Classifying leather for import and export
- HM Revenue & Customs
- Part of:
- Classification of goods and International freight industry and businesses making customs declarations
- First published:
- 3 August 2012
- Last updated:
- 19 April 2016, see all updates
How to classify leather for import or export: guidance to using chapter 42 of the Tariff and full list of exceptions.
Articles covered in this chapter of the Integrated Tariff of the United Kingdom (the Tariff) are classified according to:
- the material from which they’re made
- their type and purpose
- other characteristics, such as whether or not they’re handmade
This guide will help you to identify what is and what isn’t covered in chapter 42.
Chapter 42 mainly covers items made of leather or of composition leather, under heading codes 4201 to 4206. Some of these heading codes also cover items which are characteristic of the leather trade but which are made of other materials, like plastic or textiles.
There are some leather and leather-type articles which chapter 42 doesn’t cover, such as footwear, furniture or watch straps. Items like these are classified in other chapters, according either to their use or to the material they’re made from.
Find commodity codes and other measures applying to imports and exports by accessing our online UK Trade Tariff tool.
Quick reference table for heading codes
Various types of leather goods such as saddlery, travel goods, handbags and cases are covered in chapter 42. Some items made of other materials, or of gut or other animal parts, are also covered.
The following list isn’t exhaustive, but it’ll help you to check quickly whether or not a particular item is likely to be covered in this chapter.
|Apparel - leather||4203|
|Bags - designed for prolonged use, made of leather, plastic, textile or paperboard||4202|
|Bags - travelling, made of leather, plastic sheeting, textile or paperboard||4202|
|Belts and bandoliers, made from leather or composition leather||4203|
|Cases for spectacles, binoculars, cameras, musical instruments or guns||4202|
|Fancy goods made of leather, other than bags, wallets and so on||4205|
|Gloves - of fur skin||4203|
|- of leather||4203|
|Gut, articles made of||4206|
|Handbags made of leather, plastic sheeting, textile fabric or paperboard||4202|
|Harnesses (for animals)||4201|
|Leather - bags, clutch bags and handbags||4202|
|- belting, machinery||4205|
|- clothing and accessories||4203|
|- harness and saddlery for animals||4201|
|Leather - or composition leather: articles not elsewhere specified or included||4205|
|Leather - articles of a kind used in machinery or mechanical appliances or for other technical uses||4205|
|Leather clothing accessories||4203|
|Leather travel goods||4202|
|Luggage labels made of leather||4205|
|Mobile phones - cases||4202|
|Musical instrument cases||4202|
|Pouches and tobacco pouches, made of leather, plastics or textile||4202|
|Purses, made of leather, plastics or textile||4202|
|Reading covers (for books) made of leather||4205|
|Articles made of raw skins||4202|
|Ties, made of leather||4203|
|Cases made of leather, plastic sheeting or textile||4202|
|Tool cases made of leather, vulcanised fibre, plastics sheeting, textile or paperboard||4202|
|Wallets made of leather, plastics or textile||4202|
Items like saddlery, that are classified under heading code 4201, can be made from any material, such as:
- composition leather
- fur skin
Items like travel goods that are classified under heading code 4202, are classified by what their ‘outer surface’ is made up of. The outer surface means the outer material that is visible to the naked eye. If the visible material is the top layer of a combination of different materials, then only this top layer counts as the outer surface.
The outer surface of a combination material might be plastic sheeting, perhaps applied over a woven textile fabric, for example. The plastic sheeting can either be made separately (before the combination material is created), or it can be made by applying a coating or covering of plastic to the underlying material. It doesn’t make any difference for classification purposes, provided that the finished outer surface looks the same as an applied layer of manufactured plastic sheeting.
Types of leather and other materials commonly used with it
Articles covered in this chapter are made from leather, composition leather and in some cases certain other materials such as textiles or plastic sheeting.
The headings below will help you to identify different types of material.
Plastic sheeting is any flat material made of the plastics covered in chapter 39. It may be shaped by gluing, sewing, welding or moulding (vacuum forming).
A textile material is any flat material made of textile fibres that have been woven or knitted. Textile fibres could include plastic strips that are less than 5 millimetres wide.
Cellular plastic sheeting
Cellular plastic sheeting is a type of plastic that has many cells throughout the material. The cells can be open, closed or a mixture of both. It’s commonly used for making cases and containers classified under heading code 4202. It’s often used as a substitute for leather and described as ‘imitation leather’, ‘synthetic leather’, ‘PU leather’, ‘vinyl leather’ or ‘PVC leather’.
Neoprene is a cellular rubber that has many cells throughout the material. The cells can be open, closed or a mix of both. It’s normally covered on at least one side by a knitted textile fabric.
Leather, composition leather and patent leather
Leather is the hide or skin of animals such as:
- cows and other bovine species
- goats and kids
- sheep and lambs - without their wool
- reptiles like snakes, crocodiles and lizards
Animals used for leather must not be on the endangered species list. To check this, contact the UK office of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Helpline on Telephone: 0117 327 8774.
Patent leather is leather that’s been coated with a varnish, lacquer or preformed plastic sheet. It has a shiny mirror-like surface. The varnish or lacquer used can be pigmented or non-pigmented and may be based on:
- vegetable oil that dries and hardens - linseed oil is normally used
- cellulose derivatives like nitro-cellulose
- synthetic products (including thermoplastics) - polyurethane plastics are normally used
If preformed plastic sheet is used to coat the leather, it’s usually made from polyurethane or polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
The surface of patent leather isn’t necessarily smooth. It could be embossed, maybe to imitate crocodile skin, or artificially crushed, crinkled or grained. But it must still have a shiny mirror-like finish.
To be classified as patent leather, the thickness of the coating or sheet must not be more than 0.15 millimetres.
This group of materials also includes leather that is coated with pigmented paint or lacquer to give it a metallic sheen. These paints and lacquers consist of pigments like mica, silica and similar flakes in a binding substance like vegetable oil that dries and hardens, or plastic. Leather that’s been treated like this is known as ‘imitation metallised leather’.
Patent laminated leather is leather that’s been coated with a sheet of preformed plastic that is thicker than 0.15 millimetres but less than half the total thickness of the finished material. It has the same mirror-like finish as patent leather and is sometimes known as ‘patent coated leather’.
If the leather has been covered by a sheet of preformed plastic that is thicker than 0.15 millimetres, but more than half the total thickness of the finished material, then it’s covered in Chapter 39.
Classifying saddlery and other equipment for animals
Saddlery and other equipment for animals are classified under heading code 4201. They can be made of any material, including leather, composition leather, fur skin or textiles.
Some of the items classified under this heading are listed below.
Equipment for horses:
- saddles and harness for riding, draught and pack animals - harness equipment includes reins (lunge, side and draw), bridles, girths, martingales, head collars, breast plates, stirrup leathers, breaking and schooling rollers, training rollers and traces
- knee pads
- blinkers and anti-cribbing collars
- boots - including tendon, fetlock, travelling, overreach and brushing boots
- saddle cloths and pads (also called numnahs)
- saddle bags and carriers
- saddle covers
- specially shaped horse blankets (if these are not specifically shaped, they’re classified under heading code 6301)
- hoof protector boots, worn over the hoof for medication, in snow, roadwork, transportation, competition work and everyday riding
- leather stud guards
- poll guards - these protect the top of the horse’s head and have openings for the ears
- mane tamers and tail guards
- lead ropes
- fly protection items like fringes, veils, nose nets, neck and body covers
Equipment for other animals:
- decorated trappings for circus animals (but not decorations like plumes)
- collars and leads
- trappings for dogs or cats
- dog coats
Harness items for children or adults are classified elsewhere under heading codes 3926, 4205 and 6307.
Classifying luggage, bags and other cases
Luggage items like bags, cases and other similar containers are classified under heading code 4202. This heading code covers only:
- the items that are specifically named
- similar containers
Articles classified under this heading code can be made from leather or from a variety of other materials, as identified by the different subheadings. They can be either rigid or soft.
Articles classified under heading code 4202 are listed below.
Trunks, suitcases, vanity cases, executive cases, briefcases, school satchels and similar containers
The outer surface of these items can be made from any material. ‘Similar containers’ include:
- hat boxes
- camera accessory cases
- cartridge pouches
- sheaths for hunting or camping knives, but not for swords, bayonets, daggers or similar weapons - these are classified under heading code 9307
- portable toolboxes and cases specially shaped or internally constructed to hold particular tools, if they aren’t specially shaped or constructed they’re generally classified under heading code 3926 or 7326
Some container-type items are not similar to the articles listed under this heading and so are classified elsewhere. These include items such as book covers, photo frames, tobacco jars, sweetmeat boxes and glass or ceramic flasks. These are classified under heading code 4205 if they’re made of, or covered with, leather or composition leather.
Handbags, clutch bags and items normally carried in a pocket or handbag
Handbags may or may not have a shoulder strap. Items normally carried in a pocket or handbag include:
- spectacle cases
- note cases, wallets and purses
- key cases
- cigarette, cigar and pipe cases
- tobacco pouches
- mobile phone cases (without clips or straps)
Handbags and other items must have an outer surface made from, or mainly covered with:
- leather, composition leather or patent leather
- plastic sheeting
- textile materials
- hard rubber (vulcanised fibre)
They may also be mainly covered with paper. Spectacle cases are an exception - they can be made of any material.
Travelling bags, toilet bags, cosmetic or make-up bags, rucksacks and sports bags
These can have an outer surface of:
- leather, composition leather or patent leather
- plastic sheeting
- textile materials
Other bags and containers
These include a range of different items:
- writing cases, pen and pencil cases, needle cases (for sewing and knitting needles)
- tool and jewellery rolls
- shoe cases and brush cases
- jewellery boxes - normally lined with textile material
- zip-fastened garment bags
- shopping bags (but not disposable plastic bags)
- duffle bags
- laptop computer cases and portable CD/DVD-player cases - usually with a strap
- CD cases - usually with a strap
- mobile phone cases with clips or straps
- decorative storage boxes
- document holders
- musical instrument cases
With the exception of musical instrument cases, which can be made from any material, these items must have an outer surface made from, or mainly covered with:
- leather, composition leather or patent leather
- plastic sheeting
- textile materials
They may also be mainly covered with paper.
Classifying clothing and accessories
Clothes and clothing accessories that are made from leather or composition leather are classified under heading code 4203. But this heading doesn’t cover real or artificial fur articles. These are classified under heading code 4303 or 4304.
Items classified under heading code 4203 include:
- garments and apparel such as dresses, skirts, trousers, jackets, coats, waistcoats, underwear (including bras and knickers), overcoats, aprons, shorts and protective clothing
- gloves, mittens and mitts, including gloves that are specially designed for use in sporting activities as well as protective gloves used in the workplace - note that women’s and children’s gloves are classified under subheading code 4203 29 90 00 (other)
- belts and bandoliers - a bandolier is a shoulder belt worn across the chest, this also covers leather strips that have been cut and tapered at one end, ready to make into belts
- other clothing accessories including neck ties, wrist straps, protective sleeves and braces
Classifying miscellaneous leather or composition leather items
Miscellaneous items that are made of leather or composition leather are classified under heading code 4205. These include:
- luggage labels
- razor strops
- boot laces
- handles for parcel carriers
- corner reinforcements, eg for trunks and suitcases
- unstuffed pouffe cases, but not stuffed pouffes, which are classified under heading code 9404
- straps for general use
- harness mats, but not saddle cloths, which are classified under heading code 4201
- reading covers for books
- blotting pads
- leather or goatskin water bottles and other containers
- parts of braces
- leather-covered buckets, clasps and similar items
- cases, tassels and so on for umbrellas, sunshades or walking sticks
- sword knots
- chamois leather, but only if it’s cut to special shapes or has serrated edges, otherwise it’s classified under heading code 4114
- nail-polishers covered with buckskin
- other pieces of leather or composition leather cut to shape
- leather organisers
Classifying articles made of gut or other animal materials
Items made from animal gut and other animal materials are classified under heading code 4206. These include articles made from:
- catgut - formed by twisting strips of animal gut (especially sheep’s gut) that’s been cleaned and dried - catgut is mainly used in the manufacture of tennis and other rackets, fishing tackle and machinery parts - note that this heading doesn’t cover sterile catgut - classified in Chapter 30 under heading code 3006, or gut used to make musical instrument strings - classified in Chapter 92 under heading code 9209
- goldbeater’s skin - this is the prepared blind gut of sheep or other ruminant animals, this heading covers items made of goldbeater’s skin as well as pieces of goldbeater’s skin that are square, rectangular or cut to other shapes
- bladders - such as tobacco pouches
- tendons - for example, made up into machinery belting or laces for machinery belting
- ‘artificial’ guts - these are made by gluing together split natural (animal) guts
Exceptions and difficult classifications
The following items aren’t covered in chapter 42:
- footwear and parts of footwear that are covered in chapter 64
- furniture, lamps, lighting fittings and other furnishings that are covered in chapter 94
- toys, games and other leisure and sporting items covered in chapter 95, these include protective sporting equipment like shin guards, fencing masks and breast plates
- hats and parts of hats are covered in chapter 65
- real fur skin articles are covered inchapter 43 under heading code 4303
- garments made out of textile material that have leather reinforcements are covered in chapter 61 or chapter 62
- drawstring shoe bags, if these are made of textile materials then they’re covered in chapter 63 and if they’re made of plastic sheeting they’re covered in chapter 39. Chapter 39 also covers disposable bags made of plastic sheeting under heading code 3923
- metal fittings or trimmings for harnesses like stirrups, bits, horse brasses and buckles are covered in Section XV, chapters 72 to 83
- decorations like plumes for circus animals are classified according to the material they’re made from.
- sterile catgut and similar sterile suture materials which are covered in chapter 30 under heading code 3006
- gut used for musical instrument strings, or skins for musical instruments like drums are covered in chapter 92 under heading code 9209
- whips, riding-crops, walking sticks and similar items covered in chapter 66 under heading code 6602
- made up articles of netting, like fishing nets are covered in chapter 56, under heading code 5608
- imitation jewellery, including cufflinks and bracelets are covered in chapter 71 under heading code 7117
- miscellaneous items like buttons, press fasteners, snap fasteners, press studs, button moulds and button blanks are covered in chapter 96 under heading code 9606
Some hand-made items, like saddles, cases and handbags, can only be classified under a ‘hand-made’ subheading if they’ve been certified as hand-made by a recognised authority in the country where they’re produced. They need a special certificate called a handicraft certificate.
For the purposes of the Tariff, artificial fur means imitation fur that’s been made by gumming or sewing wool, hair or other fibres onto leather, or onto a woven fabric. Artificial fur does not include woven or knitted long pile fabrics which are sometimes called fake fur.
Parts and ornamentation
Sometimes articles like bags and belts have parts, fittings or ornamentation made from:
- precious metal, or metal plated with precious metal
- natural or cultured pearls
- precious or semi-precious stones (these could be natural, synthetic or reconstructed)
Provided that these parts or ornamentation do not give an article its essential character, it can be classified in chapter 42. So, for example, a leather belt with a gold buckle would be covered in this chapter as would a leather handbag with a silver frame and an onyx clasp. But if the parts or ornamentation do give an article its essential character then the article is classified in chapter 71.
Sports bags are classified under heading code 4202 and include items like:
- golf bags
- gym bags
- tennis racket bags
- ski bags
- fishing bags
Gloves, mittens and mitts that are specially designed for use in sports are classified under subheading code 4203 21 and include gloves used for:
- ice hockey
- football (worn by the goal keeper)
But this heading code doesn’t cover gloves designed for golf or motor sports, which are classified under subheading 4203 29 90 00.
The free on-line UK Trade Tariff is available for your use to look up classification codes. This offers easy access to tariff information by providing commodity code and duty rate listings together with a search engine to facilitate enquiries and allow self-service to commodity code information.
However if after visiting this site you are unable to self-assess your products, you can request additional support by sending a request by email to email@example.com.
Please ensure that one item only is detailed per email and that the request includes the following type of information, so that we can deal with your enquiry efficiently:
- what the product is
- what it is made of, if made or more than one material please explain the breakdown of the materials
- how the product works/functions
- how it is presented/packaged
Additionally detailed below is some additional information that is required on certain products for:
- footwear: please include the type (shoe, boot, slipper etc.), upper material details, outer sole material details, the heel height and the purpose for men or woman
- food: please include precise composition details by percentage weight of all the ingredients to 100% and the method of manufacture or process undergone e.g. fresh, frozen, dried, further prepared / preserved etc
- chemicals: please include the Chemical Abstracts Service Number, whether the product is a liquid/powder/solid and include the % ingredients
- textiles: please include the material composition, how it is constructed (knitted / woven) and the name of fabric
- vehicles: please include the age, the engine type (petrol or diesel), the engine size, whether the vehicle is new or used, whether the vehicle is over 30 years old and whether it is in its original condition. Please state if the vehicle is going to be for every day use
A classification officer will then email a response back to you providing you with non-legally binding classification advice based on the information you have supplied.
CITES Helpline on Telephone: 0117 372 8749
Published: 3 August 2012
Updated: 19 April 2016
- CITES Helpline number changed to 0117 372 8749.
- Further information section amended.
- First published.