CLA-2 OT: RR: CTF: TCM H273340 MAB
Mr. Jon Fee
Alston & Bird LLP
The Atlantic Building
950 F Street, NW
Washington, DC 20004-1404
RE: Tariff Classification of a Textile Cover
Dear Mr. Fee:
This is in reply to your letter dated December 22, 2015, to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) National Commodity Specialist Division (NCSD) in New York, on behalf of your client, Culp, Inc. (Culp). Therein, you sought a binding ruling regarding the tariff classification of a textile cover, under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). Your request was forwarded to this office for a response. One sample of the textile was provided to this office and is being returned with this ruling. This ruling also takes into account information provided at CBP’s meeting with Counsel and Culp’s officers held on June 28, 2016.
The subject merchandise is a textile cover. It is made in several sizes, (e.g., single, double, queen, or king). It is comprised of polyester and acrylic fibers, and the side and bottom panels of wrap knit, velvet, printed, punched fabric of polyester fibers. It is specially cut and sewn so that post-importation, it can be fitted onto and attached with staples to a frame constructed of wood, heavy-gauge steel wire, slotted steel corner pieces and a top layer of nonwoven batting made from textile fiber. The wooden frame does not contain springs or wire mesh. The frame provides reinforcement and rigidity for a mattress of equivalent size (e.g., single, double, queen, or king) which is placed directly on top of the foundation when it is in use. Although the wooden frame could sit directly on the ground or floor when it is in use, it lacks legs or other features to protect the flooring beneath it.
In its submission, Culp argues that the textile cover is properly classified as a part of furniture, specifically bedroom furniture, in heading 9403, HTSUS.
Whether a textile cover for a wooden frame upon which a mattress sits is considered a part of wooden bedroom furniture of heading 9403, HTSUS, or whether it is an other made up article of fabric of heading 6307, HTSUS.
LAW AND ANALYSIS:
Classification under the HTSUS is made in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI). GRI 1 provides that the classification of goods shall be determined according to the terms of the headings of the tariff schedule and any relative Section of Chapter Notes. In the event that the goods cannot be classified solely on the basis of GRI 1, and if the headings and legal notes do not otherwise require, the remaining GRIs may then be applied.
The HTSUS headings discussed herein are the following:
6307 Other made up articles, including dress patterns:
9403 Other furniture and parts thereof:
9403.90.60 Of textile material, except cotton
9404 Mattress supports; articles of bedding and similar furniture (for example, mattresses, quilts, eiderdowns, cushions, pouffes and pillows) fitted with springs or stuffed or internally fitted with any material or of cellular rubber or plastics, whether or not covered:
9404.10.0000 Mattress supports
Note 2 to Chapter 94 states the following, in relevant part:
The articles (other than parts) referred to in headings 9401 to 9403 are to be classified in those headings only if they are designed for placing on the floor or ground.
The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs) constitute the official interpretation of the Harmonized System at the international level. While not legally binding, the ENs provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the Harmonized System and are thus useful in ascertaining the proper classification of merchandise. See T.D. 89-90, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (August 23, 1989).
The General EN to Chapter 94 provides, in relevant part:
This Chapter covers, subject to the exclusions listed in the Explanatory Notes to this Chapter:
All furniture and parts thereof (headings 94.01 to 94.03).
For the purposes of this Chapter, the term “furniture” means:
Any “moveable” articles (not included under other more specific headings of the Nomenclature), which have the essential characteristic that they are constructed for placing on the floor or ground, and which are used, mainly with a utilitarian purpose, to equip private dwellings, hotels…
This Chapter only covers parts, whether or not in the rough, of the goods of headings 94.01 to 94.03 and 94.05, when identifiable by their shape or other specific features as parts designed solely or principally for an article of those headings. They are classified in this Chapter when not more specifically covered elsewhere.
The EN to 94.03 provides in relevant part:
This heading covers furniture and parts thereof, not covered by the previous headings. It includes furniture for general use…and also furniture for special uses.
The heading includes furniture for:
Private dwellings, hotels, etc., such as : cabinets, linen chests, bread chests, log chests; chests of drawers, tallboys; pedestals, plant stands; dressingtables; pedestal tables; wardrobes, linen presses; hall stands, umbrella stands; sideboards, dressers, cupboards; foodsafes; bedside tables; beds (including wardrobe beds, campbeds, folding beds, cots, etc.); needlework tables; stools and foot-stools (whether or not rocking) designed to rest the feet, fire screens; draughtscreens; pedestal ashtrays; music cabinets, music stands or desks; playpens; serving trolleys (whether or not fitted with a hot plate).
This heading does not include:
(n) Mattress supports (heading 94.04)
The EN to 94.04 provides in relevant part:
This heading covers :
(A) Mattress supports, i.e., the sprung part of a bed, normally consisting of a wooden or metal frame fitted with springs or steel wire mesh (spring or wire supports), or of a wooden frame with internal springs and stuffing covered with fabric (mattress bases).
