OT:RR:CTF:EMAIN H328055 PF
Don L. Bales
ADVICS North America
1650 Kingsview Drive
Lebanon, Ohio 45036
RE: Tariff classification of a Control Box Assembly
Dear Mr. Bales:
This is in reply to your request for a prospective ruling on the tariff classification, under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), of control box assembly. Your request was forwarded by the National Commodity Specialist Division to this office for a response. Our decision follows.
The subject merchandise, called an AHB-Rx control box assembly, is an automotive device containing an electronic control unit (ECU), solenoid valves, and pressure sensors. The device is made of aluminum, plastics, rubber seals and various electronics. The control box is 7.5" by 5" and weighs 2.5 pounds. In operation, electrical signals from the monitored sources are received by the control box which then determines the amount of hydraulic fluid that flows to each wheel cylinder and therefore controls the braking speed of the motor vehicle. The Control box ECU controls the regenerative brake by the pressure sensor signals and the pedal stroke sensor signal. The solenoid valves control the brake fluid circuits and control the pressure level to the master cylinder booster chamber. Finally, the pressure sensors detect the pressure level and provide the signal to the ECU for the brake control.
| | |
Whether the control box is classified in heading 8481, HTSUS, as a valve, in heading 8543, as an electrical machine or apparatus having an individual function, or in heading 9032, HTSUS, as an automatic regulating or controlling instrument and apparatus.
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. In the event that the goods cannot be classified solely on the basis of GRI 1, and if the heading and legal notes do not otherwise require, the remaining GRIs 2 through 6 may then be applied in order.
The HTSUS provisions under consideration are as follows:
8481 Taps, cocks, valves and similar appliances, for pipes, boiler shells, tanks, vats or the like, including pressure-reducing valves and thermostatically controlled valves; parts thereof:
8543 Electrical machines and apparatus, having individual functions, not specified or included elsewhere in this chapter; parts thereof:
9032 Automatic regulating or controlling instruments and apparatus; parts and
Note 1(m), to Section XVI, HTSUS, which includes Chapters 84 and 85, HTSUS, states that Section XVI, HTSUS, does not cover articles of Chapter 90, HTSUS.
Note 1(g) to Chapter 90 provides, in pertinent part, that this chapter does not include valves or other appliances of heading 8481, HTSUS.
Note 7 to Chapter 90, HTSUS, provides the following:
7. Heading 9032 applies only to:
a) Instruments and apparatus for automatically controlling the flow, level, pressure or other variables of liquids or gases, or for automatically controlling temperature, whether or not their operation depends on an electrical phenomenon which varies according to the factor to be automatically controlled, which are designed to bring this factor to, and maintain it at, a desired value, stabilized against disturbances, by constantly or periodically measuring its actual value; and
The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs) 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 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (August 23, 1989).
The relevant ENs to heading 8481, HTSUS, provide, in pertinent part:
This heading covers taps, cocks, valves and similar appliances, used on or in pipes, tanks, vats or the like to regulate the flow (for supply, discharge, etc.), of fluids (liquid, viscous or gaseous), or, in certain cases, of solids (e.g., sand). The heading includes such devices designed to regulate the pressure or the flow velocity of a liquid or a gas.
The appliances regulate the flow by opening or closing an aperture (e.g., gate, disc, ball, plug, needle or diaphragm). They may be operated by hand (by means of a key, wheel, press button, etc.), or by a motor, solenoid, clock movement, etc., or by an automatic device such as a spring, counterweight, float lever, thermostatic element or pressure capsule....
Taps, cocks, valves, etc., remain in this heading even if specialized for use on a particular machine or apparatus, or on a vehicle or aircraft.
The EN to heading 8543, HTSUS, provides in pertinent part:
This heading covers all electrical appliances and apparatus, not falling in any other heading of this Chapter, nor covered more specifically by a heading of any other Chapter of the Nomenclature, nor excluded by the operation of a Legal Note to Section XVI or to this Chapter. The principal electrical goods covered more specifically by other Chapters are electrical machinery of Chapter 84 and certain instruments and apparatus of Chapter 90.
The electrical appliances and apparatus of this heading must have individual functions. The introductory provisions of Explanatory Note to heading 84.79 concerning machines and mechanical appliances having individual functions apply, mutatis mutandis, to the appliances and apparatus of this heading.
Most of the appliances of this heading consist of an assembly of electrical goods or parts (valves, transformers, capacitors, chokes, resistors, etc.) operating wholly electrically. However, the heading also includes electrical goods incorporating mechanical features provided that such features are subsidiary to the electrical function of the machine or appliance.
(Emphasis in original).
