CLA-2 RR:CR:TE 965555 jsj

Ms. Kathy M. Belas
James G. Wiley Co.
P.O. Box 90008
Los Angeles, California

Re: Revocation of HQ 964234 (April 23, 2001); “Lunch Tote”; Lunch Box Style Metal Container; Tin-plated Iron or Steel; Subheading 7326.90.1000, HTSUSA.

Dear Ms. Belas:

The purpose of this correspondence is to advise you that the Customs Service has reconsidered Headquarters Ruling Letter (HQ) 964234 (April 23, 2001) issued to you as the customhouse broker of Dorothy Thorpe / Christmas Corner.

Headquarters Ruling Letter 964234 classified a metal container in the shape of traditional school lunch box, only smaller, in subheading 4202.19.0000, HTSUSA. We have reviewed that ruling and found it to be in error. The Customs Service is reclassifying the merchandise in subheading 7326.90.1000, HTSUSA. This ruling, therefore, revokes HQ 964234.

Pursuant to section 625 (c), Tariff Act of 1930, as amended, 19 U.S.C. 1625 (c), notice of the proposed revocation of HQ 964234 was published on June 19, 2002, in the Customs Bulletin, Volume 36, Number 25.


The article subject to this reconsideration is a container that has the shape of a traditional school lunch box, only smaller. It measures seven and one-half (7 1/2) inches in length, three and one-eighth (3 1/8) inches in width and five and one-eighth (5 1/8) inches in height. It is composed of metal believed by the Customs Service to be sheet steel. The initial ruling request indicates that the item is made of tin. Customs is issuing this revocation on the assumption that the article is tin-plated. No laboratory analysis has been performed to determine its precise composition.

The item, described by the broker as a “lunch tote,” has a plastic handle on top that swivels side to side. One side of the item opens and may be secured closed by a latch on the top. Attachments for a shoulder strap are located on the narrow or width sides, one and one-half (1 ½ ) inches from the top. No shoulder straps accompanied the sample. It is not insulated and does not have an accompanying container or interior attachment designed to facilitate the transportation and storage of liquids. The Customs Service has not been advised of the country of manufacture.


What is the classification, pursuant to the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated, of the above-described, tin-plated, steel container with a handle and a latch ?


The federal agency responsible for initially interpreting and applying the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA) is the U.S. Customs Service. The Customs Service, in accordance with its legislative mandate, classifies imported merchandise pursuant to the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI) and the Additional U.S. Rules of Interpretation.

General Rule of Interpretation 1 provides, in part, that classification decisions are to be “determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes.” General Rule of Interpretation 1. General Rule of Interpretation 1 further states that merchandise which cannot be classified in accordance with the dictates of GRI 1 should be classified pursuant to the other General Rules of Interpretation, provided the HTSUSA chapter headings or notes do not require otherwise. According to the Explanatory Notes (EN), the phrase in GRI 1, “provided such headings or notes do not otherwise require,” is intended to “make it quite clear that the terms of the headings and any relative Section or Chapter Notes are paramount.” General Rules for the Interpretation of the Harmonized System, Rule 1, Explanatory Note (V).

The Explanatory Notes constitute the official interpretation of the Harmonized System at the international level. See Joint Explanatory Statement supra note 1, at 549. The Explanatory Notes, although neither legally binding nor dispositive of classification issues, do provide commentary on the scope of each heading of the HTSUS. The EN are generally indicative of the proper interpretation of the headings. See T.D. 89-80, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127-28 (Aug. 23, 1989); Lonza, Inc. v. United States, 46 F. 3rd 1098, 1109 (Fed. Cir. 1995).

Commencing classification of the tin-plated metal container in accordance with the dictates of GRI 1, the Customs Service examined the headings of Chapter 73, Articles of Iron or Steel, of the HTSUSA. Customs concludes the lunch box shaped container subject to this reconsideration is properly classified in heading 7326, HTSUSA, pursuant to GRI 1. Heading 7326, HTSUSA, more specifically than any other heading in the tariff schedule, describes the container.

Customs notes that heading 7326, HTSUSA, which covers “Other articles of iron or steel,” is a residual or basket provision into which merchandise of iron or steel not described by any other heading of Chapter 73 is classified. Although the classification decision arrived at by this office relies on General Rule of Interpretation 1, this determination was made by a process of elimination, only subsequent to considering all of the other headings of Chapter 73, particularly headings 7310, HTSUSA, and 7323, HTSUSA.

