The case, which could save manufacturers several thousands of pounds turned on whether IPTV set-top boxes are ‘video tuners’ when they are incapable of receiving radio-frequency signals but instead receive data via the internet.
The Amino appeal covered £743,565 in custom duty paid between November 2009 and June 2011, which the Cambridge-based manufacturer said it had overpaid. It argued duty had been paid at 14%, when no duty should have been paid at all.
A subheading under the EU’s Combined Nomenclature (classification heading 8528 71) differentiated between ‘Video Tuner’ and ‘Other’.
Amino said that while a ‘tuner’ could be given what it considered to be the word’s original meaning as equipment which received and isolated radio or TV data carried on a ‘frequency’ (or wavelength) of electromagnetic waves, the word ‘tuner’ also possessed a more modern, less technical, meaning of simply receiving TV/radio broadcasts.
Tribunal judge Barbara Mosedale said a video tuner should be defined by its function. “While it is possible that the function of a tuner is to select a frequency, it is, and has been at least since the advent of IPTV, a valid use of English language to refer to a tuner as acquiring broadcast TV signals from any source, whether or not transmitted on a frequency.
“It seems to me that that definition must be adopted even if (as HMRC claims) it would lead to more things gaining the duty free rate than IPTV STBs.”
Judge Mosedale said she did not think such a definition would cover IP streaming and unicasts.