Guidance

Classifying computers and software for import and export

How to classify computers and software when using the Tariff, and guidance on using chapters 84 and 85 and list of exceptions.

Introduction

Personal computer systems, computer servers, laptops and portables (and parts and accessories for these machines) are covered in Chapter 84 and Chapter 85 of the Integrated Tariff of the United Kingdom (the Tariff). These two chapters together make up Section XVI of the Tariff and cover between them a wide range of mechanical, electrical, electronic and other machinery.

This guide will help you to classify computers - including complete systems, individual separate units, parts and accessories - and computer software correctly according to:

  • their function
  • their design, build and performance
  • whether they’ve got more than one function, including functions unrelated to computers
  • whether they’re part of a complete system or an individual separate unit

Quick reference table of heading codes

The following list isn’t exhaustive, but it’ll help you check quickly whether or not a particular item of computer hardware or software is likely to be covered in chapters 84 or 85 and tell you the heading code you need.

Item Heading code
CD and DVD drives - external, separate units 8471 70 30 90
DVD burner - external unit, designed to record video onto a DVD disc from video camera recorder via USB connection 8521 90 00 90
CD and DVD drives - internal, separate units 8471 70 30 90
CD-R disks - blank 8523 41 10 00
CD-RW disks - blank 8523 41 90 00
Central processing units (CPUs) - can be complete with heatsink and/or fan, separate units 8473 30 20 00
Central storage units - for example RAID (Redundant Arrays of Inexpensive Disks) systems 8471 70 20 90
Computer games software - for use on computers only 8523 49 45 00
Desktop computer systems, personal computers (PCs) and tower computer systems 8471 49 00 90
Digital camcorders - no video input connector, with picture storage capacity 8525 80 91 90
Digital camcorders - with video input connector and picture storage capacity 8525 80 99 00
Digital cameras - still image, with or without video capture, capable of recording at a quality of no more than 800 x 600 pixels at 23 frames per second, at least 30 minutes of in-sequence video using the maximum storage capacity. 8525 80 30 00
Digital cameras - still image, with video capture, capable of recording at a quality of more than 800 x 600 pixels at 23 frames per second, at least 30 minutes of in-sequence video using the maximum storage capacity. 8525 80 91 90 or 8525 80 99 00
DVD-R disks - blank 8523 41 30 00
DVD-RW disks - blank 8523 41 90 00
Electronic personal organisers - or palm-held portables 8543 70 90 99
Firewall systems 8517 62 00 90
Flash memory cards 8523 51 10 00
Floppy disks and super floppy disks 8523 29 15 00
Graphics cards - separate units 8471 80 00 00
Hard disk drives - external 8471 70 50 90
Keyboards - for computer systems, separate units 8471 60 60 90
Laptop and notebook computers 8471 30 00 00
Local area network (LAN) units - external, for example hubs 8517 62 00 90
Memory - standard DRAM (Dynamic Random Access Memory), for example SIMM (Single Inline Memory module) and DIMM (Dual Inline Memory Module), separate units 8473 30 20 00
Memory - standard SDRAM (Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory), separate units 8473 30 20 00
Minidiscs - blank 8523 29 15 00
Monitors - computer only, not dual purpose, separate units 8528 51 00 90
Mouse, trackballs, joysticks for computers and other X-Y coordinate input devices - separate units 8471 60 70 90
MP3 players - no video capability, without radio 8519 81 95 90
MP3 players - no video capability, with radio 8527 13 99 00
MP4 players - video capability, with or without radio 8521 90 00 90
Network cards 8517 62 00 90
Network file servers - complete computer system 8471 49 00 90
Pen drives - portable USB memory devices 8523 51 10 00
Personal digital assistants (PDAs) 8471 30 00 00
PDA with built-in GPS (Global Positioning System) 8526 91 20 99
Power supply units (PSUs) for computer units, separate units 8504 40 30 90
Printers - for computer output, not multi-functional, separate units 8443 32 10 90
Printer servers 8517 62 00 90
Printer sharers 8471 80 00 00
Scanners - not multi-functional, separate units 8471 60 70 90
Software on CD or DVD - programs or data, but not games 8523 49 45 00
Software on CD or DVD - music or other sound 8523 49 39 00
Sound cards - card only, separate units 8471 80 00 00
Speakers - single loudspeaker, separate units 8518 21 00 90
Speakers - multiple loudspeaker, separate units 8518 22 00 90
Television PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) tuner card assemblies 8528 71 11 00
Webcams - no image storage or saving capacity 8525 80 19 90
Wide area network (WAN) units - for example gateways 8517 62 00 90
Wireless fixed access units (Wi-Fi) 8517 62 00 90

General Interpretative Rules for classification of computers and software

The General Interpretative Rules (GIRs) of the Tariff provide the legal basis for classifying goods. There are six GIRs, which are set out in Part 1 Section I of the second volume of the Tariff.

