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CHAPTER: Accessing Foreign Markets
3. How do I avoid paying foreign duty and tax on goods to be returned to me?
  ANSWER: Most importing countries exempt goods from import duties and taxes if they are entering that country only temporarily. Fifty nations currently accept a document known as the ATA Carnet. The ATA Carnet is essentially a passport for your goods. If the good can be described as a "tool of the trade", then, upon presentation of the ATA Carnet, the good may be exempt from duties and taxes. "Tools of the trade" are items such as commercial samples, professional equipment and items used for trade shows or exhibitions. Some ordinary goods such as computers (including laptops) or industrial equipment will also qualify as "tools of the trade". Carnets do not cover consumable goods, disposable items or postal traffic.

The ATA Carnet can be ordered by contacting the United States Council for International Business (1-800-5-DUTYFREE). It usually takes five working days to process the document, and the Carnet must accompany the good into the country. Processing fees will vary according to the declared value of the item being sent.

Countries that do not accept the ATA Carnet may have another type of temporary import procedure exempting goods from the normal application of import duties and taxes. Some countries require importers to pay a temporary import bond that is reimbursable if the product leaves the country within a specified period of time (usually one year from the date of importation).

Before you leave for your trip, we advise you to contact the U.S. Customs Service and notify them that your items will be coming back into the U.S. and that U.S. import duties and taxes should not be assessed on the goods once they return. U.S. Customs will need the serial number of the item you are taking.


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