Mr. John M. Peterson
Neville Peterson LLP
One Exchange Plaza
55 Broadway, Suite 2602
New York, NY 10006
RE: The tariff classification of photomask blanks from Japan
Dear Mr. Peterson:
In your letter dated January 6, 2015 on behalf of Shin-Etsu MicroSi, Inc. you requested a tariff classification ruling.
The photomask blanks consist of three layers, i.e., a substrate of high-purity quartz glass, a layer of metal and a top layer of photoresist. Subsequent to importation, the blanks will be subjected to a photolithographic process in the United States. You state that this process “creates lines corresponding to the specific circuit pathways that will appear in a semiconductor chip or IC”. The finished photomask will be used in a step-and-repeat machine of a kind used solely or principally for the manufacture of semiconductor wafers. In a step-and-repeat machine, a finished photomask is placed between a light source and a silicon wafer. Laser-generated light passes through the photomask in order to project the circuit pattern onto the photoresist-coated surface of a semiconductor wafer. The photomask blanks are available in a variety of sizes, the most common being 6” x 6” x ¼” deep.
In your letter, you indicate that your client contends that the photomask blanks are classifiable in subheading 8486.20.0000, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), which provides for “Machines and apparatus of a kind used solely or principally for the manufacture of semiconductor boules or wafers, semiconductor devices, electronic integrated circuits or flat panel displays; machines and apparatus specified in Note 9 (C) to this chapter; parts and accessories: Machines and apparatus for the manufacture of semiconductor devices or of electronic integrated circuits”. Additional U.S. Rule of Interpretation 1(c) states “In the absence of special language or context which otherwise requires ... a provision for parts of an article covers products solely or principally used as a part of such articles but a provision for "parts" or "parts and accessories" shall not prevail over a specific provision for such part or accessory”. In this instance, Additional U.S. Rule of Interpretation 1(c) controls with the more specific provision being subheading 3701.99.6060, HTSUS.
You state that the blanks “ … are complete for their intended use as photomasks, save for the lithographic etching of surface patterns”. Blanks are said to have the exact size and shape of finished photomasks and are suitable for no other use but as photomasks. Classification of goods under the HTSUS is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (“GRI”). GRI 2(a) provides that “any reference in a heading to an article shall be taken to include a reference to that article incomplete or unfinished, provided that, as entered, the incomplete or unfinished article has the essential character of the complete or finished article.” As described above, the blanks, in their imported condition, have the essential character of photomasks of Heading 3701, HTSUS, and are considered unfinished photomasks, classifiable in Heading 3701, HTSUS, pursuant to GRI 2(a).
The applicable subheading for the photomask blanks will be 3701.99.6060, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), which provides for “Photographic plates and film in the flat, sensitized, unexposed, of any material other than paper, paperboard or textiles; instant print film in the flat, sensitized, unexposed, whether or not in packs: Other: Other: Other … Other. The rate of duty will be 3.7 percent 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 World Wide Web at http://www.usitc.gov/tata/hts/.
This ruling is being issued under the provisions of Part 177 of the Customs Regulations (19 C.F.R. 177).
A copy of the ruling or the control number indicated above should be provided with the entry documents filed at the time this merchandise is imported. If you have any questions regarding the ruling, contact National Import Specialist Patricia O’Donnell at (646) 733-3011.
Gwenn Klein Kirschner
National Commodity Specialist Division