Frequently Asked Questions
What is TIR?
TIR stands for “Transports Internationaux Routiers” which in English means International Road Transport. It is an international system allowing goods to travel across one or more borders with a minimum of Customs interference whilst in transit, providing at least part of the journey is carried out by road. The TIR system operates in any country that is a Contracting Party to the TIR Convention 1975, provided the country has established the relevant contractual arrangements. Goods travelling under TIR are covered by a TIR Carnet and this means they may pass through these countries without paying Customs duties and taxes and without the need for unloading/reloading at frontiers. The United Nations, on behalf of the Contracting Parties, has mandated the International Road Transport Union (IRU) to administer the TIR system and in particular the guarantee system.
Where can I find details of the TIR convention, 1957?
The TIR Handbook containing background information, the text of the TIR Convention, 1975 and explanatory notes and comments is available from the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE) in Geneva, or on the following website : http://www.unece.org/hk/tir/tirconv/conv75.html
What are the main principles of the TIR system?
The TIR system is based on six main principles:
- 1. The goods are carried in secure road vehicles (including trailers, semi-trailers), or in containers that have been approved for Customs sealing under the TIR Convention. The only exception to this rule is if the goods are designated as heavy and bulky goods; this must be noted on the goods manifest of the TIR Carnet;
- 2. The Customs duties and taxes at risk in each TIR operational country are covered up to a fixed amount by an internationally valid guarantee represented by the TIR Carnet;
- 3- 3. The goods are documented on and accompanied by a TIR Carnet which is the harmonised Customs declaration;
- 4- 4. Customs control measures applied in the country of departure should be accepted by the countries of transit and destination;
- 5- 5. Access to use the TIR system is controlled by the Customs authorities and the national transport Associations. National associations wishing to issue and guarantee TIR Carnets must fulfill minimum financial and commercial conditions and requirements before authorization is granted. Similarly, transport operators wishing to use TIR Carnets must be of sound financial standing and must have no record of serious or repeated offenses against Customs or tax legislation. The minimum admission requirements must be fulfilled before access is granted to both Associations and transport operators. Parts I and II of Annex 9 to the TIR Convention refer to;
- 6- 6. Electronic information confirming the partial or final termination of all TIR operations must be sent to the international organization (the IRU) by each Customs authority where the unloading takes place (This is known as SafeTIR termination data. Details are contained in Annex 10 to the TIR Convention).
For the Customs authorities
- duties and taxes at risk are guaranteed (currently up to USD 50,000/EUR60,000 in the EU);
- only authorized transport operators are permitted to use TIR Carnets, thus reducing risks;
- the need for physical inspection of goods in transit is greatly reduced;
- the system facilitates Customs control and documentation, and use of inland Customs offices for the application of export and import controls allows more efficient deployment of Customs personnel and avoids congestion at the border.
How and where can I obtain a TIR Carnet?
TIR Carnets are issued by approved TIR issuing Associations in the country in which the TIR Carnet Holder is established, or where the TIR transport begins. In special circumstances, a TIR Carnet may be issued to a foreign TIR Carnet Holder. In these cases, authorisation in writing from the Association to which the Holder belongs is required.
What is the difference between countries that are TIR Contracting Parties and countries with which a TIR operation can be established?
aining the ability to apply the TIR system is a two phase process. First, governments of the interested countries must deposit the necessary instrument of accession to the TIR Convention with the United Nations in New York. If there is no objection during the 6 months that follow, countries then become Contracting Parties to the TIR Convention, allowing them to attend certain relevant meetings and to discuss the TIR system. If a Contracting Party then wishes to use the TIR system on its territory then it must have fulfilled all the contractual arrangements that have to be established in relation to the Association, the national Customs authorities, the IRU, the Holders and the financial institutions. Only then can TIR transport operations take place on that Customs territory. A list of Contracting Parties and TIR operational countries along with the names of the national TIR Associations can be found at the following page:
What is a Road Vehicle Approval Certificate?
