Last edited 14 May 2017

Products v goods v materials

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The terms ‘products’, ‘goods’ and ‘materials’ are sometimes used as if they are interchangeable, however there are differences between them determined by what they are made of, how they are finished and whether they are offered for sale. Unfortunately these differences are sometimes rather vague and are not consistently applied.

Very broadly the difference between materials and products is that:

  • Materials are raw, unprocessed substances such as sand, salt and so on.
  • Products are processed, finished items that are offered for sale. That is, they are manufactured combinations of materials and perhaps other products, processed to create items such as doors, windows, light fittings and so on.

However, this deceptively clear difference becomes more complex when applied to composite materials (such as adhesives), to finished materials (such as processed timber), to unfinished products and so on. For example, steel, whilst it has been processed, might be considered to be a material, whilst a steel beam, which is the same material but in a different form might be considered to be a product.

A slightly broader definition of materials as 'physical substances that things can be made from' excludes items such as doors and windows, but includes items such as processed timber, adhesives, concrete and so on.

However, the distinction is confused further by unhelpful definitions such as that in Approved Document 7: materials and workmanship, which defines materials as; ‘manufactured products such as components, fittings, items of equipment and systems; naturally occurring materials such as stone, timber and thatch; and backfilling for excavations in connection with building work.’ This would appear to include all the tangible items used in construction works.

The term ‘goods’ refers more generically to possessions, or occasionally to merchandise that is sent by land (rather than by air or water). Other similar terms include ‘commodities’, and ‘supplies’.

All of these can be distinguished from the supply of ‘services’ which HMRC suggest is ‘something other than supplying goods’, and typically refers to activities such as consultation, maintenance, installation, or sometimes the provision of accommodation.

Products, services and materials may sometimes be provided alongside each other as part or a single supply contract.

NB The Construction Products Regulation defines a ‘construction product’ as; ‘…any product or kit which is produced and placed on the market for incorporation in a permanent manner in construction works or parts thereof and the performance of which has an effect on the performance of the construction works with respect to the basic requirements for construction works.’

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