Trade and customs: commodity codes

A figure of Captain America (think Marvel comic books), the Tin Man, some Norse gods and Grey Worm from ‘Game of Thrones’ all came before the tax tribunal recently.

It was a case about commodity codes, and the dispute turned on whether they were dolls representing human beings; non-human toys; toys in sets — or, possibly, statuettes. Then there were minor complications like fangs, and animal ears. Did they tip the balance in favour of a non-human classification?

If your business imports goods from abroad, you won’t need any reminder of the importance — or the difficulties — of getting customs classifications right. This was exactly where one business, importing licensed collectible toys and figurines, ran into problems with HMRC. In a dispute which pre-dated Brexit, it had applied a zero rate for import duty, whereas in most instances, HMRC wanted to reclassify using a 4.7% code.

For the record, the judge decided that the figure of Grey Worm ‘clearly represents only a human being but we considered it was not classifiable as a Doll as it is affixed to a non-removeable base. The . . . figure is very detailed and we have concluded that its ornamental value outweighs its recreational value and it should be classified according to its constituent parts (plastic) to 3926 40 Statuette with a duty rate of 6.5%.’

Commodity codes are clearly not child’s play: for assistance, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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