GIR 1 directs that:

“For legal purposes, classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes.”

A heading code is a four-digit code, while a chapter code is a two-digit code. The terms of the heading descriptions - and the notes to each section and chapter - are paramount when it comes to classifying goods correctly.

GIR 6 determines how goods are classified at the level of a subheading code - a code with six or more digits. So if an item is classified using a code of six or more digits, both GIR 6 and GIR 1 will always apply.

GIR 2, GIR 3 and GIR 4 sometimes also apply, depending on the nature of the goods to be classified. It’s important to note that you must consider each GIR in sequence. For example, you can’t use GIR 3c to classify goods until you have tried using GIR 2a, GIR 2b, GIR 3a and GIR 3b.

GIR 5 applies to certain types of container and to packing materials presented with the items they’re designed to package.

Guidance notes on interpreting each GIR are included in the Link to Classify imports and exports using the UK Integrated Tariff.

Classifying complete computers

Items that are classified under heading code 8471 as ‘automatic data processing machines’ - computers - are machines that must be capable of all the following operations:

  • storing the processing programs that run on them - and at least the data that’s needed to run a program
  • being freely programmed in accordance with the requirements of the user
  • performing arithmetical computations specified by the user
  • executing, without human intervention, a processing program for which they need to modify their execution by making logical decisions throughout the process

Note 5a to Chapter 84 defines the term ‘automatic data processing machine’ for the purposes of heading code 8471. Essentially, goods that are classified as computers must be able to use standard operating software and to perform functions like word processing and spreadsheet applications. They must incorporate a hard disk drive.

A computer may take the form of a system made up of several separate units, eg a keyboard, monitor, base unit and so on. With some exceptions, a unit is treated as part of a computer system if it meets all of the following conditions:

  • it’s of a type solely or principally used in a computer system
  • it can be connected to the central processing unit (CPU) either directly or through one or more other units
  • it can accept or deliver data in a form usable by the system, such as codes or signals

Keyboards, X-Y co-ordinate input devices like joysticks and mouse devices, and disk storage units only need to meet the last two conditions.

Desktop and tower systems

Standard desktop and tower systems must have at least:

  • a CPU - the base unit or ‘system box’
  • an input unit - for example a keyboard
  • an output unit - for example a monitor

They can also include other units like printers and scanners. Built in ‘extras’ such as network cards and television cards are also treated as part of the system. Desktop and tower computer systems are classified under subheading code 8471 49 00 90.

Servers

Network file servers that have both a keyboard and a monitor are, like desktop computer systems, classified under subheading code 8471 49 00 90.

Network file servers that don’t have both a keyboard and a monitor are classified as individual separate units. The base unit itself is classified under subheading code 8471 50 00 90. If a monitor is present (D-sub 15-pin only - not video), then that would be classified separately under subheading code 8528 51 00 90, while a keyboard would be classified separately under subheading code 8471 60 60 90.

Printer servers and firewall systems aren’t treated as computer servers, but as data communication apparatus. They’re classified under subheading code 8517 62 00 90.

Small portable computers

These include laptop and notebook computers and personal digital assistants with similar capabilities to laptops. To be classified under subheading code 8471 30 00 00 they must weigh less than 10 kilograms and have at least:

  • a CPU
  • a keyboard
  • a display
  • a means of loading programs

To classify a portable computer correctly, please also refer to the following item descriptions.

Palm-held portables

These are electronic personal organisers that don’t usually have a full keyboard. They generally have pre-defined functions like a diary and an address book. They’re classified under subheading code 8543 70 90 99.

Other portable computers

Portable computers that don’t meet the above requirements can include touch screen, luggable and industrial computers. There’s no maximum weight, but they must include at least the following within the same housing:

  • a CPU
  • an input unit
  • an output unit

A touch screen usually counts as both an input and an output unit.

These types of portable computer are classified under subheading code 8471 41 00 90.

Classifying separate computing units - monitors, screens and projectors

Output devices such as monitors, screens and computer projectors are classified as separate units if they don’t make up part of a complete system like a desktop computer. The subheading code under which they’re classified depends mainly on:

  • their type, eg cathode ray tube (CRT) or liquid crystal display (LCD)
  • their purpose - for computer output only or dual use

Note that when computer monitors and projectors are separate units, they’re never classified under heading code 8471.

Dual purpose CRT monitors

Dual purpose monitors can display signals from a computer and also from other devices, such as:

  • video and DVD recorders
  • television tuners
  • camcorders

Although they can display television pictures, they don’t include a television tuner. These types of dual purpose monitor are often known as video monitors. CRT colour monitors are classified under subheading code 8528 49 80 00.

Plasma, LCD and other flat panel display monitors

It is necessary to decide whether an LCD monitor is classified as a computer monitor under subheading code 8528 51 00 90, or as an ‘other’ monitor under subheading 85285 59 40 90. To do this, an overall assessment of the monitor is necessary to take into account the functions performed by the monitor as well as the degree of performance of those functions. This assessment may take into account the connectors present and other features such as aspect ratio or screen size.

LCD or Light emitting diodes (LED) monitors that include a television tuner are classified under subheading code 8528 72 40 00 or 8528 72 80 00 respectively.

Computer projectors

These must be capable of displaying output signals from a computer and not from any other source. They’re classified under subheading code 8528 61 00 90.

Dual purpose projectors

Dual purpose projectors can display signals from a computer and also from other devices, such as:

  • video and DVD recorders
  • television tuners
  • camcorders

These types of dual purpose projector are often known as video projectors. Flat panel projectors using technologies like LCD and digital light processing (DLP) are classified under subheading code 8528 69 10 00. Other types of projector, such as CRT, are classified under subheading code 8528 69 99 90

LED Video Wall

These are module screen panel designed for outdoor viewing such as in a sports stadium, entertainment venues etc. The units comprise several modules made of tiles, each tile contains red, green and blue LED, the panel is presented with a video processor and a signal processor allowing images and video to be displayed. They’re classified under sub-heading 8528 59 80 90.

Other types of screen

Electronic whiteboards are classified under subheading code 8471 60 70 90.

Non-electric projection screens are classified in chapter 90 under subheading code 9010 60 00 00.

Classifying computer printers and scanners

Computer printers and scanners are classified as separate units if they don’t make up part of a complete computer system. Note that when printers - including multifunctional machines - are separate units, they’re never classified under heading code 8471.

Computer printers

All types of printer (laser, inkjet, thermal transfer, ribbon and so on) are classified under subheading code 8443 32 10 90 as long as they’re intended as output devices for computers. Other types of printer are classified under subheading code 8443 39 90 00.

Scanners

Flat-bed and film-type scanners are classified under subheading code 8471 60 70 90.

Combined printers and scanners

Multifunctional machines that combine a laser printer, scanner, photocopier and sometimes a fax are classified under subheading code 8443 31, 8443 32 or 8443 39.

Inkjet cartridges

Inkjet cartridges with a print head are classified under subheading code 8443 99 90 00

Inkjet cartridges without a print head are classified in chapter 39 under subheading code 3923 90 00 00 if they’re empty, and in chapter 32 under subheading code 3215 90 00 90 if they’ve been refilled. Cartridges with a ‘chip’ to measure the ink level are also classified under subheading code 3215 90 00 90.

Printer sharers

Printer sharing hardware devices are classified under subheading code 8471 80 00 00.

Classifying computer keyboards, mouse devices and other computing input devices

Computer input devices, such as keyboards, are classified as separate units if they don’t make up part of a complete computer system.

Computer keyboards
Computer keyboards are classified under subheading code 8471 60 60 90.

X-Y coordinate input devices
Input units like mouse devices, trackballs, graphic tablets and light pens are classified under subheading code 8471 60 70 90. This subheading code includes both standard corded devices and cordless units.

Electronic whiteboards are also input devices and are classified under subheading code 8471 60 70 90.

Classifying computer hubs, adapters and other network units

Network units include machines for receiving, converting, transmitting and regenerating voice, images or other data. They include various types of switching and routing apparatus. Note that when network apparatus are separate units, they’re never classified under heading code 8471.

All of the following items are classified under subheading code 8517 62 00 90:

  • modems, including external modems and Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) adapters
  • external local area network (LAN) units, including adapters, bridges and hubs
  • wide area network (WAN) units, including gateways and ISDN cards
  • network cards for ethernet, token ring and other network technology

Wireless fixed access units (Wi-Fi) are also classified under this subheading code. These are transmitter/receiver units that enable wireless access to fixed line networks. They can take the form of printed circuit boards or complete units in a housing.

