CLA-2-49:OT:RR: NC:4:434

Mr. Lance Patak
Vidatak, LLC
1327 Jones Drive
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105

RE: The tariff classification of a communication board from China.

Dear Mr.Patak:

In your letter, dated February 19, 2020, you requested a tariff classification ruling. A detailed description and photos of the item were submitted for our review.

The “EZ board” is a dry erase board designed for mechanically ventilated hospital patients to use to communicate. The board is pre-printed with categories and choices that the patient can point to with a finger or indicate with the marker. Categories include, “I am” with the accompanying choices including, “Short of breath,” “Frustrated,” “in Pain” etc. Other categories are “I want,” “I want to see” and “I want to clean” followed by appropriate options. The alphabet and numbers are printed in one corner. You state that the board was designed by hospital chaplains to aid patients’ physical and spiritual well-being. The board has one reference to “chaplain” under the category “I want to see” but is otherwise not expressly religious and could be used by a variety of hospital staff and patients.

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs) constitute the official interpretation of the Harmonized System. While not legally binding nor dispositive, the ENs provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) and are generally indicative of the proper interpretation of these headings. The General EN to Chapter 49, HTSUS, provides in pertinent part: “… this Chapter covers all printed matter of which the essential nature and use is determined by the fact of its being printed with motifs, characters or pictorial representations...” The essential nature and use of the communication board is determined by its being printed. Therefore, it is an article of Chapter 49, HTSUS. Where specifically within chapter 49 is the issue.

You propose classification in subheading 4901.99.0040, HTSUS, as “Bibles, testaments, prayer books and other religious books.” However, the communication board is not a book, nor is it expressly religious. It therefore is not covered within this subheading. Headquarters ruling HQ 089135, dated 1/8/92, defines “book” by referring to common sources as follows: “The Oxford English Dictionary defines “book” as: a. spec. (In reference to modern things) Such a treatise occupying numerous sheets or leaves fastened together at one edge called the back, so as to be opened at any particular place , the whole being protected by binding or covers of some kind. . . b. The material article so made up, without regard to the nature of its contents, even though its pages are occupied otherwise than with writing of printing, or are entirely blank. . . We find that such a definition embodies the common perception of a "book" in a physical sense. The drafters of the nomenclature, when composing chapter 49, HTSUSA, and its associated notes, may not have defined the term "book" because it is a word of common usage… To assign a tariff term any meaning other than the common or commercial meaning (which is presumed to have been known by Congress when the tariff was enacted) would require some proof that Congress intended to incorporate such other definition… Therefore, we find that a "book"… is composed of numerous sheets or leaves, fastened or bound together "so as to be opened at any particular place." We find that the use of the term "book" implies that a binding or fastening must be present.”

This Headquarters ruling was referring specifically to the books belonging to heading 4903, HTSUS, but the same definition of “book” would previal throughout chapter 49, including heading 4901, HTSUS, as is clear from their general reference to “chapter 49.”

As the communication board is not a “book” but is other printed matter of chapter 49, we look to later headings. The applicable subheading for the communication board will be 4911.99.8000, HTSUS, which provides for “Other printed matter, including printed pictures and photographs: Other: Other: Other: Other.” The 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

Pursuant to U.S. Note 20 to Subchapter III, Chapter 99, HTSUS, products of China classified under subheading 4911.99.8000, HTSUS, unless specifically excluded, are subject to an additional 7.5 percent ad valorem rate of duty.  At the time of importation, you must report the Chapter 99 subheading, 9903.88.15, in addition to subheading 4911.99.8000, HTSUS, listed above.   The HTSUS is subject to periodic amendment so you should exercise reasonable care in monitoring the status of goods covered by the Note cited above and the applicable Chapter 99 subheading.  For background information regarding the trade remedy initiated pursuant to Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, you may refer to the relevant parts of the USTR and CBP websites, which are available at and, respectively.

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 Charlene Miller at [email protected].


Steven A. Mack
National Commodity Specialist Division