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The ATA “Elephant” Carnet and Getting Your Orders Across Borders

Monday, October 26, 2020

Boomerang carnets® customer Barnum & Bailey Circus used multiple ATA Carnets to move their equipment across borders when traveling on their world tours.  Over the years, one of those carnets has affectionately become known as the “Elephant Carnet.”  Recently, boomerang participated in a webinar with The International Trade Association of Greater Chicago (ITA/GC) on “Strategic Uses of Carnets to Get Your Orders Across Borders,” where the “Elephant Carnet” was recounted as a case study by Curt E.H. Wilson, President and CEO. Curt used the story to illustrate the carnets’ adaptability and to highlight the excellent customer service available 24/7.  We put time and effort in to helping businesses benefit from this flexible international trade tool, also known as the Merchandise Passport.  

The “Elephant Carnet” had a few dozen elephants listed on the ATA Carnet’s General List. The General List is an itemization of what is being temporarily exported with descriptions that include measurements, weight, and value.  Every item listed for the inbound trip must be present for the outbound or return trip.  It is of vital importance that the General List remains as is with nothing added, otherwise Customs can charge the holder import -duty and -tax. You can, however, remove items from a General List.  Customs Officers use the General List to check against during the Customs clearance process.  When twenty-five Barnum & Bailey elephants returned to the U.S. and Customs noted an extra elephant not listed on the General List, they began to ask questions and boomerang stepped in to mitigate. The “extra” was an elephant calf born when the circus was on tour. Elephants have the longest gestation period of all mammals, carrying their young for 18 to 22 months. Upon explanation, Customs understood the situation and circumstances. 

There are ATA Carnet Convention rules that must be followed, and the circus did not want to break any as it would have cost them dearly.  The elephant and mother could not be separated, certainly the calf could not be left behind.  The problem was how to get it across the U.S. border with its mother without payment of duty, tax, fees, and penalties.  Boomerang brought to the attention of Customs a provision in the ATA Carnet Convention that states “greater facilities” can be enacted at the discretion of a Customs Officer in any carnet country.  Implementing the “greater facilities” provision allowed the additional elephant calf, not itemized on the carnet General List, to return home with its mother.  The baby elephant was also American Goods Returned, allowing the newly born elephant to cross into the U.S. without the assessment of import -duty, -tax, fees, or penalties.  It was a unique situation that could have cost Barnum & Bailey time, money, penalties, and the frustration of bureaucratic red tape.

The ATA Carnet is an internationally accepted unified customs document for the temporary import/export of goods which include commercial samples, professional equipment, and goods for exhibitions and fairs.  The carnet provides significant savings of import-duty and -tax.  Also known as “the merchandise passport” or “the passport for goods,” carnets can be applied to the unique needs of your business.  Whether you are a construction company, jeweler, drone designer, medical device distributor, film production company, or rock band planning an international tour—Boomerang carnets® can assist with moving your boomerang freight® across borders easily and affordably.  Call us at our Carnet HelpLine® 1(800) ATA-2900 | 1(800) 282-2900 and tell us your story.