physical check" and provide a "certificate of location" - basically look at the items and serial numbers to prove you brought them home. This should avoid having to pay the full amount of duty but there may well be an administration charge.
If anything like this happens, contact your carnet issuer for advice as soon as possible.
Download Equipment list template for ATA Carnet (excel document)
Example equipment list for ATA Carnet or Duplicate List