CLA-2 RR:CR:GC 962564 gah
U.S. Customs Service
110 South 4th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55401
RE: circuit card assemblies, IA 35/98
Dear Port Director:
This is in reply to your memorandum, dated December 24, 1998, (CLA-1-01:MN:PD JAS) forwarding a request for internal advice on the classification, under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), of certain circuit card assemblies for the RS3 Distributed Process Control System submitted by counsel on behalf of Fisher-Rosemount Systems, Inc. on June 19, 1998. This reply also considers a supplemental submission made by counsel on May 25, 1999. We regret the delay in responding.
The merchandise at issue is a series of circuit card assemblies that which are used in a supervisory control and data acquisition system which oversees and regulates the operation of process control apparatus and programmable logic controllers. NY ruling 803970, dated December 2, 1994, classified the complete system under subheading 8543.80.95 (current subheading 8543.89.96), HTSUS, which provides for other electrical machines and apparatus, having an individual function, not specified or included elsewhere in chapter 85. The design of the RS3 System incorporates two-way communications between the process management system and smart instruments and field devices. Connecting the System equipment and field devices in an Ethernet network effects communications.
The circuit card assemblies at issue are as follows:
analog input board
analog output board
digital input board
digital output board
coordinator processor board
multipurpose controller board
non-volatile RAM board
peerway buffer board
operator interface processor card
keyboard interface card
printer interface card
video processor card
communications interface card
hard drive/tape drive interface card
main processor card
peerway interface card
non-volatile memory card
marshalling and termination panel
Are the circuit card assemblies properly classified in heading 8517, HTSUS, as electrical apparatus for digital line systems; in heading 8537, HTSUS, as boards equipped with two or more apparatus of heading 8535 or 8536, for electric control or distribution of electricity and numerical control apparatus other than switching apparatus of heading 8517; or in heading 8543, HTSUS, as electrical machines and apparatus, having individual functions, not specified or included elsewhere in chapter 85?
LAW AND ANALYSIS:
Classification of merchandise under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) is in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI). GRI 1 provides that classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes. Merchandise that cannot be classified in accordance with GRI 1 is to be classified in accordance with subsequent GRI.
The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (EN) constitute the official interpretation of the Harmonized System at the international level. While neither legally binding nor dispositive, the ENs 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 FR 35127, 35128 (August 23, 1989).
Heading 8517 covers, in pertinent part, electrical apparatus for digital line systems. The EN to the heading indicates that electrical apparatus for line telephony or line telegraphy means apparatus for the transmission between two points of speech or other sounds (or of symbols representing written messages, images or other data), by variation of an electric current…connecting the transmitting station to the receiving station. The input-output boards, the operator interface processor card, the communications interface card, the main and other processor cards, the peerway interface card and the non-volatile memory card each transmit communication signals and electrical power to and from units of the RS3 Control System. The operations performed are signal conversion, signal transmission and reception, and supply of power to field devices. Thus, card assemblies numbered 1-4, 9, 13 and 15-18 are classified in subheading 8517.50.90, as other apparatus, for carrier-current or digital line systems.
Heading 8543 covers electrical machines and apparatus, having individual functions, not specified or included elsewhere in chapter 85, and parts thereof. As noted above, in NY 803970 Customs classified the complete RS3 System, with all of its controllers, instruments and field devices, in subheading 8543.80.95, current subheading 8543.89.96, HTSUS. The coordinator processor board, multipurpose controller board, non-volatile RAM board, peerway buffer board, keyboard interface card, printer interface card, video processor card and hard drive/tape drive interface card each perform several functions, such as processing and storing information in one or more of these units of the RS3 System. Their functions are not fully described by any other heading within chapter 85. Thus, card assemblies numbered 5 through 8, 10 through 12 and 14 are classified in subheading 8543. 90.68, HTSUS, as parts of electrical machines and apparatus, having individual functions, not specified or included elsewhere, other printed circuit assemblies.
Heading 8537 covers, in pertinent part, boards, panels, consoles… equipped with two or more apparatus of heading no. 8535 or 8536, for electric control or the distribution of electricity, … and numerical control apparatus, other than switching apparatus of heading 8517. By reference to headings 8535 and 8536, heading 8537 incorporates electrical apparatus for switching or protecting electrical circuits, or for making connections to or in electrical circuits. The EN to heading 8537 indicates that the drafters of the Harmonized System contemplated heading 8537 to cover assemblies of apparatus individually classified in heading 8535 and 8536 placed on a board, panel, console or otherwise.
Counsel for Fisher-Rosemount advocates that the marshalling and termination panel (number 19) and the “motherboard” (number 20) are more specifically provided for as parts of apparatus of heading 8543 than as apparatus of heading 8537. Counsel contends that these assemblies are designed specifically for use in that System, are essential components of the System, and should be considered parts of the entire RS3 System.
We do not believe these two boards are parts of the complete System, so advanced in character that they have lost their identity as distributors of electricity. Their principal purpose is to accept electrical signals and direct the flow of those signals according to the needs of the System. The termination and marshalling panel, card assembly (number 19), receives analog signals from the field devices and forwards them to other devices in the RS3 System. The “motherboard”, circuit card assembly number 20, transfers high-speed and low-speed digital signals among the printed circuit assemblies and cables in the RS3 System. Both of these boards thus control the transmission or distribution of electricity, that is, digital signals. They are classifiable in subheading 8537.10.90, as boards for electrical distribution for a voltage not exceeding 1,000 volts, other.
The circuit card assemblies, keyed to their number set forth in the facts, for the RS3 System are classified as follows: input-output boards (1-4), operator interface processor card (9), communications interface card (13), main and other processor cards (15-16), peerway interface card (17), and non-volatile memory card (18) are classified in subheading 8517.50.90, HTSUS, which provides for other electrical apparatus, for carrier-current or digital line systems, other, telegraphic, other. The coordinator processor board (5), multipurpose controller board (6), non-volatile RAM board (7), peerway buffer board (8), keyboard interface card (10), printer interface card (11), video processor card (12) and hard drive/tape drive interface card (14) are classified in subheading 8543. 90.68, HTSUS, which provides for parts of electrical machines and apparatus, having individual functions, not specified or included elsewhere in chapter 85, other, printed circuit assemblies, other. The termination and marshalling panel (19) and motherboard (20) are classified in subheading 8537.10.90, HTSUS, which provides for boards, panels… for electrical control or the distribution of electricity, and numerical control apparatus, other than switching apparatus of heading 8517, for a voltage not exceeding 1,000 V, other, other, panel boards and distribution boards.
John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division