Taking Goods Temporarily Out of the UK

Some businesses need to take goods temporarily out of the United Kingdom and then bring them back in at a later date (reimport). This section explains how temporary exports work and how to apply for an ATA Carnet for countries outside of the European Union.

Exporting or Moving Products ‘Temporarily’

You may need to get permission to export or move goods outside the UK on a temporary basis (e.g. taking sales samples to exhibitions).

Even so, the majority of countries place some restrictions on the value of the products that you can bring in ‘duty free’.

As a rule, getting an ATA Carnet means you can avoid paying duty when taking merchandise temporarily out of the United Kingdom for business.

Note: Another section explains how to get a CPD Carnet if you are taking a vehicle out of the United Kingdom for less than twelve (12) months.

Goods and equipment that businesses can transport under the ATA Carnet (e.g. when they are over the duty free limit) include:

  • Commercial samples shown at sales meetings or trade fairs
  • Electronics needed for work (e.g. cameras, laptops, sound equipment)
  • Personal effects and sports goods
  • Products used for cultural, educational, or scientific purposes
  • Professional Equipment (Tools of the Trade)
  • Publicity materials
  • Recorded audio and film

Getting a Licence for Controlled Goods

Some products are classified as ‘controlled goods‘. If so, you will need to get a licence to take them temporarily out of the United Kingdom.

Even so, you may be able to get a temporary licence for exporting or moving certain types of controlled goods overseas. See the following links for further information:

  • Bringing medicine containing a controlled drug into the UK.
  • The Export Control Joint Unit (e.g. dual use goods and services, weapons).

Important: The main section contains more advice and information about exporting goods and doing business from the United Kingdom.

How to Get an ATA Carnet

The ATA Carnet system is only valid in certain countries (around 80 customs territories worldwide). Even so, the participating countries that accept ATA Carnets (e.g. passports for goods) also have their own restrictions.

As an international customs and temporary export-import document, it has limits on the goods that businesses can take into and out of the issuer’s country. Check the International Chamber of Commerce website for further information.

So, what if you are unable to use an ATA Carnet or you would rather not pay the fee? In this case, you can use a Duplicate List to take goods temporarily out of the United Kingdom (see below).

Temporary Exports without ATA Carnet or Duplicate List

What if you do not get an ATA Carnet or you decide not to use a Duplicate List? In this case, you would need to declare the goods and then pay customs duties every time they go out of the country.

As a result, you would also need to comply with full customs rules and other legal processes. See other sections for information about:

Applying for an ATA Carnet Online

You can apply for an ATA Carnet online or by postal methods via the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI). Apply for a Taiwan Carnet if you will be sending goods to Taiwan.

As a rule, using a freight forwarder means they would take care of this part on your behalf. But, there would also be a security deposit to pay on top of the usual charges.

Even though the overseas customs authority can extend it where necessary (by supplying written approval), ATA Carnets are usually valid for a period of one (1) year.

How to Use an ATA Carnet

Contact the exports helpline after you have planned your journey overseas. HMRC will confirm whether customs officers can stamp the Carnet at the appropriate port or airport.

HMRC Imports and Exports Helpline
Telephone: 0300 322 9434
Textphone: 0300 200 3719
Outside the UK: +44 29 2050 1261
Monday to Friday: 8am to 6pm
Find out about call charges

Returning to the United Kingdom

You would need to pass through the red channel at customs if you will be bringing the goods back in your normal baggage (e.g. not in the airplane cargo hold).

Contact the ATA Carnet Unit by telephone or by email if you need any further assistance or you have a question.

National ATA Carnet Unit
Telephone: 0300 322 7064
Email: [email protected]

How to Use a Duplicate List

What if you are unable to use an ATA Carnet? Another option for temporarily exporting goods is using a Duplicate List, if (either):

  • The international destination for the exported goods does not accept ATA Carnets.
  • You want to avoid paying the fees for an ATA Carnet.

Using Duplicate Lists avoids having to pay customs duty or tax. Thus, there would be no fee to pay. But, you may find it a more complicated process to export something temporarily out of the United Kingdom.

Temporary Exports Using a Duplicate List

You would need to prepare a detailed list on the company stationery before exporting goods with a Duplicate List.

Remember to include a full description of the goods, along with the:

  • Quantity (how many goods you are taking)
  • Value
  • Serial numbers (where applicable)

Customs officers will need:

  • Two (2) copies of the list.
  • Form C&E1246 (e.g. for the temporary export of goods and subsequent return of the same goods to the United Kingdom).

Note: Contact HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) imports and exports helpline to confirm the arrangements in advance.

Taking Goods to Sell Abroad

You can take goods with you to sell outside the United Kingdom (e.g. inside accompanied baggage or in a small private vehicle). But, you would need to fill in a customs declaration form to do so.

The process differs if you:

How to Make a Customs Declaration

You can declare commercial goods online (e.g. merchandise to sell abroad or for business purposes outside Great Britain), as long as they are:

  • Not valued over £1,500 and do not weigh more than 1,000 kilograms.
  • Not subject to excise duty (e.g. alcohol, fuel, tobacco).
  • Inside accompanied baggage or being transported in a goods vehicle (can include vans).
  • Not on the list of controlled or restricted goods. You need a licence or certificate to take restricted goods overseas.

Note: Customs officers need to inspect the declaration form before allowing you to leave the country. Another section explains how to check if you need to declare goods you are bringing into or taking out of the United Kingdom.

Related Help Guides

Note: This short video [4:41 seconds] explains more about ATA Carnets and how to use them when you are importing and exporting goods ‘temporarily’.

Temporary Exports: Moving Goods Temporarily Out of the UK