Heading 9404 provides for mattress supports. Heading 9403 provides for other furniture, including wooden bedroom furniture, and parts thereof. The distinguishing characteristic between these two headings is the inclusion of parts. Relevant here, if the subject textile cover is considered a part of furniture then it is classified as a part of that furniture, but if the cover is considered a part of a mattress support, then it is classified elsewhere in the tariff, pursuant to its constituent component. Therefore, the classification of the wooden frame upon which the subject merchandise is attached to post-importation is outcome determinative as to what the classification of the subject textile cover is, i.e. whether it is a part in heading 9403, HTSUS, or whether it is a textile of Chapter 63.
A preliminary element of our analysis is to determine whether the instant textile cover for the wooden frame upon which a mattress sits is considered a “part” of furniture classified in heading 9403, HTSUS. The Courts have adopted two tests for determining whether merchandise may be classified as a part of an article. The first is when the article of which the merchandise in question is claimed to be part of “could not function as such article” without the claimed part. United States v. Willoughby Camera Stores, Inc., 21 C.C.P.A. 322, 231, Treas. Dec. 46851 (1933), see also id at 326 (merchandise is legally a part of another article if that article is “not capable of the use for which it was intended” without the merchandise in question; see also Bauerhin Techs. Ltd. P’ship v. United States, 110 F.3d 774, 778 (Fed. Cir. 1997) (relying on this “oft-quoted passage” of Willoughby.)). Thus, for example, a lens that allows a camera to take colored photos is properly a part of such cameras – without such lens, “cameras could not perform one of their proper functions – the taking of colored pictures,” Willoughby, 21 C.C.P.A. at 326-7. The second test is if, when imported, the claimed part is “dedicated solely for use” in such article and, “when applied to that use,” the claimed part meets the Willoughby test. See Pomeroy Collection Ltd., United States, 783 F. Supp. 2d 1257, 1260 (Ct. Int’t Trade 2011), citing United States v. Pompeo, 43 C.C.P.A. 9, 14 (1955) (see also Bauerhin, 110 F.3d at 779 (“[Willoughby and Pompeo] must be read together.[…] Willoughby [ ] does not address the situation where an imported item is dedicated solely for use with an article. Pompeo addresses that scenario and states that such an item can also be classified as a part.”).
With this framework in mind, with or without Culp’s textile cover attached to it, the wooden frame at issue would function in the same manner, i.e., supporting a mattress of equivalent size. The textile cover is no doubt aesthetically pleasing by covering the structure of the exposed wooden frame, its internal steel wire, and other components; but it does not alter its proper function which is to support a mattress. Culp’s imported fabric is cut and sewn to the size of a standard box spring or other type of mattress foundation, much like a bed skirt. The article as imported is indistinguishable from a bed skirt other than a bed skirt has side panels that drape to the floor with a finishing hem at the bottom. Culp’s mattress cover serves the same purpose as a bed skirt, to cover the box spring or mattress foundation. The fact that Culp staples this particular article to the foundation rather than allow it to hang down to the floor does not distinguish its classification. Despite it being permanently attached to the wooden frame at issue, given its size and functionality, it could be interchangeable with any standard size (e.g., twin, double, queen or king) box spring or mattress support on the market. The instant textile cover is a made up textile article classified in heading 6307, HTSUS.
Assuming, arguendo, Culp’s textile cover were considered a “part” of the wooden frame at issue, it would only be a part of furniture if the wooden frame itself is furniture of heading 9403, HTSUS. The General ENs to Chapter 94 state, in relevant part, with regard to the meaning of furniture at subpart (A): “For the purposes of this Chapter, the term “furniture” means: Any “moveable” articles (not included under other more specific headings of the Nomenclature), which have the essential characteristic that they are constructed for placing on the floor or ground, and which are used, mainly with a utilitarian purpose, to equip private dwellings…”. See also Note 2 to Chapter 94. In HQ 964352, dated September 11, 2000, Customs cited The Random House Dictionary of the English Language (1973), which defines the word “equip” as meaning: “To furnish or provide with whatever is needed for service or for any undertaking.” A bed is a piece of furniture, commonly understood to equip a bedroom with a place to lie, sleep, or relax. Further, the ENs to heading 9403, HTSUS, list “beds” as one exemplar included under the category of furniture.
A platform bed is a base consisting of a frame with a head and foot board, as well as slats (usually wooden), or a lattice structure of some kind that is meant to support just a mattress, without the aid of a box spring like a traditional bed needs. A platform bed sits directly on the ground as does a traditional bed, though it is lower to the ground than a traditional, non-platform bed. Despite these differences, a platform bed is considered furniture, specifically, bedroom furniture, of heading 9403, HTSUS, and this comports with the ENs which clarifies what is considered “furniture” for purposes of heading 9403. CBP has previously held exactly this: when a good is a platform bed or is akin to one, then it is classified in heading 9403, HTSUS, as furniture. See NY N036744, dated September 4, 2008 (classifying a wooden bed foundation that sits on the floor, and needs only a mattress to be a complete bed); and see NY N187630, dated October 24, 2011; NY N004211, dated December 18, 2006. Furthermore, platform beds comport with Note 2 to Chapter 94, insofar as they are placed directly on the ground or floor when in use, meaning they are properly classified in heading 9403, HTSUS.
