Carnet Q&A

Is a carnet required when towing abroad?


Boating Abroad

Since the UK left the EU there has been considerable discussion around whether a carnet is required when towing a boat to the EU as many boat owners will not be eligible for returned goods relief (RGR) and will be relying on temporary admission to enter the EU without paying import tax and duty. A carnet is not applicable to boats returning to the EU under returned goods relief (RGR). RGR is explained in the RYA VAT Guide for Boats.

Temporary admission allows goods to be imported into a signatory state of the 1990 Istanbul Convention on Temporary Admission (TA) (hereafter TA Convention) temporarily without payment of import duties and taxes and without application of import prohibitions or restrictions. Now that the UK has left the EU this TA Convention should govern the movement of recreational vessels towed between GB and the EU. For the purpose of the TA Convention, the 27 EU Members States (EU27) are considered to be a single territory. The Union Customs Code (UCC) indicates that the EU is a contracting party to the TA Convention and acknowledges that for temporary admission its regulations must be in line with that Convention.

Temporary Admission essentially postpones the payment of import taxes and duties on the basis that the item concerned is to be re-exported. A carnet provides a guarantee for the payment of the import taxes and duties if you do not comply with the conditions of temporary admission. An ATA carnet is applicable to goods, excluding means of transport for which there is a CPD carnet.

The TA Convention includes the following definitions:

  • "means of transport": any vessel (including lighters and barges, whether or not shipborne, and hydrofoils), hovercraft, aircraft, motor road vehicles (including cycles with engines, trailers, semi-trailers and combinations of vehicles) and railway rolling stock; together with their normal spare parts, accessories and equipment carried on board means of transport (including special equipment for the loading, unloading, handling and protection of cargo);
  • "traveller": any person who temporarily enters the territory of a Contracting Party in which he or she does not normally reside, for the purposes of tourism, sports, business, professional meetings, health, study, etc.;
  • "personal effects": all articles, new or used, which a traveller may reasonably require for his or her personal use during the journey, taking into account all the circumstances of the journey, but excluding any goods imported for commercial purposes.
  • "goods imported for sports purposes": sports requisites and other articles for use by travellers in sports contests or demonstrations or for training in the territory of temporary admission.

Under the TA Convention, a customs document or security isn’t required for personal effects, unless a high amount of import duties and taxes would otherwise be required. By omission it is suggested that a customs document might otherwise be required although the TA Convention does suggest that an inventory of the goods together with a written undertaking to re-export, may be accepted for goods imported for sports purposes, in lieu of a customs document and security.

The TA Convention states that a means of transport for private use must be registered in a territory other than that of temporary admission, in the name of a person established or resident in a territory other than that of temporary admission, and be imported and used by persons resident in such a territory.

Having reviewed the UCC regulatory package, the RYA has concluded that if you are entering the EU and trailering a boat a customs declaration is required, however that declaration can be made orally. The oral customs declaration may need to be supported by the form published in Annex 71-01 of the UCC Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2015/2446 to also be considered to be an application for authorisation for temporary admission. If it is considered to be an application for authorisation for temporary admission no guarantee is required and total relief from import duty should be granted unless the conditions of temporary admission aren’t met e.g. the goods are not re-exported.

We have received information from HMRC that states that Carnets can only be issued for boats and sports equipment that are to be used in an official event i.e. race or trade fair. A Carnet is not applicable if a boat is transported under its own propulsion and private equipment to be used for leisure cannot go abroad on an ATA Carnet.

The conclusion the RYA has reached is that a Carnet is not required when a private traveller enters the EU with personal effects, means of transport or goods imported for sports purposes which they intend to re-export.

Further practical information on declaring the boat for temporary admission at the border i.e. making the oral customs declaration can be found on the Entry and Exit Formalities page under Traveling abroad towing a boat (for non-commercial purposes).


If you are taking a boat abroad for reasons other than personal use the following links may be useful: