Guidance

Classifying leather for import and export

Get help to classify articles of leather and other items in chapter 42 of the tariff for import and export.

This guidance refers to chapters and headings in the UK Global Online Tariff. If you’re importing goods into Northern Ireland, or if this guidance does not include your item, read more information.

Chapter 42 covers:

  • items made of leather
  • saddlery and harness (can be made from any material)
  • travel goods
  • handbags and similar containers (Heading 4202)
  • items made of animal gut (not including silkworm gut)

Chapter 42 has 6 headings, all of which mainly include items made of leather or composition leather. However, headings 4202 and 4203 include items (characteristic of the leather trade) made of other materials, such as plastic or textiles.

Leather

Leather is made of animal hide or skin. Animals whose hide and skins are used to make leather, must not be on the endangered species list. You can check if an animal is endangered by contacting the Animal and Plant Health Agency Centre for International Trade.

Patent leather

This is leather that’s been coated with a varnish, lacquer or preformed plastic sheet; it has a shiny mirror-like surface. To be classified as patent leather, the thickness of the coating or sheet must be no more than 0.15 millimetres (mm).

Patent laminated leather

This is leather that’s been coated with a sheet of preformed plastic that’s thicker than 0.15mm, 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 leather is covered by a sheet of preformed plastic that’s thicker than 0.15mm, but more than half the total thickness of the finished material, then it’s classified in chapter 39.

Composition leather

This leather has a basis of natural leather or leather fibres and is also known as ‘bonded leather’. It may be:

  • dyed
  • embossed
  • polished
  • grained
  • stamped
  • suede – finished by grinding with carborundum or emery
  • varnished or metallised

It can be made through various processes, such as by:

  • agglomerating parings and small waste pieces of leather – either with glue or other binder, or without a binder under strong compression
  • breaking down parings and waste into thin fibres, by heating in hot water (without binders, like paper) – the pulp obtained is formed into sheets by sieving, rolling and calendaring

Miscellaneous leather or composition leather items

Miscellaneous items that are made of leather or composition leather, are classified in heading 4205. These include:

  • luggage labels
  • razor strops
  • boot laces
  • handles for parcel carriers
  • corner reinforcements – for example, for trunks and suitcases
  • unstuffed pouffe cases (not stuffed pouffes, which are classified in heading 9404)
  • straps for general use
  • harness mats (not saddle cloths, which are classified in heading 4201)
  • reading covers for books
  • parts of braces
  • cases, tassels and similar items used for umbrellas, sunshades or walking sticks
  • chamois leather, but only if it’s cut to special shapes or has serrated edges (otherwise, it’s classified in heading 4114)
  • other pieces of leather or composition leather that are cut to shape

Gloves designed for use in sports

These are classified under subheading 4203 21. They include gloves used for boxing, cricket or football (worn by the goal keeper). This subheading does not cover gloves designed for golf or motorcycling, which are classified in subheading 4203 29.

Items made of gut or other animal materials

Items made from animal gut and other animal materials are classified in heading 4206. These include items made from catgut, formed by twisting strips of animal gut (especially sheep’s gut) that’s been cleaned and dried. This heading does not cover:

  • sterile catgut (classified in heading 3006)
  • gut used to make musical instrument strings (classified in heading 9209)

Hand-made items

Subheadings covering hand-made items are included under headings 4201 to 4203. Some hand-made items can only be classified in these headings if they’ve been certified as hand-made by a recognised authority, in the country where they’re produced. It may be necessary to provide a special handicraft certificate.

Parts and ornamentation

Some items (such as bags and belts) have parts, fittings or ornamentation made from:

  • precious metal
  • metal plated with precious metal
  • natural or cultured pearls
  • precious or semi-precious stones

Provided these do not give an item its essential character, they can still be classified in chapter 42. For example:

  • a leather belt with a gold buckle (classified in heading 4203)
  • a leather handbag with a silver frame and an onyx clasp (classified in heading 4202)

If the parts or ornamentation give an article its essential character, then it’s classified in chapter 71.

Heading 4202

Heading 4202 is made up of two sections. Both sections include items classified as containers. These containers may:

  • be designed for prolonged use
  • be rigid or have a rigid foundation
  • be soft and without foundation
  • have an outer surface made of leather or composition leather
  • have an outer surface made of sheeting of plastics or textile materials

Containers are classified according to the material of their outer surface (that is visible to the naked eye), including where the outer layer is made of more than one material.

Containers where the outer surface is made of leather

These containers are classified under subheadings:

  • 4202 11
  • 4202 21
  • 4202 31
  • 4202 91

Containers with an outer surface of leather coated with a thin layer of plastic or synthetic rubber added for protection (invisible to the naked eye – usually less than 0.15 mm in thickness), would still be classified in these subheadings.

No account is taken of any change in colour or surface shine.

Containers where the outer surface is made of plastic sheeting

There containers are classified under subheadings:

  • 4202 12 11
  • 4202 22 10
  • 4202 32 10
  • 4202 92

The plastic sheeting may be one of a number of materials making up the container’s outer material.