Heading 7310, HTSUSA, provides for “Tanks, casks, drums, cans, boxes and similar containers, for any material (other than compressed or liquefied gas), of iron or steel, of a capacity not exceeding 300 liters, whether or not lined or heat insulated, but not fitted with mechanical or thermal equipment.” The EN to heading 7310, HTSUSA, Explanatory Note 73.10, provides an illustrative list of “larger containers,” as well as “smaller containers” that are properly classified in heading 7310, HTSUSA. Explanatory Note 73.10. The smaller containers “include boxes, cans, tins, etc.” and are “mainly used as sales packings for butter, milk, beer, preserves, fruit or fruit juices, biscuits, tea, confectionery, tobacco, cigarettes, shoe cream, medicaments, etc.” Explanatory Note 73.10.

Although the container subject to this reconsideration falls within the EN description of “boxes, cans, tins, etc.,” it is not “mainly used as sales packings.” Explanatory Note 73.10. The container in issue, although it may be used as packing for candy or other merchandise, has uses beyond sales packing. The broker’s submission that accompanied the initial ruling request indicates that the item will function as a lunch box. Customs will not suggest the numerous uses to which this container may be put, but is of the conclusion that this container is significantly distinct from sales packing, precluding its classification in heading 7310, HTSUSA. See generally HQ 963670 (April 12, 2002) (discussing merchandise classified in heading 7310, HTSUSA, and providing a list of precedential Customs Service ruling letters).

Heading 7323, HTSUSA, provides, in pertinent part, for the classification of “Table, kitchen or other household articles and parts thereof, of iron or steel.” The Explanatory Notes to heading 7323, HTSUSA, state that this group “comprises a wide range of iron or steel articles…used for table, kitchen or other household purposes….” Explanatory Note 73.23. The EN further provides an extensive list of articles considered being for kitchen, table and other household uses. See Explanatory Note 73.23. Kitchen articles include items “such as saucepans, steamers…; frying pans…; kettles; colanders; …jelly or pastry moulds;…kitchen storage tins and canisters…funnels.” Explanatory Note 73.23(A)(1). Articles for table use include “trays, dishes, plates…sugar basins, butter dishes…coffee pots…tea pots; cups, mugs…cruets; knife rests;…serviette rings, table cloth clips.” Explanatory Note 73.23(A)(2). Items enumerated as “other household articles” encompass articles such as “wash coppers and boilers; dustbins, buckets…watering cans; ash-trays;…baskets for laundry, fruit, vegetables, etc.; letter-boxes…luncheon boxes.” Explanatory Note 73.23(A)(3).

It is the conclusion of the Customs Service, subsequent to a review of this list, that the “lunch tote” container subject to this reconsideration is not analogous to the above articles. Merchandise properly classified in heading 7323, HTSUSA, is limited in scope to table, kitchen or other household articles made of iron or steel. The container under review in this reconsideration may not reasonably be described as a table, kitchen or household article. See generally HQ 956218 (Aug. 23, 1994), New York Ruling Letter (NY) C88472 (June 24, 1998), NY 813291 (Aug. 23, 1995) and NY 808180 (Mar. 24, 1995). The container subject to this reconsideration may be used around the home, but it is not designed nor specifically intended for table, kitchen or household use, precluding classification in heading 7323, HTSUSA.

It is Customs determination that the heading that is most descriptive of the lunch box style container is heading 7326, HTSUSA. Heading 7326, HTSUSA, provides very simply for “Other articles of iron or steel.” Heading 7326, HTSUSA, as previously stated is a residual provision and encompasses the classification of “all iron or steel articles…other than articles included in the preceding headings of this Chapter or …more specifically covered elsewhere in the Nomenclature.” Explanatory Note 73.26.

Understanding that heading 7326, HTSUSA, is a residual or basket provision into which all merchandise properly classified in Chapter 73, HTSUSA, falls by default when a more descriptive heading in the chapter does not exist, the variety of iron or steel merchandise that is properly classified in heading 7326, HTSUSA, is broad. This is confirmed by a further reading of the Explanatory Notes. The Explanatory Note that corresponds to heading 7326, HTSUSA, Explanatory Note 73.26, offers an extensive listing of merchandise that is classified in heading 7326, HTSUSA.

Explanatory Note 73.26 (3) provides that heading 7326, HTSUSA, covers “Certain boxes and cases, e.g., tool boxes or cases, not specially shaped or internally fitted to contain particular tools with or without their accessories (see the Explanatory Note to heading 42.02); botanists’, etc., collection or specimen cases, trinket boxes; cosmetic or powder boxes and cases; cigarette cases, tobacco boxes, cachou boxes, etc., but not including containers of heading 73.10, household containers (heading 73.23), nor ornaments (heading 83.06).” (Emphasis added). The container subject to this reconsideration is not easily analogized to the “boxes and cases” specifically identified in the EN, but this is not necessary. The drafters of the EN, by employing the phrases abbreviated “e.g.” and “etc.” in EN 73.26, exhibited an intent that the identified articles were only intended to be representative or illustrative.