Wireless Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) and General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) modules
These are transmitter/receiver units that allow remote wireless access to personal digital assistant (PDA) equipment through cellular mobile telephone networks. They’re also classified under subheading code 8517 62 00 90.

Cables fitted with connectors

Coaxial cables fitted with connectors are classified under subheading code 8544 20 00 00.

Cables used to connect modems to telephone sockets are classified under subheading code 8544 42 10 00.

Power cables and data cables such as SATA. USB, VGA, DVI cables etc used for voltage of up to 1,000 volts are classified under subheading code 8544 42 90 90.

Classifying computer sound, picture and graphics devices

Webcams and other digital cameras that don’t record, save or store images are classified as television cameras under subheading code 8525 80 19 90. They’re designed to form images for onward transmission, by line or by radio, to other apparatus.

Other digital cameras

These are cameras that record or save images on a memory card or module, disk, tape or other storage device.

Still image digital cameras with video capture capabilities (using the maximum storage capacity) of recording in a quality at or exceeding 800x600 pixels at 23 frames per second, at least 30 minutes in sequence video are classified under subheading code 8525 80 91 00 or under subheading code 8525 80 99 00. Otherwise they are classified under subheading code 8525 80 30 00.

Moving image cameras - digital camcorders - are classified under subheading code 8525 80 91 00 if they’ve got no input connector, and under subheading code 8525 80 99 00 if they’ve got an input jack or port like a DV-in connector.

Note that when webcams, digital cameras and digital camcorders are separate units, they’re never classified under heading code 8471.

Speakers

Speakers can be passive or active units. Active units include an amplifier in the housing or cabinet. The subheading code under which speakers are classified depends on the number of ‘drive units’ - the actual loudspeaker cones or ribbons - in each cabinet.

Speakers with a single drive unit in each cabinet are classified under subheading code 8518 21 00 90.

Speakers with more than one drive unit in each cabinet are classified under subheading code 8518 22 00 90.

Note that when speakers - and microphones - are separate units, they’re never classified under heading code 8471.

MP3 players

MP3 players are classified as sound-reproducing apparatus. The subheading code under which they’re classified depends on whether or not they’ve got a built-in radio or video device.

MP3 players with no radio are classified under subheading code 8519 81 95 90. Those with a built-in radio are classified under subheading code 8527 13 99 00. For further information, see the guide on classifying audio and video equipment for import and export.

Graphics cards

These can be basic 2D graphics adapters, 2D/3D cards or 3D graphics accelerators that work through an existing graphics card, or through a grabbing or editing card. They’re classified under subheading code 8471 80 00 00.

Sound cards

Sound cards on their own are classified under subheading code 8471 80 00 00.

Television tuner cards

Television PCI tuner card assemblies are classified under subheading code 8528 71 11 00. Products contained in a housing are considered to have lost their character as electronic assemblies, and are classified under subheading code 8528 71 19 00.

Classifying e-book readers

A portable battery operated apparatus for recording and reproducing various types of text, images and audio files. These units can incorporate an internal memory, card reader, USB interface, with or without a translation or dictionary function. They’re classified under subheading code 8543 70 90 99.

Classifying other separate computing units

Various other computer units are classified as separate units if they don’t make up part of a complete computer system.

Base units

Base units, or ‘system boxes’, should contain at least a CPU and main memory. They’re classified under subheading code 8471 50 00 90.

External drives

Central storage units, like Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) systems for networks, can be magnetic disk, tape or optical drives. They’re classified under subheading code 8471 70 20 90.

RAID controllers without drives are classified under subheading code 8471 70 98 90.

