CLA-2 CO:R:C:G 084960 DC
Ms. Rosalyn Alberdi
A.J. Arango, Inc.
P.O. Box 3007
Tampa, Florida 33601
RE: Tariff classification of leather attache cases
Dear Ms. Alberdi:
Your letter dated June 2, 1989, addressed to our New York
office concerning the tariff classification of leather attache
cases made in Taiwan, has been referred to this office for a
direct reply to you. Samples were submitted for examination.
The attache case designated as style M142 is fitted on the
inside with various stationery items such as a ruler, stapler,
staples, pen, pencil and eraser, etc. The case designated as
style 71D175 is empty. You have informed us that the outer
surfaces of the attache cases are not coated. We have been
informed by our chemists that the leather surfaces on these
attache cases are covered with a polyurethane plastic coating
that is 0.333 mm thick.
What material constitutes the outer surfaces of the attache
Does the attache case fitted with various stationery items
constitute a set for tariff purposes?
LAW AND ANALYSIS:
In applying the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United
States Annotated (HTSUSA), the Customs Service must follow the
terms of the statute. Classification of goods under the HTSUSA
is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's).
GRI 1 provides that "classification shall be determined according
to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter
notes, and, provided such headings or notes do not otherwise
require, according to [the remaining GRI's taken in order]. In
other words, classification is governed first by the terms of the
headings of the tariff and any relative section or chapter notes.
In Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 082803 dated
December 26, 1988, the term "outer surface" was defined as that
surface which is both visible and tactile. However, since that
ruling concerned plastic coated textiles, it is not controlling
As stated in HRL 081839 dated July 6, 1988, "[t]he
definition of patent leather sets guidelines as to whether coated
leather is plastic or leather." Acknowledging the fact that the
ruling involved a determination as to the "exterior surface" of a
plastic coated leather upper under Chapter 64, it is nonetheless,
our position that the same test should be applied to plastic
coated leather attache cases.
The Explanatory Notes constitute the official interpretation
of the HTSUSA at the international level. Explanatory Note 41.09
(1) defines patent leather as "leather coated or covered with a
varnish or lacquer or with a pre-formed sheet of plastics and
which has a lustrous mirror-like surface." Under this
definition, patent leather is considered to be of leather if the
plastic coating does not exceed 0.15mm [6/100 inch] thick, and as
plastic if over that thickness.
In this instance the plastic coating exceeds 0.15 mm in
thickness. Thus, the outer surfaces of the sample attache cases
are considered plastic for tariff purposes.
GRI 3, HTSUSA, governs the classification of sets. Its
relevant portions provide as follows:
3. When by application of rule 2(b) or for any other
reason, goods are, prima facie, classifiable under two
or more headings, classification shall be effected as
(a) the heading which provides the most specific
description shall be preferred to headings
providing a more general description. However,
when two or more headings each refer to * * *
part only of the items in a set put up for
retail sale, those headings are to be regarded
as equally specific in relation to those goods,
even if one gives a more complete or precise
description of the goods.
(b) Mixtures, composite goods consisting of
different materials or made up of different
components, and goods put up in sets for retail
sale, which cannot be classified by reference to
3(a), shall be classified as if they consisted
of the material or component which gives them
their essential character, insofar as this
criterion is applicable.
The Explanatory Note to GRI 3 (b), provides in pertinent
part as follows:
(VIII) The 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
(X) For the purposes of this Rule, the term "goods
put up in sets for retail sale" shall be taken
to mean goods which:
(a) consist of at least two different articles
which are, prima facie, classifiable in
different headings. Therefore, for
example, six fondue forks cannot be
regarded as a set within the meaning of
(b) consist of products or articles put up
together to meet a particular need or carry
out a specific activity; and
(c) are put up in a manner suitable for sale
directly to users without repacking (e.g.,
in boxes or cases or on boards).
The attache case M142 and the fitted stationery articles are
prima facie, classifiable in different headings.
The attache case with the fitted stationery items have been
put together to meet a particular need. Specifically, stationery
items are quite often needed at business meetings or while
traveling and the case provides a convenient holder for them.
The various stationery articles fitted to the inside cover
of the case are put up in a manner suitable for retail sale
directly to users without repacking.
In view of the foregoing, it is our view that the attache
case with the fitted stationery items constitutes a set for
tariff purposes. However, in order to classify this merchandise
we must determine that which imparts the essential character to
the merchandise. The attache case is the container for the
various stationery items. It is apparent that the cost of the
attache case far exceeds the cost of the stationery items. That
fact in itself is not indicative of essential character.
However, it is our position that the attache case imparts the
essential character to the combination due to its role in the use
of the stationery items. It greatly facilitates the use of the
stationery items in particular situations and also provides a
convenient storage for these items when they are not needed.
The attache case is also the component of the set which has more
consumer appeal than the stationery items contained therein.
The attache cases are classifiable under subheading
4202.12.2030, HTSUSA, as attache cases with outer surface of
plastics and dutiable at the rate 20 percent ad valorem.
John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division
6cc AD NY Seaport
1cc Kevin Gorman NY Seaport