ATA carnet for temporary exports

You use an ATA carnet when you want to take trade samples, exhibition materials or other professional materials to a country outside the EU and back again. With an ATA carnet, you will not have to pay import duties or VAT. This article explains what the ATA carnet is and how to apply for and use it. And how to import and export goods temporarily if you cannot use an ATA carnet.

An ATA carnet allows you to declare goods to customs authorities quickly and easily. It covers both the export declaration in the Netherlands and the import declaration in the destination country. And the re-export and re-import steps on the return journey.

The Netherlands Chamber of Commerce (KVK) is responsible for issuing the ATA carnet in the Netherlands. KVK issues around 3,000 ATA carnets each year.

When can you use an ATA carnet?

Approximately 80 countries accept the ATA carnet, as set out in the ATA Convention. This convention also specifies the purposes for which you may temporarily import goods using this document. You use an ATA carnet for:

  • Samples and promotional materials, to demonstrate or show examples of your product to foreign business contacts.
  • Exhibition materials, to take part in international trade fairs, exhibitions, sporting events or conferences.
  • Professional equipment that is required to carry out work locally. For example, photographic or video equipment, musical instruments, stage and theatre equipment. Tools for maintenance, repair and service work are also included in this category.

You do not sell the goods you take with you. You bring them back to the Netherlands. They are only to support you in closing a deal, or in carrying out work locally. Learn more in the ‘ATA Carnet User Guide’ (PDF, in Dutch).

How to apply for an ATA carnet

An ATA carnet is a physical document. To apply for one, you need an account with ATA-Nederland (in Dutch). Once you have created your account and KVK has approved it, you can start your ATA carnet application. When your application is complete, you will receive the ATA carnet by registered post within 3 to 5 working days. To help you prepare for the digital application, please also see the following documents:

Validate your ATA carnet

Before you go abroad with an ATA carnet, Dutch Customs must validate the document. This requires a physical check of the goods, a stamp and a signature. This procedure is mandatory. The customs agency in your destination country will refuse your goods if your ATA carnet is invalid.

ATA carnet application costs

You will find the costs for applying for an ATA-carnet in the tariff overview. On top of that, you must also pay a premium based on the value of the goods you are taking with you. KVK will issue an invoice for the entire amount. Before you apply for an ATA carnet, please ask about the costs for your goods. Contact the ATA team by email or by calling 088 585 1884.

Validity of the ATA carnet

An ATA carnet is valid for 1 year after it is issued by the KVK. Please note: the destination country may demand that the goods leave the country within that year, even if the ATA carnet itself is still valid.

How does an ATA carnet work in practice?

A working example: an entrepreneur intends to visit a trade show in Bosnia-Herzegovina to demonstrate their machinery. After the trade show, the machinery will return to the Netherlands. Because the goods are only going to be staying in Bosnia-Herzegovina temporarily, and the entrepreneur has a valid ATA carnet, the entrepreneur does not have to pay import costs or VAT.

The ATA carnet consists of several pages that are intended for customs authorities at each stage of the trip. For example:

  • An export stamp at the customs authority where the goods leave the EU.
  • An import stamp from the Bosnian customs authority where the goods enter Bosnia-Herzegovina.
  • A re-export stamp from the Bosnian customs authority where the goods leave Bosnia-Herzegovina.
  • A re-import stamp at the customs authority where the goods re-enter the EU.

The completed pages in the ATA carnet show where and on what date the goods were checked by customs officers. In this way, the entrepreneur can always show where the goods have travelled to or through before they return to the EU. The person transporting the goods must give the ATA carnet to each customs authority to be checked.

Good to know: always ensure the customs authorities can easily identify the goods you are importing with an ATA carnet. Provide a clear description of the goods and mention any brand markings, product numbers and serial numbers.

The re-export page, with the stamp and signature of the Bosnian customs authority, is an important proof of the re-export of the goods from Bosnia-Herzegovina. This prevents the entrepreneur from having to pay import duties and VAT to the Bosnian customs authority in retrospect.

International transit

If the machinery is being transported to Bosnia-Herzegovina by truck via Croatia, for example, there will also be transit pages included in the ATA carnet. These are intended for the two additional customs points, entering and leaving Croatia.

Return the ATA carnet after it has been used

After the ATA carnet has been used, or if it is no longer valid, you must return it to KVK. This is mandatory. After receiving the ATA carnet, KVK will check if it has been used per the regulations. Return the ATA carnet by registered post to:

KVK, t.a.v. Afdeling Carnets, Postbus 2852, 1000 CW Amsterdam

Temporary export without an ATA carnet

You cannot always use an ATA carnet. For example, if the destination country is not a member of the ATA Convention. Or if the destination country does not accept an ATA carnet for your purpose of use. In such cases, you can make use of the ‘temporary import without ATA carnet’ procedure.

The Netherlands Enterprise Agency’s ‘countries overview’ (in Dutch) gives information per country on how to arrange temporary imports. Be sure to plan some extra time for your customs dealings. And also put aside money for deposits for import duties and VAT. This is equivalent to a security deposit for international customs authorities if you import the goods permanently into the destination country and do not return them to the Netherlands. Without a valid ATA carnet, the entrepreneur is personally liable.

How does it work?

You can arrange temporary export in the Netherlands and temporary import in the destination country without an ATA carnet. Follow these steps before departure and upon return:

  1. Before departure
    Lodge an export declaration at Dutch Customs. Provide a clear list of goods, including brand markings, product and serial numbers. At airports, tell the customs officer what products you want to export. If you are sending the goods by rail, ship or road, you must make an electronic declaration. You can hire a logistics service provider to do this on your behalf.
  2. Upon your return
    Tell Dutch Customs that the goods are ‘Terugkerende goederen’ (returning goods). You will not have to pay import duties, VAT or excise duties. An important condition is that the same goods must be returned within 3 years, in an unaltered state. As proof of this, you must show the original export declaration.

More information

Do you need more information about documents required for international trade? Read more about export documents.