In order to be accepted for international road transport under Customs seal, a the load compartment of a road vehicle must be physically secure so that once it has been sealed by Customs, no goods can be introduced or removed from the load compartment without breaking the seal. It must therefore comply with the regulations on the technical specifications as set out in Annex 2 of the TIR Convention. Vehicles that conform to the specification will be issued with a Road Vehicle Approval Certificate by the competent authority in each Contracting Party. Annex 3 of the TIR Convention sets out the approval procedure and Annex 4 contains a model certificate of approval of a road vehicle. Similar rules apply to containers – see Annex 7 of the TIR Convention.
What is a Carnet de Passage?
A Carnet de Passage is a separate Customs transit scheme that is used in some countries to enable the temporary import of vehicles without the payment of Customs duties and taxes. The scheme is administered by Alliance Internationale de Tourisme & Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (AIT/FIA) in Geneva, Switzerland, and it is provided in UAE by the ATCUAE, click here for more information
Under Article 15 of the TIR Convention, a Carnet de Passage should not normally be required for the temporary importation, and re-exportation of vehicles covered by a TIR Carnet.
What is a TIR Carnet Holder?
A TIR Carnet Holder is a natural or legal person who is resident in the country where a TIR Association is established and who has been authorised by the TIR Association and the Customs authorities to receive and use TIR Carnets. Article 6 and Annex 9 Part II of the TIR Convention refer.
Under Article 15 of the TIR Convention, a Carnet de Passage should not normally be required for the temporary importation, and re-exportation of vehicles covered by a TIR Carnet.
What is the TIR Carnet Holder responsible for, and to whom?
The TIR Carnet Holder must ensure that the TIR Carnet, the approved vehicle and the goods are properly presented to the relevant Customs offices at departure, en route and at destination. He must take reasonable steps to ensure that the TIR Carnet declaration of the goods corresponds to the goods actually being transported. If any of these responsibilities are not met, the Holder will be held accountable for paying the duties and taxes on the goods that are being transported, should they become due during the course of a TIR operation and may, in addition, be:
- Penalised by the imposition of fines or penalties; and/or
- Held financially responsible for the unlimited payment of all duties and taxes liable on the goods which, due to his action, have not been discharged by Customs.
What happens if the TIR Carnet Holder does not pay the duties and taxes owed to Customs?
If the TIR Carnet Holder does not make the payments for Customs duties and taxes to Customs if they become due, he will be responsible to the chain of guarantee: The Holder is the “user” of the guarantee provided to Customs by the IRU and its TIR Association. He is not the “beneficiary.” He is responsible to the chain of guarantee in principle up to a sum of USD 50,000 (EUR 60,000 in the European Union) for Customs duties and taxes by virtue of the Declaration of Engagement and the Holder’s Manual which bind him to his TIR Association. He is also responsible for all financial harm that could be caused to the chain of guarantee by incorrect or fraudulent use of a TIR Carnet. In this sense, he is financially responsible to the chain of guarantee up to the limit of the amount paid by the guarantee chain, i.e. USD 50,000 / EUR 60,000. Article 6 and Annex 9, part 2 and Article 8.7 of the TIR Convention refer. See also Question 16 (Declaration of engagement.)
What is the chain of guarantee?
If the payment of duties and taxes becomes due, Customs must first approach the Holder or other person directly liable for payment. Only if this approach fails then they may contact the national guaranteeing Association. All national TIR Associations are members of the IRU umbrella scheme that guarantees payment of duties and taxes that may become due in any TIR operational country. Each Association guarantees duties and taxes at risk for foreign and national TIR Carnet Holders on their territory, thus all national guaranteeing Associations constitute a guarantee chain linking all TIR countries. This chain of guarantee was devised in order to ensure that Customs duties and taxes at risk during a TIR transport are covered at any moment by a national guaranteeing association. This is backed up by financial institutions. Today the only existing guaranteeing chain for TIR is administered and backed by the International Road Transport Union (IRU) in Geneva, Switzerland. Full details are given in the introduction to the TIR Handbook.
What is the Deed of Guarantee?
The Deed of Guarantee is a contract between the national Customs authorities and the national TIR issuing and guaranteeing Association. The Deed of Guarantee specifies the maximum amount of the guarantee per TIR Carnet to be issued by the association in accordance with Article 8 of the TIR Convention. The Deed of Guarantee forms part of the authorisation of the national Association by the national Customs authorities.
What is the Declaration of Engagement?
