CLA-2 CO:R:C:M 957284 DWS

Ms. Rosemarie Smallcombe
Manager, Corporate Customs
Varian Associates, Inc.
P.O. Box 10800
Palo Alto, CA 94303-0883

RE: Spectrometer Subassemblies; Explanatory Notes 90.27(5) and 3(b)(VIII); Unfinished Spectrometers; GRI 2(a); Daisy-Heddon, Div. Victor Comptometer Cor. v. U.S.; 9027.90.55

Dear Ms. Smallcombe:

This is in response to your letter of September 30, 1994, to the Regional Commissioner of Customs, New York, concerning the classification of spectrometer subassemblies under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). Your letter was referred to this office for a response.


The merchandise consists of spectrometer subassemblies which will be manufactured in Australia. They will be imported into the U.S. and, with separate components, will be assembled into complete spectrometers. The spectrometers which will be created are Atomic Absorption (AA) spectrometers, Ultraviolet-Visible-Near Infrared (UV-VIS-NIR) spectrometers, and Inductively Coupled Plasma-Atomic Emission Spectroscopy (ICP-AES) spectrometers. The AA and ICP- AES spectrometers share similar applications such as in pollution control and the clinical testing of blood, urine, and other biological materials. The UV-VIS-NIR spectrometers have a wider range of applications such as DNA analysis, reaction monitoring, and other optical testing.

Spectrometers contain various components: a source of radiation, a monochromator, a sample holder, a detector, and a readout device. The source of radiation for the AA and UV-VIS-NIR spectrometers is a lamp; whereas the source of radiation for the ICP-AES spectrometer is gas plasma. The source may be set at one wavelength or at many wavelengths. The intensity of the source is controlled by printed circuit boards (PCBs). Wavelength control is achieved by the monochromator which focuses a broad band of light to one wavelength. The monochromator consists of various optical elements such as mirrors and diffraction grating, which are precisely positioned in the subassemblies prior to importation into the U.S. The sample holder is used to present the sample to the spectrometer. The detector detects the element or substance which is being analyzed and, for all the subject type of spectrometers, is a photomultiplier tube. It is supported by PCBs. The readout device is a personal computer with specially designed software packages.

The subassemblies are optical chassis which are comprised of a metal housing (which will become the spectrometer cover when the unit is fully assembled in the U.S.), the monochromator containing the essential optical elements, fans, motors, mechanical devices which adjust the optical elements, gas control systems (for the AA and ICP-AES spectrometers), and wiring to link the components.

The sources, detectors, PCBs, and personal computers will be added to the subassemblies in the U.S. to form complete spectrometers. The sources, detectors, and personal computers will be purchased from U.S. and Japanese suppliers, and the PCBs will be constructed in the U.S.

The subheadings under consideration are as follows:

9027.30.40: [i]nstruments and apparatus for physical or chemical analysis (for example, . . . spectrometers, . . .); . . . : [s]pectrometers, spectrophotometers and spectrographs using optical radiations (ultraviolet, visible, infrared): [e]lectrical.

The general, column one rate of duty for goods classifiable under this provision is 4.9 percent ad valorem.

9027.90.55: . . . : [p]arts and accessories: [o]f electrical instruments and apparatus: [o]ther: [o]ther.

The general, column one rate of duty for goods classifiable under this provision is 4.9 percent ad valorem.


Whether the spectrometer subassemblies are unfinished spectrometers classifiable under subheading 9027.30.40, HTSUS, or as parts of spectrometers classifiable under subheading 9027.90.55, HTSUS.


Classification of merchandise under the HTSUS is in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's). GRI 1 provides that classification is determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes. In understanding the language of the HTSUS, the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes may be utilized. The Explanatory Notes, although not dispositive or legally binding, provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the HTSUS, and are generally indicative of the proper interpretation of these headings. See T.D. 89-80, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (August 23, 1989). In part, Explanatory Note 90.27(5) (p. 1514) states that:

[t]his heading includes:

(1) - (4) xxx

(5) Spectrometers. These instruments are used to measure the wave-lengths of emission and absorption spectra. They consist essentially of an adjustable slit collimator (through which the beam of light to be analysed passes), one or more adjustable prisms, a telescope and a prism table. Some spectrometers (particularly those used for infra-red or ultra-violet rays) are fitted with prisms or with diffraction gratings. . .

GRI 2(a) states that:

[a]ny reference in a heading to an article shall be taken to include a reference to that article incomplete or unfinished, provided that, as entered, the incomplete or unfinished article has the essential character of the complete or finished article. It shall also include a reference to that article complete or finished (or falling to be classified as complete or finished by virtue of this rule), entered unassembled or disassembled.

You claim that because the subassemblies are missing the source of radiation, detector, PCBs, and personal computers, they cannot be classifiable as unfinished spectrometers but are classifiable as parts of spectrometers. It is your principal argument that without these components, which consist of over half the cost of complete spectrometers, the subassemblies are incapable of operating as complete spectrometers and are therefore substantially incomplete articles. You cite Daisy-Heddon, Div. Victor Comptometer Cor. v. U.S., 66 CCPA 97, C.A.D. 1228, 600 F.2d 799 (1979), which has interpreted the Tariff Schedules of the United States (TSUS), the precursor to the HTSUS, to demonstrate the criteria necessary for an article to be unfinished.

Decisions under the TSUS are not dispositive in interpreting the HTSUS. However, on a case-by-case basis they should be considered instructive in interpreting the HTSUS, particularly where the nomenclature previously interpreted in those decisions remains unchanged and no dissimilar interpretation is required by the text of the HTSUS. H. Conf. Rep. No. 576, p.550.

Cases such as Daisy-Heddon are not instructive in the classification of articles under the HTSUS, because, as a result of GRI 2(a), a dissimilar interpretation is required by the text of the HTSUS. GRI 2(a) calls for an "essential character" test and not a "substantially complete" test. The criteria of Daisy-Heddon is not used in classifying goods under the HTSUS.

The definition of essential character is provided for in Explanatory Note 3(b)(VIII) (p. 4). It states that:

[t]he factor which determines essential character will vary as between different kinds of goods. It may, for example, be determined by the nature of the material or component, its bulk, quantity, weight or value, or by the role of a constituent material in relation to the use of the goods.

Based upon the information provided, it is our position that the subject subassemblies impart the essential character of finished spectrometers. It is our understanding that the components (the monochromator) of the subassemblies, which contain the precision optics essential for analyzing samples, perform the actual function of the spectrometers, which is physical analysis. The subassemblies are dedicated for use with spectrometers, and the optics are precisely set in the subassemblies prior to importation. You state that the subassemblies lack any of the control components necessary for use as spectrometers, and that these capabilities lie in the components added in the U.S. (the personal computers and PCBs). The test is not whether the subassemblies perform as if they were finished spectrometers, but whether they impart the essential character of finished spectrometers. We find that the subassemblies perform a primary role in relation to the use of finished spectrometers, and therefore impart the essential character of those articles.

Therefore, the subject subassemblies are classifiable under subheading 9027.30.40, HTSUS.


The spectrometer subassemblies are unfinished spectrometers classifiable under subheading 9027.30.40, HTSUS.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division