External drives for use with a single computer are classified according to the drive type, as follows:

  • optical drives, such as CD, DVD and MO (magneto-optical) drives, are classified under subheading code 8471 70 30 90 whether they’re read-only or read and write. (CD drives can retrieve signals from CD-Roms, audio CDs and photo CDs and include a jack for earphones, a volume control or a start/stop button)
  • hard disk drives, including removable disk drives and micro drives, are classified under subheading code 8471 70 50 90
  • floppy drives, including super floppy, are classified under subheading code 8471 70 70 90
  • tape drives are classified under subheading code 8471 70 80 90
  • pen drives - portable USB memory devices - are classified under subheading code 8523 5110 00

Card readers

The following types of card reader are all classified under subheading code 8471 90 00 00:

  • magnetic card readers
  • smart card readers (a smart card is a card which has embedded in it one or more electronic integrated circuits - a microprocessor, random access memory (RAM) or read-only memory (ROM) - in the form of ‘chips’.It can contain contacts, a magnetic stripe or an embedded antenna, but doesn’t include any other active or passive circuit elements)
  • memory card readers - including Compact Flash, Smart Media, Secure Digital (SD), Multimedia Card (MMC), Memory Stick, XD Picture Card and PC Card

Global Positioning System (GPS) Modules

These units provide a position determining function to devices like personal digital assistants (PDAs) and laptops by means of a cable or wireless connection. They’re classified under subheading code 8526 91 20 20 if they are in the form of an assembly, or under subheading code 8526 91 20 99.

External USB hubs

These are classified under subheading code 8471 80 00 00.

Dongles

Dongles are USB interface devices that provide a means of communicating (Bluetooth or WI-FI) with a computer. Dongles are classified under subheading code 8517 62 00 90.

Hardware encryption devices connected to a computer via USB interface for deactivation to software or to protect the data in the computer are classified under subheading code 8471 80 00 00.

Encryption security devices

These are access code generators that allow users to log on to a network remotely. They can’t be connected directly to a computer. Encryption security devices are classified under subheading code 8543 70 90 99.

Classifying internal upgrades and parts

Many computer parts and accessories are classified under heading code 8473. However some items are treated as complete units, not parts, and classified under other heading codes.

Parts

The following items are classified as parts rather than as complete units under heading code 8473.

CPUs - 32 bit and 64 bit - are made up of two or more electronic integrated circuits. They may come packaged with certain other components, usually a heatsink and sometimes a cooling fan. Some examples include Intel and AMD Processors. They’re classified under subheading code 8473 30 20 00.

CPU heatsinks on their own are classified under subheading code 8473 30 80 00.

Motherboards that aren’t fully populated with CPU and random access memory (RAM) are treated as electronic parts and classified under subheading code 8473 30 20 00.

Computer casings - with or without a power supply - are classified under subheading code 8473 30 80 00.

Barebone units usually consist of a computer case, a motherboard and a power supply. They’re classified under subheading code 8473 30 80 00.

Memory modules designed for use only, or mainly, with computers and computer units that are classified under heading code 8471 are classified under heading code 8473. Memory modules for use only, or mainly, with apparatus that are classified under a different heading code are themselves classified as part of the apparatus. Memory modules designed for use with a range of apparatus are classified under heading code 8548.

Standard dynamic random access memory (DRAM) and modules of metal oxide semiconductor (MOS) technology, like single in-line memory module (SIMM) and dual in-line memory module (DIMM), are classified under subheading code 8473 30 20 00.

Other standard memory modules, including non-volatile types like static random access memory (SRAM) modules, are classified under subheading code 8473 30 20 00.

Complete units

The following items are classified as complete units rather than as parts under various different heading codes.

Power supply units (PSUs) that are specially made and suitable for use with computer units like base systems or printers are classified under subheading code 8504 40 30 90.

Combined CPU fan and heatsink units for personal computers are classified under subheading code 8473 30 20 00.

Motherboards that are complete with a CPU and RAM are treated as a complete computer base unit and classified under subheading code 8471 50 00 90.

Internal drives are classified according to the drive type, as follows:

  • optical drives, like CD, DVD and MO, are classified under subheading code 8471 70 30 90 whether they’re read-only or read and write
  • hard disk drives, including removable disk drives, are classified under subheading code 8471 70 50 90
  • card readers for semiconductor media are classified under subheading code 8471 70 98 90
  • floppy drives, including super floppy, are classified under subheading code 8471 70 70 90
  • tape drives are classified under subheading code 8471 70 80 90

Other expansion cards are also classified as complete units rather than as parts. The following expansion cards are all classified under subheading code 8471 80 00 00:

  • input/output (I/O) cards
  • serial and parallel port cards
  • USB cards and adapters
  • SCSI (Small computer system interface) and IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics) controller cards

Various other types of computer expansion card are also classified under this subheading code.

Memory modules designed to be used with apparatus other than computers and computer units classified under heading code 8471 are classified under subheading code 8548 90.