The Declaration of Engagement is a contract between the TIR Association and the TIR Carnet Holder. Under the Declaration of Engagement the TIR Carnet Holder agrees to comply with the rules laid down by the IRU for the implementation of the provisions of the TIR Convention. The TIR Carnet Holder also agrees to comply with Customs laws and regulations, and to furnish certain financial guarantees. The text of the Declaration of Engagement provides the details of the TIR Carnet Holder’s obligations.
What is the Deed of Engagement?
The Deed of Engagement is a contract between the IRU and the national Association under which the TIR issuing and guaranteeing Association agrees to a number of conditions related to their role in the proper control and management of the TIR system. These obligations include the competent administration of the issuance, return and control of TIR Carnets, full co-operation with the IRU and Customs authorities in the resolution of TIR queries and irregularities, and the efficient use of the SafeTIR system.
Up to what limit are Customs duties and taxes guaranteed under the TIR Carnet?
Normally the maximum amount that is covered by the guarantee is USD 50,000 / EUR 60,000.
What should Customs do in general if they notice an irregularity?
In all cases of alleged irregularities, Customs should provide the proof which led them to their conclusions that there has been an irregularity. Customs should check the CUTE-Wise system and if termination records are missing the inquiry procedure should be initiated. If proof materials have not been presented articles 8 and 11 of the TIR Convention should be applied, meaning that the person directly liable has to be contacted and the correct time limits have to be respected.
What should Customs do if the TIR transport does not arrive at the Customs office of destination?
The Customs office of entry into the country of destination would notice that the consignment didn’t arrive at the destination as the certificate of termination was not returned within the specified time limits. They would check Cute-Wise to see if SafeTIR data is available from the Customs office of destination. If it was not available, then Customs would:
- Make inquiries with the Holder and consignee, for an explanation of the discrepancy; if no satisfactory explanation is provided then Customs would: make a payment request to the person directly liable for payment (consignee or Holder) in accordance with article 8.7 of TIR Convention. If Customs cannot recover the duties and taxes from the Holder, they will:
- Notify the national TIR guaranteeing Association of a possible claim for duties and taxes due as soon as possible but normally within one (1) year of taking the TIR Carnet into charge.
- Make a payment request to the TIR guaranteeing Association and continue to request payment from the person directly liable (consignee or Holder) in accordance with article 8.7 of the TIR Convention.
What should happen if false Customs stamps are discovered on a TIR Carnet?
This implies that the TIR goods were not presented to a genuine Customs Office, so the goods were presumably sold without payment of Customs duties and taxes due. Customs will make inquiries following the non-discharge of TIR Carnet, notify the national guaranteeing Association and make a claim to the TIR Carnet Holder or consignee for the duties and taxes due. If the TIR Carnet has been returned to the IRU, it will be sent by the IRU to the country of destination for an expert opinion on the validity of the Customs stamps to be given.
What should Customs do if the goods do not match the description on the goods manifest (i.e. goods are mismatched or have been switched en route)?
Customs in the country where the irregularity is detected should start an investigation based on national law to identify the person liable for the duties and taxes that have become due (if any). Article 8 of the TIR Convention refers. A reservation should be noted in the TIR Carnet. The certified report (procès-verbal) form may have to be filled out. TIR Carnet formalities are described in detail in a brochure “How to Fill in a TIR Carnet” available on the IRU bookshop online. It is the TIR Holder’s responsibility to make sure that the TIR Carnet is properly discharged, in co-operation with the national TIR Association and the Customs authorities concerned. Failure to do so will lead to liability for the payment of any claims that may arise.
What should happen if goods carried under TIR are destroyed?
The TIR Carnet Holder must report the matter to the national Customs authorities and/or police, depending on national rules. The authorities will complete the certified report (procès-verbal) in the TIR carnet. The loss of goods by fire or accident is considered “force majeure”, subject to certification provided by the competent authorities. In these cases the guarantee chain is released from its obligations and no duties or taxes are payable since there are no goods remaining. Article 41 of TIR Convention refers. It is the TIR Holder’s responsibility to make sure that the TIR Carnet is properly discharged, in co-operation with the national TIR association and the Customs authorities concerned. Failure to do so will lead to a liability for the payment of any claims that may arise.
What is the difference between a payment request and penalties?
