Matthew Bock
Middleton & Shrull International Trade Law
100 Trade Center, Suite 660
Woburn, MA 01801 

RE: The tariff classification of educational kits from China.

Dear Mr. Bock:

In your letter dated March 13, 2017, you requested a tariff classification ruling on behalf of KnowAtom, LLC. The ruling was returned for additional information, which was received by this office on April 26, 2017. The ruling was requested on educational kits. Product specifications, copies of the manuals and photos were submitted for our review.

The educational kits are designed for classroom use to teach scientific principles. Each unit focuses on a specific scientific topic, such as “Energy and Ecosystems” and “Magnetism and Electricity.” The units are grade-progressive, with nine units per grade beginning with grade one and continuing through grade eight. Schools may choose to order one unit at a time or order a series of all nine units corresponding to a grade level. Each kit includes all the components to a specific unit packaged together and are custom ordered for the number of students per class (approximately 12 to 25).

Two kits were described in the submitted ruling request: G8U3, Earth’s Changing Climate, and G5U1, Matter in Motion. Each includes a lab manual/reader which provides educational text on the topic followed by instructions on performing specific experiments. The experiments are carried out using the various consumable and non-consumable materials included in the kits.

G8U3 (example is for 12 students) contains: 12 lab manuals; 16 sheets black paper; 4 non-drying clay sticks; 64 small craft sticks; 4 lamps; 6 weather map templates; 6 U.S. topographic map templates; 12 blank U.S. maps; 6 dowels; 6 plastic canisters; 6 24oz plastic cups; red dye; 20 medium marbles; 14 10oz plastic cups; 4 plastic bags; 6 foam sheets; 6 sheets white paper; 18 sheets aluminum foil; 12 3.5oz plastic cups; 6 plastic containers with hinged lids.

G5U1 (example is for 12 students) contains: 12 student readers; 12 goggles; 12 laboratory notebooks; 12 effervescent tablets; 6 30mL graduated cups; 6 sheets yellow paper; 6 index cards; 2 spools of string; 6 sheets poster paper; 6 shadow templates; 6 non-drying clay sticks.

In your letter, you requested that the various KnowAtom educational kits be classified as toys under subheading 9503.00.0073 or 9503.00.0090, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS).  You state that these educational kits are limited use representations that provide for role-playing.  However, we disagree with that assessment. 

It has been CBP’s position that a toy should be designed and used principally for the amusement of children or adults and should not serve a utilitarian purpose.  Heading 9503 is a "principal use" provision within the meaning of Additional U.S. Rule of Interpretation 1(a), HTSUS, as it pertains to "toys" (See Minnetonka Brands v. United States, 110 F. Supp. 2d 1020, 1026 (CIT 2000)).  Therefore, classification under heading 9503 is controlled by the principal use of goods of that class or kind to which the imported goods belong in the United States at or immediately prior to the date of the importation. In determining whether the principal use of a product is for amusement, and thereby classified as a toy, CBP considers a variety of factors including general physical characteristics, the expectation of the ultimate purchaser, channels of trade, the environment of sale (accompanying accessories, manner of advertisement and display) and use in the same manner as merchandise which defines the class.

The channels of trade indicate that the kits are purchased and sold exclusively to schools.   KnowAtom sells the kits for either 12 or 25 students, will not solicit sales from students and has no intention of selling individual kits, directly or indirectly, to children.  Furthermore, being that the ultimate purchasers are teachers and schools, the expectation associated with these kits is that they will provide educational value.  The kits are aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards, which set legal performance standards and inform curricula decision making in 26 states.  In addition, KnowAtom resources are mapped to Common Core ELA and math standards.  Furthermore, the KnowAtom educational kits are designed to be incorporated into a school teacher’s syllabus.  These kits are intended to support and reinforce educational curriculum and objectives.  Marketing material submitted with your request further supports this educational use.

Upon reviewing the various factors, the educational kits are not principally designed or used as toys and do not belong to the same class or kind of merchandise classifiable as toys.  The educational kits are not put up in a form clearly indicating their use as toys, they do not have a limited use or capacity, they are not representational of a grown-up version of the same article and are not intended for role-playing as an adult.  These are actual age-appropriate science experiment kits designed for students and are closely associated with an educational component.  They are not a collaboration of random experiments.  The kits are put up together for a very specific purpose -- to teach and reinforce principles of science to students with lessons that “build higher-order thinking skills while using next generation STEM practices.” 

While students may have fun learning the principals of science, the experiments performed with these educational kits are not intended for frivolous amusement purposes.  Any amusement is incidental to each of the kits’ utilitarian purpose of educating the students.  Classification in heading 9503 is not appropriate.             

You alternatively propose the educational kits be considered sets for tariff purposes, with the essential character imparted by the printed manuals, in subheading 4901.99.0010, HTSUS.

The Explanatory Notes (ENs) to the HTSUS constitute the official interpretation of the tariff at the international level. EN X to General Rule of Interpretation (GRI) 3(b) provides: “for the purposes of this Rule, the term "goods put up in sets for retail sale" shall be taken to mean goods which: (a) consist of at least two different articles which are, prima facie, classifiable in different headings; (b) consist of products or articles put together to meet a particular need or carry out a specific activity; and (c) are put up in a manner suitable for sale directly to users without repacking (e.g., in boxes or cases or on boards).”

Sets are classified according to the component, or components taken together, which can be regarded as conferring on the set as a whole its essential character.

In accordance with the Explanatory Notes (ENs) for GRI 3(b), the essential character of an item may be determined by the nature of the material or component, its bulk, quantity, weight, or value, or by the role of a constituent material in relation to the use of the goods.

We find that the educational kits meet the definition of a set. All of the components go toward one learning activity, and they are packaged for retail.  The printed manuals, which instruct and guide the use of all the components, give the set its essential character.

The applicable subheading for the educational kits will be 4901.99.0010, HTSUS, which provides for Printed books, brochures, leaflets and similar printed matter, whether or not in single sheets: Other: Other: Textbooks. The general rate of duty will be free. 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

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 heading 9503, HTSUS, aspect of this ruling, contact National Import Specialist James Forkan at [email protected].

Questions regarding the heading 4901, HTSUS, portion of the ruling should be directed to National Import Specialist Charlene Miller at [email protected].


Steven A. Mack
National Commodity Specialist Division