OT:RR:CTF:TCM H242604 HvB
TARRIF NO. 9606.29.40
S. Kido & Company, Inc.
P.O. Box 3109
Honolulu, Hawaii 96802
RE: Reconsideration of NY N237851; Classification of Buttons made from Coconut Shell
Dear Mr. Yama
This is in response to your submission, dated March 5, 2013, requesting reconsideration of New York Ruling Letter (“NY”) N237851, dated February 26, 2013, regarding the classification of buttons, under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), on behalf of Notions of Paradise, Ltd. Your request was sent to us for decision. We have reviewed NY N237851, and find it to be correct in its entirety.
The subject merchandise consists of buttons that are made from coconut shells. In NY N237851, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) classified the buttons in subheading 9606.29.40, HTSUS, which provides for: “Buttons, press-fasteners, snap-fasteners and press-studs, button molds and other parts of these articles; button blanks: Buttons: Other: Other: Of Pearl or Shell.” In a facsimile transmission to CBP’s National Commodity Specialist Division dated January 11, 2013, you stated that the subject buttons “are made solely of the natural coconut shell from coconuts.”
In your request for reconsideration, you clarified this information and submitted that subject buttons are made from the endocarp or ‘woody’ outer layer of the seed or fruit of the coconut palm tree (cocos nucifera). You argue that the buttons are not made from shells, but are rather “worked vegetable carving material in the form of a button.”
Whether the merchandise is classified in subheading 9606.29.40, HTSUS, as “Buttons, press-fasteners, snap-fasteners and press-studs, button molds and other parts of these articles; button blanks: Buttons: Other: of Pearl or Shell” or, whether it is classified in the basket subheading provision under 9606.29.60, HTSUS, as “Buttons…: Buttons: Other: Other.”
LAW AND ANALYSIS:
Merchandise imported into the United States is classified under the HTSUS. Tariff classification is governed by the principles set forth in the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs) and, in the absence of special language or context which requires otherwise, by the Additional U.S. Rules of Interpretation. The GRIs and the Additional U.S. Rules of Interpretation are part of the HTSUS and are to be considered statutory provisions of law for all purposes.
GRI 1 requires that classification be determined first according to the terms of the headings of the tariff schedule and any relative section or chapter notes and, unless otherwise required, according to the remaining GRIs taken in order. GRI 6 requires that the classification of goods in the subheadings of headings shall be determined according to the terms of those subheadings, any related subheading notes and mutatis mutandis, to the GRIs.
The 2015 HTSUS provisions under consideration are the following:
9606 Buttons, press-fasteners, snap-fasteners and press-studs, button molds and other parts of these articles; button blanks:
9606.29.40 Of pearl or shell
* * * * *
There is no dispute that the merchandise consists of buttons made from coconut shell. In NY N237851, we classified in the buttons in subheading 9606.90.40, HTSUS, which provides for “Buttons…Buttons: Other: Other: Of pearl or shell.” In your request for reconsideration, you submit that because coconut shell is the endocarp or “’woody’ outer layer of the seed or fruit of the coco palm tree (cocos nucifera), the subject buttons are not classifiable as “shell”, but rather a “worked vegetable material in the form of a button.” You therefore request classification under subheading 9606.29.60, HTSUS, which provides for “Buttons…: Buttons: Other: Other: Other.” You do not provide any citations to support your argument.
Thus, our analysis turns to the 8-digit level of the HTSUS, which implicates an analysis pursuant to GRI 6. GRI 6 states:
For legal purposes, the classification of goods in the subheading 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.
At issue is whether the subject buttons meet the definition of “Buttons…: Buttons: Other: Other: Of Pearl or Shell” as provided under subheading 9606.29.40, HTSUS. If the buttons made from the coconut endocarp do not meet those descriptors, they are then classifiable in the basket provision under HTSUS subheading 9606.29.60, as “Buttons…: Buttons: Other: Other.” Thus, we must determine whether the endocarp of a coconut meets the definition of “shell” under the HTSUS.
“When a tariff term is not defined by the HTSUS or the legislative history, its correct meaning is its common or commercial meaning. See Rocknell Fastener, Inc. v. United States, 267 F.3d 1354 (Fed. Cir. 2001). “To ascertain the common meaning of a term, a court may consult ‘dictionaries, scientific authorities, and other reliable information sources and ‘lexicographic and other materials’.” Id. (quoting C.J. Tower & Sons of Buffalo, Inc. v. United States, 673 F.2d 1268, 1271, 69 C.C.P.A. 128 (C.C.P.A. 1982); Simod Am. Corp. v. United States, 872 F.2d 1572, 1576 (Fed. Cir. 1989)). The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines “shell” as [t]he hard outside covering of an animal, fruit, etc.” The subject merchandise consists of buttons made from the outer woody endocarp of the coconut fruit.
Consistent with the OED definition, the courts have previously addressed the meaning of the tariff term “shell” under the TSUS, the predecessor to the HTSUS. In the context of deciding whether pine cones were dutiable as shells, the U.S. Court of Customs and Patent Appeals in United States v. Border Brokerage Co., 54 C.C.P.A. 56, 59 (C.C.P.A. 1967) wrote that a shell is "’a hard, outer cover of a fruit,’ being ‘a hard, leathery cover which ‘does not open when ripe.’"
In your submission, you state that the subject buttons are made from the endocarp of the coconut seed or fruit. The coconut fruit has three outer layers. Beginning on the outside, there is a thin hard skin called the exocarp. When immature, the excocarp is green. The second layer is the mesocarp or husk, which is a thicker layer of fibers. The third layer is the endocarp, which is the hard outer covering of the coconut. The endocarp is also described as the shell of the coconut. Accordingly, we find that the subject buttons meet the definition of “shell”.
Moreover, unless legislative intent explicitly indicates otherwise, tariff terms must be given the same interpretation throughout the HTSUS. See Productol Chem. Co., 74 Cust. Ct. 138 (Cust. Ct. 1975), explained by Mita Copystar Corp. v. United States, 17 C.I.T. 374, 379 (Ct. Int'l Trade 1993); Compare Blakley Corp. v. United States, 22 C.I.T. 635, 640 (Ct. Int'l Trade 1998). Thus, the term “shell” connotes the hard outer covering of natural articles such as nuts, seeds, fruits, and crustaceans. Accordingly, we do not find support for your assertion that buttons made of the endocarp of a coconut are not classifiable as shell under subheading 9606.40.60, HTSUS.
The subject merchandise is classified in subheading 9606.29.40, HTSUS, as Buttons: Other: Other: Of Pearl or Shell,” by application of GRI 1.
The subject merchandise, buttons made from coconut shell, is classified in heading 9606.29.40, HTSUS, as “Buttons, press-fasteners, snap-fasteners and press-studs, button molds and other parts of these articles; button blanks: Buttons: Other: Other: of Pearl or Shell.” by application of GRI 1. The column one general rate of duty is 0.18¢/line/gross + 2.5% ad valorem.
Duty rates are provided for your convenience and are subject to change. The text of the most recent HTSUS and the accompanying duty rates are provided on the World Wide Web at www.usitc.gov.
EFFECT ON OTHER RULINGS:
NY N237851, dated February 26, 2013, is hereby affirmed.
Myles B. Harmon, Director
Commercial and Trade Facilitation Division