A payment request covers the duties and taxes that are due as a result of an irregularity during the course of a TIR operation. The person or persons directly involved in the irregularity (for example the TIR Carnet Holder) are liable to pay the full amount of the Customs duties and taxes due. The liability of the guaranteeing Association is limited to maximum USD 50,000 (EUR 60,000 in the EU) per TIR Carnet as provided by the TIR Convention and the Deed of Guarantee between Customs and the national guaranteeing Association involved. Penalties are fines applied by the competent authorities for errors or frauds and are applied in accordance with national legislation. This means that penalties are quite separate from any Customs duties and taxes that may be due and are not covered by the TIR Convention. The TIR guarantee chain does not cover the payment of penalties and they must not be noted in any payment request addressed to the guaranteeing Association.
What are the high-risk goods that need a higher guarantee before being transported under TIR?
This list is regularly adjusted but currently includes meat, livestock, milk, powdered milk, butter, margarine and sugar. In these cases the TIR Carnet Holder must deposit an additional high-risk guarantee amounting to USD 50,000.
Which goods are prohibited from using the TIR procedure?
(i) Alcohol and derived products except for beer or wine (prohibited goods are classified under HS Codes 22.07.10 and 22.08);
(ii) tobacco and derived products except for raw tobacco (prohibited goods are classified under HS Codes 24.02.10, 24.02.20 and 24.03.10).
Can a transport operator/ company, use a TIR Carnet with a certificate approval of a truck that belongs to another transport company, for a single TIR operation? If so, do the two companies need to have signed an agreement to this effect?
Two situations must be distinguished:
- 1. If the TIR Carnet holder only uses the vehicle of another company (but not the driver), this situation is possible, as long as all possible multilateral or bilateral transport agreements are fulfilled.
- 2. However, if the holder uses the vehicle and the driver of another company, then this is a sub-contractor situation.
In this case, the provisions of Section 7 of Part I of the Association’s TIR Manual shall be applied, according to which:
- the TIR Carnet Holder must sign an Addendum to the Declaration of Engagement towards the association, accepting his liability for the TIR operations carried out by his sub-contractors;
- the actual user of the TIR Carnet is in a direct contractual relationship with the holder named in box 3 of the TIR Carnet and is transporting goods on the latter’s behalf;
- prior to any TIR operation, the TIR Carnet Holder must present a list of sub-contractors to his TIR association for approval. The Association shall check that the sub-contractors of this list have not been excluded or suspended or refused from the TIR system;
- the following reference must appear in box 11 of the TIR Carnet cover: “XXX (sub-contractor name) acting on behalf of YYY (name of Holder) as a sub-contractor”.
Does the TIR Carnet Holder have to sign item 15 of every voucher by hand, as well as item 12 of the cover page, instead of using a stamp of his signature?
In accordance with the “Rules regarding the use of the TIR Carnet” (written in the TIR Carnet itself) it is stipulated in the item 12:Signature: All vouchers (items 14 and 15) must be dated and signed by the Holder of the TIR Carnet or his agent. It is stipulated in the TIR Carnet Holder’s Manual, Section 5, item 4, second bullet point:
- complete boxes 2-12 and sign and date boxes 14 and 15 on all “volets” including the yellow manifest. Therefore, it is best if the Holder signs the TIR Carnet, event though it can be quite time-comsuming.
How is the TIR Carnet used?
The TIR Carnet has a number of sets (pairs) of detachable vouchers (in French, “volets”) numbered 1 (white) and 2 (green). Normally one pair of vouchers (white and green) is needed for the transport of goods across the territory of each TIR operational country. The vouchers are filled in by the various actors. A guide on how to fill in the TIR Carnet is available to be downloaded free of charge from the IRU bookshop. Click here.
What happens to the TIR Carnet after a TIR operation has been completed?
Used TIR Carnets are returned to the Holder by the Customs. The Holder then returns the TIR Carnet to the issuing association to be checked and verified. These checks include documentary checks on the yellow goods manifest, the certified report form (procès-verbal) and the stamped counterfoils in the TIR Carnet. The checks will also consist of verification of termination data through SafeTIR. The TIR Carnet is subsequently returned by the issuing Association to IRU for archiving for about three years.