EU customs tariff for Tripods
When is something a ‘part or accessory’
Just recently, the Wold Customs Organisation (WCO) published a classification opinion about the tariff classification of a tripod (three legged camera support) for photo camera’s such as e.g. these:
The opinion is about a tripod on which a photo camera or video camera can be mounted. According to the WCO, such a tripod must be classified under heading 9006.91 for parts and accessories for camera’s, which attract 3,7 % import duty in the EU. I think that classification is interesting.
General rules for classification as part of accessories
The requirements for classification as part or accessory are generally quite strict. Think of, for example, the classification jurisprudence of printer cartridges, bags for dialysis machines, or polishing pads intended for semiconductor wafer-polishing machines.
An item is considered a part of another product or item, if the item is suitable for use solely or principally with that other particular kind of machine, instrument or apparatus.
According to European case law, an item is only suitable for use with a particular kind of product when that item is essential for the operation of that product. According to that same case law, an item is an accessory when it is designed to adapt a product for a particular operation, or to increase its range of operations, or to perform a particular service relative to the main function of the product.
A camera can well function without a tripod, so the tripod is not essential for the operation of the camera. For that reason the tripod is not a part of a camera, which is rather obvious I would say. More complicated is the question if the tripod is an accessory (for customs purposes!).
I think that these tripods do not enable camera’s to perform operations other than that for which they are designed. Therefore, the tripod does not enable the camera to be adapted for a particular operation, nor do they increase their range of operations, or enable them to perform a particular service connected with their main function. According to European Case law, that would mean that the tripod is not an accessory.
In line with that, several classification rulings show that the tripods were previously indeed classified differently than the current classification by the WCO. Tripods of steel or iron were e.g. classified under 7326.9098 at 2,7% import duty, and tripods of aluminium were classified under 7616.9990 at 6% import duty.
The classification opinions of the WCO are not legally binding. They are, so to say, not the law, but give guidance in the classification of products. What is interesting is the question; if the WCO is correct, wouldn’t that mean that the criterion set by the European Court of Justice for the classification of parts and accessories are too strict?
In any case, this classification opinion will mean that the classification of tripods, and thus the applicable tariff for tripods will be uncertain for the while from now, which will probably result in new case law. I hope that I am asked to represent that importer. If you have any questions about the European import tariff for tripods, please feel free to drop me an email. I would be glad to exchange thoughts on the matter!