What is Tangible Personal Property?

Alexis W.
Alexis W.
A diamond ring is a piece of tangible personal property.
A diamond ring is a piece of tangible personal property.

Tangible personal property refers to all physical property with the exception of real estate. It is distinct from real property and from intellectual property. Often referred to as chattel, goods, or "articles of value," tangible personal property has different rules for transfer and protection than certain other types of property.

Property rights are protected within the United States and within most developed countries. This means that a person who owns something is entitled to use, sell, transfer or otherwise enjoy that item within the bounds of the law. No one is permitted to interfere with his enjoyment of that item owned.

A bulldozer is tangible personal property.
A bulldozer is tangible personal property.

Under the property protection laws, property is divided into three main categories. This division exists in order to recognize the different nature of different types of property. It also exists in order to ensure that the proper protection is provided based on the type of property the law covers.

Intellectual property is the newest property classification. This refers to items such as computer software, a piece of art, a trademark or a book. Special protection rules must apply to intellectual property since it is easiest to interfere with the owner's rights to this type of item, as interference doesn't require actually taking the item. For example, if someone rewrote a book and sold it, the author would still have his original copy, but the author's ownership rights would still be affected. Trademark, patent and copyright laws protect this type of property.

Clothing is considered to be personal property.
Clothing is considered to be personal property.

Real property refers to land ownership. Since land is not movable, protection for land ownership primarily relates to the sale and transfer of the deed of the property. Rules on title and structures of ownership are essential to protecting real property.

Tangible personal property, on the other hand, is movable property that can sometimes be easily taken from one place to another. Tangible personal property encompasses a very wide selection of different items. A cow, a dog, a diamond ring, a bulldozer, a tractor, a notebook, a computer or any other physical item that is tangible, has value and can be owned, are all classified as tangible personal property.

A wide variety of laws apply to tangible personal property, depending on what is being done with it. Burglary and theft laws, for example, protect a person from interference with his tangible property. Laws and regulations relating to the sale and transfer of goods — such as the Uniform Commercial Code within the United States — govern and regulate the sale of it.

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Discussion Comments


Most of the time, people define tangible personal property as their "stuff" more than a pet or whatever. I think of it as those things that I would take with me when I moved to a new apartment, like clothes, books, papers, my computer, things like that.

What kills me is that some states even have a personal property tax, so that on top of income, sales, and all the other taxes we pay, they get us for the value of some of our things as well. Granted, it's usually only for big things like a car, but it seems like it never stops.


@ parkthekarma - There are all different kinds of animals, you know. A huge number of animals are livestock and are only alive for the purpose of being used for food or whatever. And even they have laws preventing them from being housed or treated in a cruel or unusual manner.

Look at it this way: Animals can't take care of themselves, so somebody has to take responsibility for them. And since a person is taking responsibility for them, they also get to make decisions regarding the life and circumstances of that animal.


I don' t understand why animals are considered personal property. They are living beings and they have special laws in place to prevent people being cruel to them, yet as far as the owner goes they are his property and he can do pretty much whatever he wants to them. In legal terms, most of the time a dog is the same as a shovel. I don't think that is right.

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    • A diamond ring is a piece of tangible personal property.
      A diamond ring is a piece of tangible personal property.
    • A bulldozer is tangible personal property.
      By: mihashenk
      A bulldozer is tangible personal property.
    • Clothing is considered to be personal property.
      By: Cheyenne
      Clothing is considered to be personal property.