EN 90.32 further clarifies the definition of "automatic control apparatus," within the meaning of Note 7(a) to Chapter 90, as follows:
(I) INSTRUMENTS AND APPARATUS FOR AUTOMATICALLY
CONTROLLING THE FLOW, LEVEL, PRESSURE OR OTHER VARIABLES
OF LIQUIDS OR GASES, OR FOR AUTOMATICALLY
Automatic control apparatus for liquids or gases and apparatus for automatically controlling temperature form part of complete automatic control systems and consist essentially of the following devices:
A) A device for measuring the variable to be controlled (pressure or level in a tank, temperature in a room, etc.); in some cases, a simple device which is sensitive to changes in the variable (metal or bi-metal rod, chamber or bellows containing an expanding liquid, float, etc.) may be used instead of a measuring device.
B) A control device which compares the measured value with the desired value and actuates the device described in (C) below accordingly.
C) A starting, stopping or operating device.
Apparatus for automatically controlling liquids or gases or temperature, within the meaning of Note 7 (a) to this Chapter, consists of these three devices forming a single entity or in accordance with Note 3 to this Chapter, a functional unit.
You maintain that the control box is classified in heading 9032, HTSUS as an "automatic regulating or controlling apparatus." Note 3 to Chapter 90 provides that "[t]he provisions of notes 3 and 4 to section XVI apply also to this chapter." In turn, Note 3 to Section XVI provides as follows:
Unless the context otherwise requires, composite machines consisting of two or more machines fitted together to form a whole and other machines designed 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.
Heading 9032, HTSUS, provides for "Automatic regulating or controlling instruments and apparatus; parts and accessories thereof." Note 7(a) to Chapter 90, HTSUS, states that heading 9032, HTSUS, is limited to instruments and apparatus for controlling certain factors such as flow, level, pressure, temperature, or other variables of liquids or gases. See Belimo Automation A.G. v. United States, 774 F.3d 1362, 1364-65 (Fed. Cir. 2013); see also HQ H287475, dated December 18, 2018.
The ENs to heading 9032, HTSUS, further provide the required components necessary to meet Note 7(a) to Chapter 90. The following three items are essential components of the device.
1) A device for measuring
2) A control device
3) A starting/stopping or operating device
Apparatus for controlling liquids or gases or temperature, within the meaning of Note 7(a) to this Chapter, consists of these three devices forming a single entity or in accordance with Note 3 to this Chapter, a functional unit. The purpose of these devices is to measure a variable and then bring that variable into a preset set of parameters. This is accomplished by controlling a factor to maintain the variable at the desired level. The control box does not perform these functions. Instead, the user presses on the brake pedal which initiates a series of events. The pressing of the brake sends a signal to the control box, which determines the amount of pressure applied to the brakes. It then provides a certain amount of hydraulic fluid to the wheel cylinders. The ECU opens and closes valves based on the pressure applied to the brake pedal and the current pressure going through the system.
In order for the control box to be classified in heading 9032, HTSUS, it would have to constantly monitor the hydraulic fuel pressure and then keep that pressure within a certain predetermined set of parameters. This device does not perform in such a manner. Instead, it adjusts the hydraulic fluid pressure based on the information received from the pressure sensor and the brake pressure from the driver pressing the brake pedal. Accordingly, it is controlled by the user rather than automatically based on a parameter set to maintain a constant pressure.
In Belimo Automation A.G., 35 I.T.R.D. (BNA) 2319, Slip Op. 13-144 (Ct. Int'l Trade Nov. 26, 2013), aff'd 774 774 F.3d 1362, the Court of International Trade ("CIT") evaluated whether a device consisting of an electric motor, gears, and printed circuit boards that was principally used in heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems within buildings was covered by heading 9032, HTSUS. See Slip Op. 13-144, at *15-23. The CIT found that the term "factor" as used in Chapter 90, Note 7(a) referred to a variable of liquid, gas, pressure or temperature and not to other variables, such as damper or valve position. See id. at *19-23. The CIT noted that the device received a signal, which it interpreted to determine a setting for the damper or valve. See id. at *21. Since the device in Belimo Automation A.G., did not measure a liquid, gas or temperature, the CIT found that it was not covered by heading 9032, HTSUS. See id. at *20-22.
The CIT further determined that at no point did the subject device measure the variable to be controlled (such as the temperature, flow, pressure or otherwise) or make adjustments as a result of comparing such external measurements to the desired temperature, flow, pressure or otherwise. See id. at *22. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which affirmed Belimo Automation A.G., stated that the variables to be automatically controlled pursuant to heading 9032, were limited to "the flow, level, pressure or other variables of liquids or gases, as well as temperature." See 774 F.3d at 1364-65. By contrast, factors such as a motor winding position or any other electrical phenomenon are not variables of heading 9032, HTSUS. See id. at 1365.
Moreover, in NY N104601, dated June 4, 2010, CBP evaluated whether a vehicle stability control actuator assembly (VSC) was covered by heading 9032, HTSUS. The VSC, which incorporated an electronic control unit (ECU), was designed to be used in vehicles to improve driving stability by detecting and minimizing skids. The ECU's function was to determine the proper level of brake fluid pressure based on a variety of factors. CBP determined that while the VSC received information, including measurements of speed of each wheel, engine force, g-force, steering angle from external sensors, which were not part of the device, the VSC's purpose was not to compare the measured factors to the desired level and maintain them at that level, stabilized against disturbances. CBP found that heading 9032, HTSUS, did not include items, which gave instructions to optimize a function or that carried out instructions.
