CLA-2 RR:TC:MM 959493 JAS
Kenneth A. Cutshaw, Esq.
Smith, Gambrell & Russell
3343 Peachtree Road, N.E., Suite 1800
Atlanta, GA 30326-1010
RE: Wood-Burning Fireplace and Cookstove for Heating and Cooking; Unassembled Articles Including Cut Soapstone, Cast Iron Firedoor and Grate, Mortar, Metal Clips; Fireplace Kit;
Articles of Building Stone, Heading 6802, Articles of Soapstone, Chapter 68, Note 1(d); Articles of Precious or Semiprecious Stones, Heading 7116, Chapter 71, Note 1;
Dear Mr. Cutshaw:
In your letter of July 17, 1996, on behalf of Tulikivi USA,
you inquire as to the tariff classification of the Tulikivi, a
natural-stone wood burning fireplace and cookstove from Finland.
Descriptive literature and samples of the stone were submitted.
You presented additional arguments at a meeting in our office on
December 12, 1996, which were confirmed in submissions dated
December 17 and 18, 1996.
The Tulikivi designates a series of wood-burning fireplaces
and cookstoves of the type used in the home. They are shipped
unassembled, in kit form, and weigh between 2450 and 7000 lbs.
Each kit consist of individually cut blocks of natural stone,
wrought iron and glass fire chamber door, grate, ashpan, gauge,
metal clips, mortar and mineral wool insulation. The stone
blocks are of a talc-based mineral known commercially as steatite
or soapstone. The literature states that the soapstone provides
a soft gray color and pleasing luster. It is luxurious to the
touch and easily customized into a variety of designs. In
addition, soapstone absorbs, retains and radiates heat as well or
better than ordinary masonry brick.
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You cite several administrative rulings in which Customs has
classified articles of soapstone in a provision of Chapter 71,
Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), covering
articles of semiprecious stones. You maintain that this is
incorrect, as soapstone is a semiprecious stone only when used in
jewelry, but not when used as a building material. You contend
that the merchandise in issue is more appropriately provided for
in HTS heading 6802, as worked building stone and articles
thereof. You have also submitted rulings from other Customs
administrations purporting to support this classification.
The provisions under consideration are as follows:
6802 Worked monumental or building stone...and articles thereof...:
6802.99.00 Other stone...6.5 percent ad valorem
* * * *
7116.20 Articles Of precious or semiprecious stones:
Of precious or semiprecious stones (except rock crystal):
7116.20.40 Other...16.8 percent ad valorem
Whether fireplaces and cookstoves, of soapstone, base metal
and glass are goods of heading 6802.
LAW AND ANALYSIS:
Merchandise is classifiable under the Harmonized Tariff
Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) in accordance with the
General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs). GRI 1 states in part
that for legal purposes, classification shall be determined
according to the terms of the headings and any relative section
or chapter notes, and provided the headings or notes do not
require otherwise, according to GRIs 2 through 6.
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The Harmonized Commodity Description And Coding System
Explanatory Notes (ENs) constitute the official interpretation of
the Harmonized System. While not legally binding on the
contracting parties, and therefore not dispositive, the ENs
provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the
Harmonized System and are thus useful in ascertaining the
classification of merchandise under the System. Customs believes
the ENs should always be consulted. See T.D. 89-80. 54 Fed. Reg.
35127, 35128 (Aug. 23, 1989).
Subject to certain exceptions not relevant here, all
articles consisting wholly or partly of semiprecious stones
(natural, synthetic or reconstructed) are to be classified in
Chapter 71. See Chapter 71, Note 1, HTSUS. Soapstone or
steatite, which are commercial designations for the mineral talc,
are listed in the Annex to the Explanatory Notes for Chapter 71
and, therefore, are considered semiprecious stones of that
chapter. Chapter 68 does not cover articles of Chapter 71. See
Chapter 68, Note 1(d), HTSUS. Therefore, Customs has been of the
opinion that if soapstone (steatite) wood-burning fireplaces and
cookstoves are provided for in heading 7116, or in any other
heading of chapter 71, they must be classified there, and cannot
be classified in heading 6802. However, we now note that the
expression "worked monumental or building stone" for purposes of
heading 6802 includes steatite, among other types of natural
stone. See Chapter 68, Note 2, HTSUS. Thus, heading 6802
provides, among other things, for worked monumental or building
stone of steatite.
In this regard, relevant ENs for heading 6802 state, in part
at p. 897, that the heading covers stone which has been further
processed than mere shaping into blocks, sheets or slabs by
splitting, roughly cutting or squaring, or squaring by sawing.
The heading thus covers stone in the forms produced by the stone-mason, sculptor, etc.; for example, stone of any shape, whether
or not in the form of finished articles, which has been bossed
(i.e., given a "rock faced" finish by smoothing along the edges
while leaving rough protuberant faces), dressed with the pick,
bushing hammer, or chisel, etc., furrowed with the drag-comb,
etc., planed, sand dressed, ground, polished, chamfered, moulded,
turned, ornamented, carved, etc.
It is now our opinion that if a natural stone of steatite or
soapstone qualifies as a worked monumental or building stone of
that mineral, it is not excluded from Chapter 68. This position
is expressed in HQ 960193, dated April 21, 1997, which expressly
revoked NY 811779, dated July 5, 1995, and - 4 -
HQ 958353, dated November 2, 1995, which you cite. These
decisions had classified substantially similar merchandise in
provisions of 7116.
In this case, the Tulikivi fireplaces and cookstoves are
imported unassembled, in kit form, and consist in the main of
individual pieces of soapstone of different sizes designed to be
assembled together to create the exterior and interior
configuration, but in any event processed as described in the
cited ENs. Accordingly, the merchandise is provided for in
Under the authority of GRI 1, the Tulikivi fireplaces and
cookstoves, imported unassembled as described, are provided for
in heading 6802. They are classifiable in subheading 6802.99.00,
HTSUS. The rate of duty is 6.5 percent ad valorem.
John Durant, Director