Machines with a specific function that aren’t computers

Some machines work alongside a computer but perform a specific function that isn’t data processing. Others actually incorporate a computer, but once again their specific function isn’t data processing. Examples of the types of specific function that these machines might perform include communication, measuring, checking and control. These function-specific machines may operate on fixed programs and aren’t freely programmable.

These types of machine aren’t classified under heading code 8471, but under the heading code that’s appropriate to the function they perform. If there’s no appropriate heading code, then they’re classified under a residual heading code.

Note 5e to chapter 84 sets out the legal basis for classifying machines with a specific function that aren’t computers.

This classification guidance also applies to goods that only operate when they’re connected to the central processing unit of a computer - for example a modem or television tuner card.

Classifying computer parts and accessories

A ‘computer part’ is an integral component of a computer. Various computer parts are classified as separate units if they don’t make up part of a complete computer system.

A ‘computer accessory’ gives a computer an additional function, but isn’t an integral component. It’s an interchangeable part or device that’s designed to adapt a machine to:

  • do a particular operation
  • perform a particular service
  • increase its range of operations

Classifying computer parts

Note 2 to Section XVI sets out the legal basis for classifying computer parts.

Many integral computer parts are classified under heading code 8473.

A part that’s an integral part of a computer, but is specifically covered by a heading code in chapter 84 or chapter 85, is classified under that heading code. For example, because coaxial cable is specifically covered by heading code 8544, it’s classified under this heading and not as a computer part under heading code 8473. However, there are certain heading codes to which this rule doesn’t apply because they’re designated parts headings. They’re listed in Note 2a to Section XVI and are:

  • 8409
  • 8431
  • 8448
  • 8466
  • 8473
  • 8487
  • 8503
  • 8522
  • 8529
  • 8538
  • 8548

Some parts are suitable for use solely or principally with a particular kind of machine - or with a number of machines classified under the same heading code - but aren’t specifically covered by a heading code in chapter 84 or chapter 85. These are classified either under one of the heading codes listed above or under the same heading code as the machine or machines that they’re suitable for.

Parts that are equally suitable for use solely or principally with goods classified under heading code 8517, and under heading codes 8525 to 8528, are always classified under heading code 8517. This rule is set out in Note 2b to Section XVI.

Any other parts that are suitable for use with a number of machines classified under different heading codes are classified, as appropriate, under one of the following heading codes:

  • 8409
  • 8431
  • 8448
  • 8466
  • 8473
  • 8503
  • 8522
  • 8529
  • 8538

If none of the above heading codes is suitable, they’re classified under heading code 8487 or 8548. This rule is set out in Note 2c to Section XVI.

Classifying computer accessories

Many computer accessories are classified under heading code 8473, which deals specifically with parts and accessories for machines that include computers. Only a few heading codes in chapter 84 and chapter 85 cover computer accessories. If the item, or items, for which the accessories are intended is classified under a heading code that doesn’t cover accessories, then the accessories themselves are classified elsewhere in the Tariff according to their function or constituent material.

Classifying software

Software classification depends on the media on which it’s been recorded and the nature of the software. Media include:

  • CD, DVD, Laserdisc, Minidisc and other laser-read disks. Even though there are differences in the manufacturing and recording - or writing - processes, these are all designed to be read by some kind of laser system once recorded.
  • floppy disk
  • magnetic tape
  • magnetic stripe cards
  • memory cards
  • cartridges for video games consoles

For the purposes of Tariff classification, software categories include:

  • programs and data
  • sound recordings
  • computer games
  • films, pictures and image files
  • games for video games consoles

Programs and data

These include word processing programs, spreadsheets, desktop publishing programs, painting or drawing programs, route planners, encyclopaedia, business or phone directories, catalogues, device drivers, system boot-disks and backup disks. Programs and data are classified according to the media they’re recorded on. If they’re recorded on:

  • CD, DVD, Laserdisc, Minidisc or other laser-read disks then they’re classified under subheading code 8523 49 45 00
  • magnetic tape then they’re classified under subheading code 8523 29 33 00
  • floppy disk then they’re classified under subheading code 8523 29 33 00

Sound recordings

These include music disks, language courses, wildlife recordings, train enthusiasts’ sound bites, talking books and so on. Sound recordings are classified according to the media they’re recorded on. If they’re recorded on:

  • Minidisc then they’re classified under subheading code 8523 29 39 00
  • any other laser-read disk - for example CD, SACD or DVD - then they’re classified under subheading code 8523 49 39 00

Computer games

These include flight simulators, ‘shoot ‘em ups’, sports games, car racing games, strategy games and so on for use only on an automatic data processing machine (computer). Computer games are classified according to the media they’re recorded on. If they’re recorded on:

  • CD, DVD, Laserdisc, Minidisc or other laser-read disk then they’re classified under subheading code 8523 49 45 00.
  • floppy disk then they’re classified under subheading code 8523 29 33 00.