In conclusion, the control box does not meet the definition of Note 7(a) to Chapter 90 because it is limited to instruments and apparatus for automatically controlling certain factors such as flow, level, pressure, temperature, or other variables of liquids or gases. The control box does not automatically read the hydraulic pressure and maintain that pressure to a preset level. Instead, the device reads the pressure that the driver applies to the brakes and utilizes valves and electrical components to slow the vehicle. Therefore, the control box cannot be considered an "automatic regulating or controlling apparatus" of heading 9032, HTSUS.
We next consider whether the control box is classifiable in Chapter 84. Heading 8481, HTSUS, provides eo nomine for valves and similar appliances. EN to 84.81 further specifies that the heading covers devices designed to regulate the pressure or the flow velocity of a liquid or gas. In this case, the control box incorporates valves that regulate fuel flow. In particular, the solenoid valves in the control box regulate the hydraulic fluid. The ECU within the control box takes electrical signals from the pressure sensor and sensors in the brake pedal of the vehicle (not incorporated within the box) and sends them to the solenoid valves. The solenoid valves then control the amount of hydraulic fluid that is needed to enter the system to slow the vehicle. In addition to controlling the brake fluid circuits, the solenoid valves control the pressure level to the master cylinder booster chamber. In other words, the valves are what allow the flow of hydraulic fluid, which in turn place the necessary pressure on the brakes to stop the car.
In summary, the solenoid valves in the control box control the brake fluid circuits and the pressure level to the master cylinder booster chamber and allow the braking system in a vehicle to function. Without the ability to sense the pressure and direct the flow of fluid through the valves, the braking system would not function. Heading 8481, HTSUS, specifically provides for devices designed to regulate the pressure or the flow velocity of a liquid or a gas. Therefore, we find that the principal function of the control box is that of a valve of heading 8481, HTSUS.
Our determination is consistent with New York Ruling (NY) N225559, dated August 12, 2012, where CBP classified a Generation 8 ECU attached to housing and described as a "solenoid actuated valve that controls the direction and volume of hydraulic fluid, i.e., brake fluid, to braking components in response to control signals from the ECU in heading 8481, HTSUS.
We have also considered whether the control box could be classified in a heading of Chapter 85, including heading 8543, HTSUS, which provides for "Electrical machines and apparatus, having individual functions, not specified or included elsewhere in this chapter...." The control box contains the ECU, which takes electrical signals from the pressure sensor and sensors in the brake pedal of the vehicle and sends them to the solenoid valves. The solenoids then control the amount of fluid that is needed to enter the system to slow the vehicle. In order for an item to be classifiable in heading 8543, HTSUS, it must be 1) electrical; 2) have an individual function and 3) not provided for elsewhere in the tariff.
EN 85.43 states that goods of heading 8543, HTSUS, must operate "wholly electrically." EN 85.43 also provides that "electrical goods incorporating mechanical features provided that such features are subsidiary to the electrical function of the machine or appliance." The ECU in the control box appears to be an electrical apparatus. However, the presence of the solenoids and valve body assembly add significant mechanical capabilities to this item and render the control box not "wholly electrical." We also note that the electrical functions of the control box are subsidiary because they only enhance the mechanical activities. Since the control box does not meet the first element of being "electrical," it is not necessary to consider the remaining elements of heading 8543, HTSUS. Therefore, the control box is not classifiable in heading 8543, HTSUS.
By application of GRIs 1 (Note 3 to Section XVI) and 6, the subject control box is classified in heading 8481, specifically subheading 8481.20.00, HTSUS, which provides for: "Taps, cocks, valves and similar appliances, for pipes, boiler shells, tanks, vats or the like, including pressure-reducing valves and thermostatically controlled valves; parts thereof: Valves for oleohydraulic or pneumatic transmissions." The general column one, rate of duty is 2% ad valorem.
Pursuant to U.S. Note 20 to Subchapter III, Chapter 99, HTSUS, products of China classified under subheading, 8481.20.00, HTSUS, unless specifically excluded, are subject to an additional 25 percent ad valorem rate of duty. At the time of importation, you must report the Chapter 99 subheading, i.e., 9903.88.01, in addition to subheading 8481.20.00, listed above.
The tariff is subject to periodic amendment so you should exercise reasonable care in monitoring the status of goods covered by the Notice cited above and the applicable Chapter 99 subheading. Duty rates are subject to change. The text of the most recent HTSUS and the accompany duty rates are provided at www.usitc.gov.
A copy of this ruling letter should be attached to the entry documents filed at the time the goods are entered. If the documents have been filed without a copy, this ruling should be brought to the attention of the CBP officer handling the transaction.
Gregory Connor, Chief
Electronics, Machinery, Automotive, and International Nomenclature Branch