It is the conclusion of the Customs Service that the container in issue and the articles identified by example in EN 73.26 share enough common features to warrant the classification of the “lunch tote” in heading 7326, HTSUSA. The container in issue is essentially a steel box, the size of which according to a reading of EN 73.26 may vary significantly. The container is larger than trinket and cachou boxes, smaller than tool boxes, but is about the size of powder or tobacco boxes. It is not specially shaped nor is it internally fitted. The possible uses of the container are similar to the anticipated uses of the containers referenced in the EN. It may carry a variety of items, none of which fall into any particular category that might preclude classification in heading 7326, HTSUSA. As should be appreciated, there is no single example provided for in EN 73.26 to which Customs may point as the perfect example of a container similar to the one subject to this reconsideration. Customs has, however, demonstrated that there are a significant number of common characteristics between the container in issue and the “boxes and cases” illustrated in Explanatory Note 73.26 to warrant classification in heading 7326, HTSUSA.

Although Customs has discussed the similarities between the relevant merchandise and the items identified in the Explanatory Notes to heading 7326, HTSUSA, it is important to remember that since heading 7326, HTSUSA, is a basket or residual provision it is only necessary to determine that Dorothy Thorpe / Christmas Corner’s merchandise is not excluded from heading 7326, HTSUSA, nor specifically provided for elsewhere in the tariff schedule. Customs concludes that the merchandise is not precluded from classification in heading 7326, HTSUSA, nor is it specifically provided for in another tariff schedule heading.

Continuing the classification of the traditional school lunch box shaped tin-plated container at the subheading level, the container is classified in subheading 7326.90.1000, HTSUSA. See generally NY H81764 (June 19, 2001), NY F81395 (Jan. 13, 2000) and NY B80840 (Jan. 10, 1997). Subheading 7326.90.1000, HTSUSA, provides for the classification of

7326 Other articles of iron or steel:


Of tinplate.

The Customs Service specifically notes for the attention of the importer and the customs broker that Customs has not undertaken a laboratory analysis to confirm that the container in issue is tin-plated. Customs has relied on the statements of the customhouse broker indicating that the item is “made of tin” or “comprised mostly of tin.” Should the container not prove to be tin-plated, this would significantly impact the classification and rate of duty of this merchandise and, additionally, bear negatively on the importer’s obligation to use reasonable care in the classification, value and entry of its merchandise. See HQ 965063 (April 12, 2002) (a binding classification ruling classifying similar merchandise said to be tin-plated).

Should this container not be tin-plated, it would be classified in subheading 7326.90.8586, HTSUSA. Subheading 7326.90.8586, HTSUSA, provides for:

7326 Other articles of iron or steel:


Other, Other: Other,

7326.90.8586 Other.

Although not raised as an issue in the initial ruling request, substantially similar containers are frequently imported with edibles or other merchandise. Headquarters Ruling Letter 963670 addressed the classification of a container and other merchandise when imported together.

It is noted that Customs, in HQ 964234, initially classified this item in heading 4202, HTSUSA. Heading 4202, HTSUSA, provides for the classification of:

Trunks, suitcases, vanity cases, attache cases, briefcases, school satchels, spectacle cases, binocular cases, camera cases, musical instrument cases, gun cases, holsters and similar containers; traveling bags, insulated food or beverage bags, toiletry bags, knapsacks and backpacks, handbags, shopping bags, wallets, purses, map cases, cigarette cases, tobacco pouches, tool bags, sports bags, bottle cases, jewelry boxes, powder cases, cutlery cases and similar containers, of leather or of composition leather, of sheeting of plastics, of textile materials, of vulcanized fiber, or of paperboard, or wholly of mainly covered with such materials or with paper.

Customs, during the course of this reconsideration, determined that the merchandise in issue was not similar to the items designated by name in the first part of heading 4202, HTSUSA, that aspect which precedes the semi-colon. It was also determined that consideration of the items listed in the second part of the heading was unnecessary because those articles must be made of specific materials and sheet steel, of which the “lunch tote” is believed to be composed, is not an enumerated material. Since Customs determined that the metal container imported by Dorothy Thorpe / Christmas Corner is not similar to the containers designated eo nomine in heading 4202, HTSUSA, Customs re-examined the headings of the HTSUSA and has concluded that the “lunch tote” is properly classified in heading 7326, HTSUSA.


Headquarters Ruling Letter 964234 is hereby revoked.

The tin-plated container with a hinge and a handle in the shape of a school lunch box, only smaller, not designed to be used principally as sales packing nor designed as a table, kitchen or other household article, is classified in subheading 7326.90.1000, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated.

The General Column 1 Rate of Duty is FREE.

This ruling, in accordance with 19 U.S.C. 1625 (c), will become effective sixty (60) days after its publication in the Customs Bulletin.


Myles B. Harmon, Acting Director
Commercial Rulings Division