Mattress supports are not considered “furniture” for tariff classification purposes, not least because they are listed eo nomine in heading 9404, HTSUS, but also because they do not comport with the other requirements for furniture of heading 9403. They are not designed to be placed directly on the floor or ground when in use. See Note 2 to Chapter 94. They do not “equip” a private dwelling. Finally, pursuant to the ENs, they are excluded from classification in heading 9403, HTSUS. See EN 94.03 (n).
The frame upon which the subject merchandise is affixed post-importation, is wooden and features wooden slats. It is internally fitted with wire supports. It is designed in this manner so as to support a mattress on top of it. It serves the same purpose as a “box spring”, even though it has rigid wire instead of coiled wire springs. In fact, according to photos submitted with this ruling request, the wooden frame to which Culp’s textile cover attaches, is what is referred to as a “Torsion Module Foundation”. This is a type of foundation designed to help absorb pressure placed on the mattress thorough heavy wires which are bent at 90 degree angles. They are generally more rigid than traditional box springs. Culp’s wooden frame comports with what the EN 94.04 describes as a “mattress support.” Although a consumer may choose to place a mattress support on the floor, there is no indication that the one Culp’s textile cover is attached to is designed to rest directly on the ground or floor when in use. More likely uses are to place it on top of a traditional bed, a platform bed, or to install a “platform bed kit,” which essentially converts a basic box spring or mattress support into a platform bed by fastening frame supports and feet. Unlike the photograph of what Counsel describes as a “similar product” to Culp’s textile cover and its underlying wooden frame (see page two of Counsel’s June 28, 2016, submission), Culp’s wooden frame isn’t raised off the floor by a platform bed kit that protects a wood floor underneath from potential scratches, a carpeted floor from snagged carpet fibers, or other potential damage caused by the staples by which the subject merchandise is affixed to the frame. In other words, the bottom of Culp’s wooden frame does not include any parts or features (e.g., wheels, feet, etc.) indicating that it is designed to rest directly on the ground or floor when in use. Additionally, like a box spring, the wooden frame that Culp’s textile cover is attached to is the same size as any standard mattress it would support and not akin to traditional and platform beds that are typically larger.
In sum, the wooden frame upon which Culp’s textile cover is attached to is not furniture pursuant to the aforementioned definition of furniture, and nor is it a bed, as users do not lie directly on it. Were it imported, the subject wooden frame internally fitted with steel wire would be classified as a mattress support of heading 9404, HTSUS. As such, Culp’s textile component that is affixed to it may not be classified in heading 9403, HTSUS, even if it were a part of furniture. The subject textile cover is classified in heading 6307, HTSUS, as an other made up article.
In its submission, Counsel states that the ENs direct that “mattress supports” must incorporate springs or wire mesh. We disagree. The ENs, which are not legally binding and which are relied upon only to clarify tariff terms, states only that mattress supports “normally” consist of springs or wire mesh.
Counsel also cites HQ H254127, dated May 15, 2015, to support its argument, stating that the wooden frames at issue there are similar to Culp’s. However that ruling classified a textile cover that was affixed to a wooden frame which had legs and was placed directly on the ground or floor when in use. The frame in that case was a platform bed. As such it comported with Note 2 to Chapter 94, and the EN’s definition of “furniture”. That is not the case here.
Counsel next argues as the wooden frame sits on something which sits on the floor, then ipso facto the frame also sits on the floor, for purposes of Note 2. However, this application of the transitive property is misleading. Pursuant to the ENs, furniture are movable articles which furnish and equip a room. They do so because they are placed directly on the floor, as is the case with all the other exemplars listed in the EN 94.03 (1), i.e. cabinets, tables, chests, desks, and the enumerated beds (wardrobe beds, camp-beds, folding beds, cots, etc.). Although the subject frame could sit directly on the floor or ground, it is not specifically designed to do so and is not furniture.
Finally, Counsel argues that Note 2(b) to Chapter 94 supports its position. There, it states, “The following are, however, to be classified in the above-mentioned headings even if they are designed to be hung, to be fixed to the wall or to stand one on the other: …. (b) Seats and beds.” This note is inapplicable. The wooden frame is not standing on top of anything. This note refers, for example, to bunk beds, where one bed is standing on top of another bunk bed. Wooden framed mattress supports do not “stand” on top of bed frames, placing them within the scope of heading 9403, HTSUS.
For these reasons, the subject textile cover is not considered a part of furniture, and is not classified in heading 9403, HTSUS. It is classified as a textile in Chapter 63.
By application of GRI 1, the subject merchandise, textile mattress foundation covers, is classified in heading 6307, HTSUS. It is specifically provided for in subheading 6307.90.9889, HTSUS, which provides for “Other made up articles, including dress patterns: Other: Other: Other: Other: Other.” The 2016 column one, general rate of duty is 7%.
Ieva K. O’Rourke, Chief
Tariff Classification & Marking Branch