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Old September 24th, 2009, 04:10 PM   #1
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Customs Issues or Carnet - Equipment to Switzerland

Help!

I have a shoot in Cern, Switzerland coming up in mid October. Do I need at get a carnet to get my equipment through customs? What customs issues should i be aware of.

Thanks, David
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Old September 25th, 2009, 01:46 AM   #2
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You don't have to get one, but I think it would be a good idea - depending on how much equipment you're talking about and what exposure you think you'd have to being charged import duty on it.

For a few $k worth of stuff I think it would be overkill, for $10k or $20k or more probably worthwhile.
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Old September 25th, 2009, 04:02 AM   #3
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The carnet is here to proove that since you do not paid the VAT on the equipment for importing in the country, it will make sure the the equipment does not stay in the country.

If there is a lot of costly parts, they could ask you such carnet ATA (Temporary Admission). It is pretty true if they feel it is professional equipment.

The ATA carnet is not really mandatory, but if you do not get it, the risk is you need to fill forms at both custom control, in and out, and pay for some fee.

ATA carnet
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Old September 25th, 2009, 10:28 AM   #4
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Thanks guys. Much appreciated.
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Old September 25th, 2009, 10:30 AM   #5
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I didn't use a carnet last time I shot in Switzerland, just wheeled it in, wheeled it out.
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Old September 25th, 2009, 10:42 AM   #6
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Giraoud,

About how much in import fees could they charge me without the carnet??
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Old September 25th, 2009, 10:52 AM   #7
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Maybe we could come up with a rule of thumb - if you can drag the equipment in by yourself along with your other luggage you're probably fine without one and if you need help you should probably get one:)

I used to receive equipment from my clients in Japan to take to trade shows/demo to US customers and then ship it back to Japan a couple of months later. Stuff was about $60k per (large) box on a pallet via FedEx.

California tried to get me to pay sales tax on it and it was a long hassle, but once I could prove that the stuff had been sent back to Japan they finally gave up. Next time I had it shipped in with a Carnet - no problems.

I think in the end the worst that will happen is that they will charge you VAT plus duty if any on entry and if you can prove it left the country they will refund what they charged- but it may take time and be a hassle and there will probably be processing fees.

The cost of the carnet is based on the value of the stuff - I don't remember the actual cost but you can look it up here

http://www.uscib.org/index.asp?documentID=1843

As Giroud says, the carnet is essentially evidence of a bond that says that the stuff will be re-exported. Think of it like a passport for stuff.
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Old October 14th, 2009, 01:56 PM   #8
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Got into to Switzerland no problem without a carnet. Shooting over here at CERN for 2 weeks.

But I agree, if it rolls with one person then they don;t question you.

Thanks, David
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Old December 18th, 2009, 09:26 AM   #9
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As a self employed pro photog shooting internationally for 15 years I take risks big and small all the time however on this issue the answer is - get a freakin carnet!

I have personally witnessed video crews that could not get (minimal) gear into Canada for a shoot (sobbing videographers - never a pretty sight) while I walked in with 6 cases of gear. Of course I still had to answer a barrage of questions about who I was shooting for and why I was hired instead of a native firm. Why all the hassle? Because essentially I was there to take work away from the locals thus the customs guys are doing their part to make it a little tougher. Understandable. But that was Canada, a super polite friend of the USA. How will it be when you take your stuff to a country / agent who is less fond of the states? And these stories about "I got thru without one no problem" are just like the "I declared my cat as a dependent on my taxes and got away with it" stories. Yep, you can take a chance and maybe win but odds are it will catch up with you and at the worst possible time.

I use ATA Carnet .com out of Chicago, its all done online and is easy and relatively fast. I imagine there are many other good ones out there as well.

Bottom line; you are a working professional and you owe it to your client and your family to have the shoot go smooth and to get paid. Neither may happen if you can't get your gear in because you lack a Carnet.

Like the old Amex ad said - don't leave home without it.
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Old January 17th, 2010, 07:49 AM   #10
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Glad that your shoot went smoothly.

I often travel with a carnet in Europe, it costs not so much, but I have to deposit 10% of the total value of the equipment at the local chamber of commerce, which I get back when I return the carnet. There are problems though.

I sometimes travel by train and don't volunteer to show the carnet, except if they ask. The problem is simple. I was asked to show the carnet by an over-eager customs official in the train, who was training 2 juniors at the time. I complied but as always had to make sure they stamp the right pages...

On the way back, no customs personell entered the train and I did not have time to go to the customs office at the border or else I would have missed my last train connection of the day.
OK - back in Switzerland, I had to go with all the equipment to the customs office the next day and show it, get my "re-import" stamps. I thought all was fine.

Then a few months later, I get a letter from the French government, that I imported the material and that I now have to pay customs. I wrote to the chamber of commerce, who then sent the french a letter with copies of my "re-import" stamps. I thought all was fine now, but then I get an invoice from the chamber of commerce for fees because they had to write the letter... no amount of complaining helped, I had to pay again.

Leaving from a small airport in Norway early one morning - no customs officials at the airport yet...

And ALWAYS - I have to explain to people which pages to stamp.

My solution is this:
I travel with a multipurpose (very simple) carnet with lots of additional pages for multiple export and re-import, valid for one year. I use it depending on my route of travelling. If I travel by car or train - I try not to use it. Otherwise, should I return late at night, I might have to wait at the border til mornign to get my stamps.
I also keep a file with all my relevant purchase receipts which show that I indeed paid VAT in Switzerland. That in conjunction with correspondence concerning my job abroad is usually enough to convince customs officials that I don't plan to sell my equipment abroad.
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