Containers are classified in these subheadings as long as the:

  • plastic sheeting was manufactured before creating the combined material
  • plastic layer is a result of applying a coating (or covering) of plastics to the material
  • the outer layer visible to the naked eye has the same visual appearance as an applied layer of manufactured plastic sheeting

Containers covered in the first section under heading 4202

The first section covers containers made of any material, including:

  • trunks
  • suitcases
  • vanity cases
  • executive cases
  • briefcases
  • school satchels
  • cases or boxes for:
    • spectacles
    • binoculars
    • cameras and camera accessories
    • musical instruments
    • hats
    • mobile phones and smartphones (designed to fit specific or various models with the same measurements) – with or without closing mechanisms which cover the back, sides and front of the phone (classified in subheading 4202 31, 4202 32 or 4202 39)
    • tablet computers, mini tablet computers or eBooks – with or without stands (classified in subheadings 4202 91 80 to 4202 99 00)
  • gun cases, holsters and similar containers
  • cartridge pouches
  • sheaths for hunting or camping knives
  • portable tool boxes
  • cases specially shaped or internally fitted to contain tools (with or without their accessories)
  • products made up of an elasticated band (usually of a textile material) and a case or holder, specifically used o hold mobile phones or smartphones – intended to be attached to the upper arm (classified in subheading 4202 92 98)

Containers covered in the second section under heading 4202

The second section covers containers that are either made of specified materials or are completely (or mainly) covered by these materials.

Items that must be made of leather, composition leather, sheeting of plastics, textile materials, vulcanised fibre or paperboard include:

  • travelling bags
  • insulated food and beverage bags (reusable bags used to maintain the temperature of foods and beverages during transport or temporary storage)
  • toilet bags
  • rucksacks (bags with material intended to go over the shoulders, so it can be carried on a person’s back) – for example, bags made of textile material with one or more internal or external pockets
  • handbags
  • shopping bags
  • wallets and purses (classified in subheading 4202 31, 4202 32 or 4202 39)
  • jewellery boxes and rolls – including specially shaped or fitted containers for one or more pieces of jewellery (normally lined with textile material and with hinges or fasteners)
  • Cases for:
    • cigarettes, cigars or pipes (classified in subheading 4202 31, 4202 32 or 4202 39)
    • money
    • bottles
    • cutlery
    • notes (classified in subheading 4202 31, 4202 32 or 4202 39)
    • pens
    • tickets
    • needles
    • keys (classified in subheading 4202 31, 4202 32 or 4202 39)
    • shoes
    • hairbrushes or toothbrushes
  • tobacco pouches (classified in subheading 4202 31, 4202 32 or 4202 39)
  • tool bags and rolls
  • sports bags – for example, gym bags, or bags and headcovers specifically designed for items such as tennis rackets and golf clubs (with or without pockets to contain balls, though this will affect the subheading)
  • powder boxes
  • writing cases with or without a closing device (typically reinforced and designed for prolonged use), usually able to hold a mixture of:
    • notepads
    • papers
    • writing instruments
    • stationary supplies
  • garment bags with carrying handles, a zip fastener and (often) additional pockets, intended to carry clothing items such as a suit (must be suitable for prolonged use) (classified in subheading 4202 91 80, 4202 92 19, 4202 92 98 or 4202 99 00)

Items with the characteristics of containers that are not covered under heading 4202

These items are listed in legal notes 2 and 3 to chapter 42. They include:

  • shopping bags that are not designed for prolonged use, including bags with two outer layers of plastics sandwiching an inner layer of cellular plastic (classified in heading 3923 – see also legal note 3(A)(a) to chapter 42)
  • items classified in chapter 95, such as:
    • toys
    • games
    • festive articles

Also not covered under heading 4202 are:

  • certain items classified in heading 4205, such as:
    • book covers and reading jackets
    • file covers
    • document-jackets
    • blotting pads
    • photo-frames
    • sweetmeat boxes
    • tobacco jars
    • ashtrays
    • flasks made of ceramics, glass or other similar materials
  • tool boxes (or cases) that are not specially shaped or internally fitted to contain certain tools (generally classified in heading 3926 or 7326, depending on the material they’re made from)

Items excluded from chapter 42

These items are listed in legal note 2 to chapter 42. They include:

  • garments (made of textile material) with leather reinforcements (classified in chapter 61 or 62)
  • drawstring shoe bags, made of
    • textile materials (classified in chapter 63)
    • plastic sheeting (classified in chapter 39)
  • decorations, such as plumes for circus animals (classified according to the material they’re made from)
  • made up textile items of netting (classified in heading 5608)
  • imitation jewellery (classified in heading 7117)

More information

If this guidance does not cover your specific item in detail and you’re importing goods into Great Britain, you can search for it in the Online Trade Tariff.

If you’re importing goods into Northern Ireland from outside the UK, and the EU and the goods are not ‘at risk’ of onward movement to the EU, you should also use the Online Trade Tariff.

If you’re importing goods into Northern Ireland from outside the UK and the EU, and the goods are at risk of onward movement to the EU, you should use the Northern Ireland (EU) Tariff.

If this guidance does cover your item, you’ll still need to look up the full commodity code to use in your declaration on the appropriate tariff.

You can find more ways to help you find a commodity code by referring to the links given in this section.

Published 3 August 2012
Last updated 27 April 2017 + show all updates
  1. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora helpline number has been updated.

  2. CITES Helpline number changed to 0117 372 8749.

  3. Further information section amended.

  4. First published.