Classifying organic chemicals for import and export

How to classify organic chemicals if you are importing into or exporting out of the EU.

Before you start

This guidance will help you classify organic chemicals. If it does not cover your specific item in detail you can search for it in the Trade Tariff Tool.

This guide will:

  • provide some or all of the commodity codes for particular items and types
  • explain the differences between codes or headings affecting these items
  • detail any exceptions or rules

You will still need to look up the full commodity code to use on your declaration using the Trade Tariff Tool. You can find out more about:


This guidance will help you identify what is and what is not covered in chapter 29 of the UK Trade Tariff.

Chapter 29 covers organic compounds under heading codes 2901 to 2942. The chapter is divided into sub-chapters I to XIII.

There are certain items that are specifically excluded from chapter 29 and classified in other chapters. These include products such as vitamins put up as food supplements, and compounds, such as paracetamol, intended for use as a medicament.

Chapter 29 heading codes: quick reference table

This chapter covers organic chemicals. It also covers organic chemicals that are dissolved in water, or contain certain permitted additives.

The following list is not exhaustive, but it will help you check whether or not a particular item is likely to be covered in this chapter. For more detail, the European Customs Inventory of Chemicals (ECICS) database can help you identify the right heading code for the chemicals covered in this chapter.

Item Heading code
Antibiotics 2941
Hormones 2937
Organo-sulphur compounds 2930
Organo-inorganic compounds 2931
Paracetamol 2924
Provitamins 2936
Streptomycin 2941
Tetracycline 2941
Vitamins 2936

This guidance covers the classification of separate chemically defined organic compounds (with or without impurities) in the Integrated Tariff of the United Kingdom (the Tariff). They can be dissolved in water or if allowable in some other solvent, and contain certain permitted additives. They must be intended for general rather than specific use. For example, paracetamol in bulk is covered in this chapter, but if paracetamol is packaged as a medicament then it’s covered elsewhere. For help with classifying chemicals that are made up into measured doses or intended for retail sale, you can read the guide on classifying pharmaceutical products.

For detailed information on this sector, read the guide on chemicals.

Defining organic chemicals

When you are classifying organic chemicals for the purposes of the Tariff you may come across certain terms and abbreviations. Some common examples are listed below.

Common terms used

  • Chemical Abstracts Service Registration Number (CAS RN) - a unique number allocated to a chemical by the American Chemical Society and used worldwide.
  • Customs Union and Statistics number (CUS).
  • European Customs Inventory of Chemicals (ECICS) - database containing details of the correct Tariff classification of both inorganic and organic chemicals.
  • Harmonised System (HS) - classifies commodities under different codes so that the correct duties and controls are applied to imports and exports.
  • Harmonised System Explanatory Notes (HSENs) - these give useful guidance about the scope of the Tariff chapters, headings and subheadings.

Permitted additives when classifying organic chemicals

As a general rule, chapter 29 is restricted to separate chemically defined organic compounds, subject to the provisions of note 1 to the chapter. To be covered in this chapter they must comply with strict conditions that specify which additives are allowed. These conditions are set out in Note 1a to Note 1g to chapter 29.

Compounds can be dissolved in water or in some other solvent. In the latter case, the solution must constitute a normal and necessary method of putting up these products adopted solely for reasons of safety or for transport and not to render the product particularly suitable for a specific use rather than for general use. Stabilisers such as anti-caking agents can also be added, but only to preserve or transport the compound.

For example if an essential trace element such as chromium picolinate is prepared as a dietary supplement in the form of tablets or capsules, it would not be covered in this chapter. This is because the added ingredients, such as binder, the capsule shell and excipients, have not been added just to preserve or transport it. This type of product is covered in chapter 21 under code heading 2106.

Code heading 2936 specifically covers:

  • provitamins
  • vitamins
  • derivatives used mainly as vitamins
  • mixtures of provitamins, vitamins and vitamin derivatives

Certain specified additives, such as anti-oxidants, are allowed so long as the amount added is just enough to preserve or transport the vitamins. However, vitamins put up in capsules for use as dietary supplements are not covered here. This type of product is covered in chapter 21 under code heading 2106.