Films, pictures and image files

These include movies, videos, photo CDs, clip art collections, photo collections and karaoke disks. Films, pictures and image files are classified according to the media they’re recorded on. If they’re recorded on:

  • DVD then they’re classified under subheading code 8523 49 51 00
  • any other laser-read disk then they’re classified under subheading code 8523 49 59 00
  • floppy disk then they’re classified under subheading code 8523 29 39 00

Games for video games consoles

These are classified according to the media on which they’re recorded. If they’re recorded on:

  • DVD, then they’re classified under subheading code 8523 49 51 00
  • any other laser-read disk, then they’re classified under subheading code 8523 49 59 00
  • cartridges, then they’re classified along with games consoles in chapter 95 under subheading code 9504 50 00 00

Software on memory cards and magnetic stripe cards

Software that’s recorded onto a memory card - for example Compact Flash, Smart Media, Secure Digital (SD), Multimedia Card (MMC), Memory Stick, XD Picture Card, PC Card or PCMCIA Card - is classified under subheading code 8523 51 93 00.

Software that’s recorded onto a magnetic stripe card is classified under subheading code 8523 21 00 00.

Classifying blank media

Blank media include:

  • CD, DVD, Minidisc and other laser-read disks
  • flash memory cards
  • magnetic tapes and disks
  • removable hard disks
  • micro drives
  • floppy disks, floppy disk cookie only and super floppy disks

CD, DVD, Minidisc and other laser-read disks

Classification of blank unrecorded disks can be complicated. Although all of these types of disk are read by laser systems, the recording (writing) systems differ. The disks fall into the following classes:

  • CD-R disks. These are unrecorded blank disks of ‘Orange Book II’ type that use laser technology for both reading and writing. Orange Book II is the second part of a standard developed by Sony and Philips to define the construction of multisession CDs. CD-R disks are classified under subheading code 8523 41 10 00.
  • CD-RW disks. These use Phase-change technology for recording and erasing and are classified under subheading code 8523 41 90 00.
  • Blank Minidiscs. These use magnetic optical technology for recording and erasing. They’ve got a magnetic layer and are rigid magnetic disks. Blank Minidiscs are classified under subheading code 8523 29 15 00.
  • Other blank magneto-optical disks. These are classified under subheading code 8523 29 15 00.
  • DVD-R disks. The technology of these disks is assumed to be similar to the CD-R disk in that they use laser technology for both reading and writing. DVD-R disks are classified under subheading code 8523 40 13 00.
  • DVD+RW discs. These use the Phase-change technology for recording and erasing and are classified under subheading code 8523 41 30 00.

Flash memory cards

These cards contain two or more flash memory integrated electronic circuits mounted on a base. There are different types of flash memory card, including Compact Flash, Smart Media, Secure Digital (SD), Multimedia Card (MMC), Memory Stick, XD Picture Card, PC Card and PCMCIA Card. Flash memory cards are classified under subheading code 8523 51 10 00.

Magnetic tapes and disks

These include compact cassettes, VHS and mini-DV and are classified under subheading code 8523 29 15 00.

Removable hard disks - disk only, not the complete drive

This type of disk is usually supplied with some software utilities pre-loaded, so it’s classified as recorded software under subheading code 8523 80 10 00.

Micro drives

These are miniature hard disk drives for use in a PC card or similar slot. They’re classified under subheading code 8471 70 50 90.

Floppy disks

These include standard floppy disks, floppy disk cookie only and super floppy disks - for example the LS120 type. They’re all classified under subheading code 8523 29 15 00.

Difficulty with classification

Section XVI of the Tariff, which includes chapter 84 and chapter 85, includes detailed notes covering the goods classified in these chapters. Both chapters also include their own classification notes. When classifying goods in these chapters, you should refer to the notes and decide which, if any, apply.

General Interpretative Rules (GIRs)

The GIRs in section 1 of the Tariff set out principles for classifying goods. When classifying computers and software, certain GIRs may have particular relevance for goods like dual purpose and composite goods (GIR 1), and specially made carrying cases and packaging materials (GIR 5).

