Released On 9th Jun 2020

A Guide to Temporary Imports

In this article we’re going to explain the topic of temporary imports, setting out what goods can and cannot be designated as a temporary import, the mechanisms available for allowing it, and the countries where temporary imports are possible. 

What is a Temporary Import?

There are many reasons why a business may want to import goods temporarily. There is a noticeable and growing need to import goods, controlled or otherwise, for temporary periods. In the world of technology and IT hardware in which Mouse & Bear specialises, here are a few examples:

  • For a technical Proof of Concept (PoC) of IT goods to demonstrate that they meet the needs of the client. 
  • For a short-term project where the goods are only used for a nominated period before there is no longer a use for them. 
  • For a medical or clinical trial, whereby a physician must record patients’ physical measurements to send back to a pharmaceutical company 
  • Goods for temporary display or use at exhibitions, fairs, meetings or similar events. 

Are taxes and duties payable on temporary imports?

Under any of these circumstances, when the use of goods in that country is not permanent or even of long duration, it hardly seems fair to have to pay the usual import taxes and duties, but when the goods are officially designated as a temporary import, the consignment benefits from being tax- and duty-free. 

What goods can and can’t be covered by a temporary import licence?

Most types of goods are eligible to be imported temporarily, covering commercial samples, professional equipment or goods for exhibitions and fairs. This can include computers, repair tools, photographic and film equipment, musical instruments, industrial machinery, vehicles, jewellery, clothing, medical appliances, aircraft, race horses, art work, prehistoric relics, ballet costumes and rock group sound systems(see a full list here).

The main exclusions for allowable temporary imports can be summarised as perishable or consumable items, for example agricultural products, explosives, disposable items and postal items, as well as goods for processing or repair.

Available mechanisms for temporary imports

The temporary admission of goods is far from an easy process. Many countries simply do not permit goods to be imported on a timed basis because it can affect the amount of taxes and duties that need to be paid on the imports. There is also an entirely different process when applying for a temporary import license. 

If you have read some of our previous blogs you will be familiar with the fact that importing, exporting and trade compliance in general is never simple, and so it is with temporary imports!

ATA Carnet

There is one main type of international customs document that covers temporary imports, an import licence called the ATA Carnet. The acronym ATA is a combination of French and English terms "Admission Temporaire /Temporary Admission." Carnets are sometimes also called Merchandise Passports or Passports for Goods. The ATA Carnet is now used most commonly by importers for international operations involving temporary admission of goods. 

The use of an ATA Carnet permits the entry of goods without the need to pay import taxes and duties, however it also serves as a financial guarantor for the value of the customs taxes and duties should the goods remain in the country beyond the permitted temporary period.

The ATA Carnet is controlled by the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) through its World Chambers Federation.

For how long is an ATA Carnet valid?

Generally, an authorised ATA Carnet is valid for one year from its issue date, with the exception of exhibitions and fairs, which has a shorter valid period of 6 months. 

The ATA Carnet can be used multiple times and in multiple countries (those that accept them) during the valid period. 

Which countries and territories accept an ATA Carnet?

There are 78 nations that are members of the federation that accept an ATA Carnet: the 27 member states of the European Union and member states of the European Free Trade Association. The ATA Carnet is also officially recognised in Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Australia, Bahrain, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Côte d'Ivoire, Hong Kong (China), Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Lebanon, Macau (China), Macedonia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Pakistan, Russia, Qatar, Senegal, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States of America.

Temporary import licenses outside of the ATA Carnet

The Carnet de Passages en Douane China-Taiwan (CPD China-Taiwan)

The Carnet de Passages en Douane China-Taiwan (CPD China-Taiwan) operates in a similar way to the ATA Carnet system, with bilateral trade agreements between Taiwan and a nominated list of the ATA Carnet countries.  

These countries are: EU member states, Australia, Canada, India, Israel, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland and the United States of America. 

Other than a different colour of the paper to distinguish it from the ATA Carnet, the conditions for its use, the goods and customs procedures are identical. The CPD China-Taiwan Carnet is not to be confused with the similarly-named CPD Carnet, used to temporarily import motor vehicles into foreign countries.

Temporary imports into other countries

Temporary imports are permitted in some countries outside of the ATA Carnet / Carnet de Passages en Douane China-Taiwan; however, they are decided on an individual basis and come with their own rules regulations and conditions. 

Some countries simply do not permit temporary imports at all.

Should you require help with temporary imports for your IT or medical goods, please do get in touch with Mouse & Bear. We have extensive expertise in this area and we’re ready to assist you.

Call us on +44 (0)1935 848526, email or send the enquiry form below.

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