Classifying organic chemicals and suitability for general use

When you classify a product in chapter 29 it’s important to ensure that anything added to a compound does not make the resulting product particularly suitable for a specific use rather than for general use. For example vitamins and provitamins are normally covered under code heading 2936, but if they’re prepared as food supplements in the form of tablets, capsules or caplets then they cannot be classified under this code heading. Because of the way they’re presented, with an intended daily dosage, they’re considered to be suitable for a specific use.

These types of product are also excluded from this code heading because the additives are used to do more than just preserve or transport the vitamins - they’re added to make the product convenient and easy to use.

Classifying antibiotics

Antibiotics, such as penicillins and streptomycins, are classified under code heading 2941. This code heading covers compounds that have an antibiotic activity. They are substances produced by micro-organisms that can destroy or stop the growth of other micro-organisms. Substances that have low antibiotic activity are not covered under this code heading but are classified elsewhere in chapter 29, depending on their chemical structure.

Code heading 2941 also excludes certain other antibiotic products. Examples include:

  • antibiotics that are intended to treat or prevent a disease or ailment (these are covered in chapter 30 under code heading 3003 or code heading 3004, depending on how they’re presented)
  • antibiotic preparations of a kind used in animal feeding, ie a combination of a dried antibiotic with, for example, a cereal product - the antibiotic content is usually between 8% and 16% (these preparations are covered in chapter 23 under code heading 2309)

Classifying organic chemicals and chapter Notes 2 to 8

Chapter 29 has detailed notes to help with classifying chemicals. The guidance given in note 2 to note 8 provides information on certain specific chemicals and how to deal with certain classification issues.

A summary of these notes is included below:

Note 2

Exclusions of certain organic chemicals from chapter 29.

Note 3

Advises how to deal with organic chemicals that could be classified in two or more of the headings of chapter 29.

Note 4

Any reference to halogenated, sulphonated, nitrated or nitrosated derivatives under the following code headings includes a reference to compound derivatives in each case:

  • code heading 2904 to 2906
  • code heading 2908 to 2911
  • code heading 2913 to 2920

This Note also gives guidance on the interpretation of ‘nitrogen-functions’ and ‘oxygen-functions’.

Note 5

Note 5 covers a number of different compounds:

  • Note 5(A) and Note 5(B) give guidance on the correct code heading for classifying esters
  • Note 5(C) (1) and (2) deal with salts of organic compounds
  • Note 5(C) (3) covers co-ordination compounds
  • Note 5(D) requires metal alcoholates to be classified under the same code heading as the corresponding alcohols - except in the case of ethanol (heading 2905)
  • Note 5(E) covers halides of carboxylic acids

Note 6

This Note clarifies what is and what is not included under:

  • code heading 2930 organo-sulphur compounds
  • code heading 2931 other organo-inorganic compounds

Note 7

Code headings 2932, 2933 and 2934 do not include certain specific compounds. Note 7 lists the exclusions.

Note 8

Code heading 2937 covers hormones. Note 8 explains what the term ‘hormone’ includes and to what it applies.

What’s not covered in chapter 29

Chapter 29 covers separately defined organic compounds, provided they only contain certain permitted additives or they’re intended for a general - rather than a specific - use. Chemicals that do not meet these requirements are covered elsewhere. Some examples of products this chapter does not cover:

  • Compounds, such as paracetamol, put up as a medicament. These are covered in chapter 30.
  • Disinfectants intended for retail sale or as preparations or articles. These are covered in chapter 38 under heading code 3808.
  • Vitamins put up as food supplements in the form of tablets, capsules, caplets and so on which have a recommended daily dosage. These are considered to be suitable for a specific use so they’re covered elsewhere. Many are covered in chapter 21 under heading code 2106. For more information on food supplements and dietary preparations, read our guide to classifying herbal medicines, supplements, tonics.
  • Products that contain more ingredients than just the additives permitted for preserving or transporting the compound. These include vitamins mixed with other organic chemicals, or with minerals, herbs, other parts of plants, food ingredients and similar substances. This type of product is generally covered in chapter 21 or chapter 22, depending on its actual ingredients and the way it’s presented. For example, tonic drinks containing vitamins and other ingredients and intended for immediate consumption are covered in chapter 22.
  • Feed supplements for animals that contain vitamins and other ingredients - such as cereals and proteins. These are covered in chapter 23 under heading code 2309.
  • Antibiotics intended for therapeutic or prophylactic uses. These are covered in chapter 30 under heading code 3003 or heading code 3004, depending on how they’re presented. You can read our guide to classifying pharmaceutical products for help with classifying chemicals that are made up into measured doses or intended for retail sale.
  • Antibiotic preparations used in animal feeding - for example a dried antibiotic mass on a carrier like cereal middlings. The antibiotic content is usually between 8% and 16%. This type of preparation is covered in chapter 23 under heading code 2309.
  • Products that have been produced as part of the antibiotics manufacturing process and are intended to be processed further. These are covered in Chapter 38 under heading code 3824 (they’re referred to as ‘intermediate products’).
  • Certain chemicals, such as crude glycerol, are specifically excluded from this chapter and are classified elsewhere. These chemicals are listed in Note 2a to Note 2k to chapter 29.

Chapter notes

Section VI of the Tariff, which includes chapter 29, has detailed notes covering the products classified in this chapter. Chapter 29 also has its own classification notes. When classifying organic chemicals, you should refer to these notes for specific guidance.

Combined products (or sets)

Some products are made up by combining two or more separate elements, or constituents. Some or all of these constituents may be covered in Section VI as products of the chemical or allied industries. They are intended to be mixed together to produce a product that’s covered either in Section VI or in Section VII. These combined products, or sets, are classified under the heading code appropriate to the finished product if the constituents are:

  • put up in such a way that it’s clear that they’re to be used together without first being repacked presented together
  • complementary to one another, either because of their nature or because of the proportions in which they’re combined
  • chemicals which could be covered under more than one heading code
  • some items could be classified under two or more heading codes in this chapter. If so, the heading code that comes last in numerical order is the one to use. This does not apply to subheading codes.


It can be difficult to classify organic chemicals correctly for the purposes of the Tariff. The ECICS database can help you identify the right heading code for chemicals covered in chapter 29. It also includes inorganic chemicals that are covered in chapter 28 as well as some other chemical products. You can search for a chemical in the ECICS database on the European Commission website.

You can search the ECICS database using the:

  • chemical name - or part of the name
  • Chemical Abstracts Service Registration Number (CAS RN)
  • Customs Union and Statistics number (CUS)
  • Derivatives of chemical compounds

In this chapter, derivatives of a chemical compound (or group of chemical compounds) are classified under the same subheading code as the compound or group itself, so long as:

  • they are not more specifically covered by any other subheading code
  • the relevant series of subheadings does not have an “Other” subheading
  • Harmonised System Explanatory Notes (HSENs)

HSENs give useful guidance on the scope of Tariff chapters, headings and sub-headings. They are particularly useful when you are classifying organic chemicals. Some helpful extracts include:

  • HSENs General notes to chapter 29 (D) (2)
  • HSENs to heading code 2936

Further help

Use the online UK Trade Tariff tool to find the rest of your commodity code and other measures applying to imports and exports.

If you cannot find the information you need on this page, you can get more help to find the right commodity code for your goods.

EU Tariff regulations information on the EUR-Lex website.

Published 3 August 2012
Last updated 2 November 2015 + show all updates
  1. Further information section has been updated.

  2. Fixing references to specialist guides

  3. Text changes from Lisa Cureton-Burgess. Suzanne Meek

  4. First published.