CLA-2 RR:CR:GC 963156 HMC

Mr. Thomas W. Phalen
345 Encinal Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

RE: Plantronics Vista Universal Amplifier M12 ; Audio-Frequency Electric Amplifiers.

Dear Mr. Phalen:

This is in response to your letter to the Customs National Commodity Specialist Division, New York, dated July 19, 1999, regarding the tariff classification of the Plantronics Vista Universal Amplifier, Model M12, under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). Your letter was forwarded to this office for a reply. In preparing this ruling, consideration was given to your submissions, dated September 13 and 15, 1999.


The merchandise is the Plantronics Vista Universal Amplifier, Model M12, (“M12") that connects to a telephone and allows a headset to be used instead of a handset for hands-free communication. The M12 plugs into either a single line or multi-line telephone. It has three dials for switching from the handset to the headset, for volume control and for mute control. The M12 enables a line telephone signal to be transmitted to the telephone headset and from the headset back to the telephone. Company literature describes the M12 as a professional quality headset amplifier intended for all telephones with modular handset ports. The literature states that it is based on the Ultra IC and serves as an interface between a 4-wire telephone handset port and a headset capsule. It has transmit and receive channels which provide important features, such as Transmit Voice Expansion and automatic gain control.

The HTSUS provisions under consideration are as follows:

8517 Electrical apparatus for line telephony or line telegraphy, including line telephone sets with cordless handsets and telecommunication apparatus for carrier-current line systems or for digital line systems; videophones; parts thereof: 8517.80 Other apparatus: 8517.80.10 Telephonic

* * * *

8517.90 Parts: Other: Other: For telephonic apparatus: 8517.90.64 Other

* * * *

8518 Microphones and stands therefor; loudspeakers, whether or not mounted in their enclosures; headphones, earphones and combined microphone/speaker sets; audio-frequency electric amplifiers; electric sound amplifiers sets; parts thereof: 8518.40 Audio-frequency electric amplifiers: 8518.40.20 Other


Whether the M12 is classifiable as other apparatus, telephonic under subheading 8517.80.10, HTSUS; other parts for telephonic apparatus under subheading 8517.90.64, HTSUS; or, other audio frequency electric amplifiers under subheading 8518.40.20, HTSUS.

LAW AND ANALYSIS: Merchandise is classifiable under the 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. GRI 6 states that the classification of goods in the subheadings of a heading shall be determined according to the terms of those subheadings and any related subheading notes and, mutatis mutandis, to the above rules, on the understanding that only subheadings at the same level are comparable. For the purposes of this rule, the relative section, chapter and subchapter notes also apply, unless the context otherwise requires.

You state that the product is an adapter for a line telephone, which converts and enhances telephone signals. It enables a telephone headset to function with a telephone. You explain that the most important feature of the M12 is the interface function to the host phone and that the primary function is to modify and relay the telephone signal onto the headset and take the headset signal, modify it and relay it back to the telephone. You further state that the M12 also performs the additional function of amplification.

Note 3 to Section XVI, states that

Unless the context otherwise requires, composite machines consisting of two or more machines fitted together to form a whole and other machines adapted for the purpose of performing two or more complementary or alternative functions are to be classified as if consisting only of that component or as being that machine which performs the principal function.

The Harmonized Commodity Description And Coding System Explanatory Notes (EN’s) constitute the official interpretation of the Harmonized system. While not legally binding on the contracting parties, and therefore not dispositive, the EN’s 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 EN’s should always be consulted. See T.D. 8980, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (Aug. 23, 1989).

General EN (VI) to Section XVI, at page 1226, states that “[i]n general, multi-function machines are classified according to the principal function of the machine.” The EN further states that “[w]here it is not possible to determine the principal function, and where, as provided in Note 3 to the Section, the context does not otherwise require, it is necessary to apply General Interpretative Rule 3(c).”

The M12 is designed to adapt a headset to a telephone for hands-free communication. The merchandise performs this function by modifying and relaying telephone signals when the user turns a switch. We thus find that the M12 performs the principal function of adapting a telephone signal. This function is described by heading 8517, HTSUS.

EN 85.17, at page 1472, indicates that

The term “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 or of an optical wave flowing in a metallic or dielectric (copper, optical fibres, combination cable, etc.) circuit connecting the transmitting station to the receiving station.

The heading covers all such electrical apparatus designed for this purpose, including the special apparatus used for carrier-current line systems.

Within heading 8517, HTSUS, the articles are not described in any of the subheadings preceding subheading 8517.80, HTSUS (i.e., they are not telephone sets or videophones, facsimile machines and teleprinters, or other apparatus for carrier-current line systems or for digital line systems; according to EN 8517, they also are not included within subheading 8517.30, as telephone or telegraphic switching apparatus). They are described in subheading 8517.80, as “other apparatus” of heading 8517.

You argue that the merchandise is classifiable under subheading 8517.90, HTSUS, which provides for other parts for telephonic apparatus. Pursuant to Note 2(a), Section XVI (which includes Chapters 84 and 85, HTSUS), HTSUS, parts which are goods included in any of the headings of Chapters 84 and 85 are in all cases to be classified in their respective headings. Applying this Note at the subheading level (see GRI 6), even if the merchandise is a part (which we do not address because such a determination is unnecessary for the proper tariff classification of the merchandise), because the articles are included in subheading 8517.80, HTSUS, they may not be classified as parts in subheading 8517.90, HTSUS, as you propose. Therefore, it is our view that the articles are classified as electrical apparatus for line telephony or line telegraphy, other apparatus, telephonic, in subheading 8517.80.10, HTSUS.


The Plantronics Vista Universal Amplifier, Model M12, is described by heading 8517, HTSUS. It is classifiable under subheading 8517.80.10, HTSUS, as “Electrical apparatus for line telephony or line telegraphy, including line telephone sets with cordless handsets and telecommunication apparatus for carrier-current line systems or for digital line systems; videophones; parts thereof: Other apparatus: Telephonic.”


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division