  • Note 5 to Section XVI defines the term ‘machine’ for the purposes of the Tariff. In this guide, a “machine” means any machinery, plant, equipment, apparatus or appliance referred to in the heading codes within chapter 84 and chapter 85.
  • Note 5 to chapter 84 defines and describes “automatic data processing machines” - computers - for the purposes of the Tariff. Note 5 also sets out rules for classifying separate individual units of computer systems correctly.

Composite goods

Some goods consist of several machines fitted together to form a single whole. To classify composite goods like this correctly, first try to establish which machine performs the main function. Then classify the whole item under the heading code for the machine that performs this main function.

If it’s not possible to establish which machine in a composite item performs the main function, then the goods are classified according to GIR 3c. According to this rule, of all the possible heading codes or subheading codes that could equally apply, the code that comes last in numerical order is used to classify the goods. GIR 3c is set out in Part 1 Section I of the second volume of the Tariff.

Note 3 to Section XVI sets out the legal basis for classifying composite goods.

Multifunctional goods

Multifunctional goods are machines that are designed to perform two or more complementary or alternative functions.

To classify a multifunctional machine correctly, first try to establish which is the machine’s main function. If this is possible, the goods are classified under the heading code or subheading code appropriate to that function - as if that were the machine’s only function.

If it’s not possible to establish which is the main function, then the goods are classified according to GIR 3c as outlined above.

Note 3 to Section XVI sets out the legal basis for classifying multifunctional goods.

Individual components that work together to perform a single function

Some machines consist of a series of individual components that are intended to contribute together to a clearly defined function covered by one of the heading codes in chapter 84 or chapter 85. The components can be separate or connected by any means such as cables or wireless devices.

If a machine matches this description, then the whole machine is classified under the heading code that’s appropriate to the function it performs.

Note 4 to Section XVI sets out the legal basis for classifying single function goods made up of several components.

Magnetic and optical data readers, writers and processors

Heading code 8471 includes “magnetic or optical readers, machines for transcribing data onto data media in coded form and machines for processing such data, not elsewhere specified or included”. These products aren’t automatic data processing machines and nor are they units of them, so they don’t have to meet the classification definition of a computer or a computer part. They’re classified under subheading code 8471 90.

Exclusions and exceptions from chapters 84 and 85

The following items aren’t covered in either chapter 84 or chapter 85, even though they may share some characteristics with, or be in some way associated with, certain items of computer hardware or software:

  1. Certain machines which share some or all of the characteristics of a computer system, but which perform a specific function like measuring, checking, controlling or medical tasks. These types of machine are classified in other chapters under heading codes that are appropriate to their specific function, or under residual heading codes.
  2. Inkjet cartridges without a print head are classified in chapter 39 under subheading code 3923 90 00 00 if they’re empty, and in chapter 32 under subheading code 3215 90 00 90 if they’ve been refilled. Cartridges with a ‘chip’ to measure the ink level are also classified under subheading code 3215 90 00 90.
  3. Typewriter ribbons and other similar ribbons. These can be on spools or in cartridges and are classified according to what they’re made of. If they’ve been inked or prepared in some other way for printing they are classified in chapter 96 under heading code 9612.
  4. Non-electric projection screens are classified in chapter 90 under subheading code 9010 60 00 00.
  5. Toys and games, including video games consoles and video game cartridges. Toys and games are covered in chapter 95. (Computer games software for use only on computers, and games software for video games consoles on laser-read disks like CDs and DVDs are, however, covered in chapter 85 under heading code 8523.)
  6. Clocks and watches are covered in chapter 91. (Mechanical display watches with a built-in flash memory device are, however, classified in chapter 85 under subheading code 8523 51 11 00.)
  7. Non-digital (photographic film) cameras are covered in chapter 90.
  8. Computer monitor optical screen filters are covered in chapter 90.
  9. Parts for vehicles, aircraft and other transport equipment, which are covered in Section XVII. There are special codes for equipment that’s for use in a civil aircraft.
  10. Basic parts for general use. These could, for example, be made of base metal (like steel screws and bolts, which are covered in chapter 73) or made of plastics (like plastic trunking, which is covered in chapter 39).
  11. More information about the special heading codes for equipment used in civil aircraft is available in Part 11 of Volume 1 of the Tariff at paragraph 11 2 8 or from the HMRC Tariff Classification Service Enquiry Line on Tel 01702 366 077.

Further information

HMRC Tariff Classification Service enquiry line

01702 366 077

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