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HQ 084717

September 13, 1989

CLA-2 CO:R:C:G: 084717


TARIFF NO.: 4202.99.0000

Mr. Troy E. Clark
President, CBT International Inc.
936 Mahar Avenue
Wilmington, California 90744

RE: Steel Tool Box/Cabinet, and Tool/Supply Assortment

Dear Mr. Clark:

Your letter of February 3, 1989, regarding the tariff classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA), of the above referenced items imported from Taiwan and/or Hong Kong, has been referred to this office for a ruling. A sample of the tool assortment and tool box/storage cabinet was included with your inquiry.


The subject merchandise consists of the following items: (1) a steel tool and supply storage box/cabinet with a carrying handle, latch closures, top and bottom storage areas, and 18 pull-out plastic drawers; (2) 1 roll of electrical tape; (3) 2 electrical testing tools; (4) 1 electrical stripper plier; (5) 1 needle nose plier; (6) 1 flat tip screwdriver; (7) 1 cross tip screwdriver; (8) 1 wire cutter plier; (9) 1 utility knife; (10) an assortment of electrical connectors; (11) plastic electrical wire ties; and (12) 2 alligator clips. The importer expects the cabinet and assortment to be sold in hardware and electrical supply stores, and presumes it will be used by homeowners and hobbyists.


Whether the tool box/cabinet, tool and electrical connector assortments are considered a set for tariff purposes; and, if considered a set, which item gives it its essential character; and, if not a set, how are the items properly classified.


The General Rules for the Interpretation of the Harmonized System (GRI's) govern classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule. According to GRI 1, the primary consideration in determining whether merchandise should be classified in a heading should be given to the language of the heading and any relevant chapter or section notes, and, provided such headings or notes do not otherwise require, according to the remaining GRI's, taken in order.

Here, the first question to be considered is whether a heading exists which covers the tool box/cabinet, tools and connector assortment together. Because no heading, by itself, covers the subject merchandise, classification cannot be determined by applying GRI 1 alone. Therefore, reference to the subsequent GRI's is necessary. GRI 2 is not applicable here. GRI 3, however, is relevant. It provides, in pertinent part:

3. When, by application of Rule 2(b) or for any other reason, goods are, prima facia, classifiable under two or more headings, classification shall be effected as follows:

(a) The heading which provides the most specific description shall be preferred to headings providing a more general description. However, when two or more headings each refer to part only of the materials or substances contained in mixed or composite goods or to part only of the items in a set put up for retail sale, those headings are to be regarded as equally specific in relation to those goods, even if one of them gives a more complete or precise description of the goods.

(b) Mixtures, composite goods consisting of different materials or made up of different components, and goods put up in sets for retail sale, which cannot be classified by reference to 3(a), shall be classified as if they consisted of the material or component which gives them their essential character, insofar as this criterion is applicable.

The Explanatory Notes to the HTSUSA constitute the official interpretation of the tariff at the international level. The Explanatory Note to GRI 3(b) provides further guidance in determining essential character, and in determining what constitutes a "set". The relevant note states, in part: (VIII) The factor which determines essential character will vary as between different kinds of goods. It may, for example, 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.

(X) 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 up 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).

In this case, at least two of the above "set" criteria are clearly satisfied. First, the subject merchandise consists of at least two different articles which are prima facie classifiable in different headings. Secondly, the items are put up in a manner suitable for sale directly to users without repacking. The third criterion, that the goods consist of articles put up together to meet a particular need or carry out a specific activity, also appears to be satisfied. The tool and connector assortments can be utilized together to perform a variety of electrical work. The tool box/cabinet provides convenient storage for the electrician/mechanic. The latching feature and the handle, allow an individual to carry the tool box anywhere he or she may require the use of its contents, whether it be within the home or elsewhere. It is apparent that the subject articles are put up together to meet a particular need and carry out a specific activity. That activity consists of electrical/mechanical work. Accordingly, the subject merchandise constitutes a set pursuant to the Explanatory Notes to GRI 3(b).

The next issue to be resolved is which item within the set gives it its essential character. Pursuant to GRI 3(b), classification of the set is based upon the classification of the item which imparts the set's essential character.

The factor or factors which determine essential character will vary with the goods. However, the nature of a component and its relation to the use of the goods are often factors to be considered. In this case, the tool box/cabinet provides storage for the tools and connector components, and is designed to be used with them. Its closure latches and handle allow it to be carried on the person, to wherever the job requires. Excess space exists in the box to enable the user to add extra tools. In addition, the box's bulk and weight clearly exceeds the bulk and weight of the other components. Taking into consideration all of the factors enumerated in Explanatory Note (VIII) concerning GRI 3(b) (set forth above), the essential character of the set at issue is imparted by the metal tool box/cabinet.

The final issue requiring resolution is determining how the tool box/cabinet is classified. Heading 4202, HTSUSA, provides for trunks, suitcases, vanity cases, attache cases, briefcases, school satchels and similar containers (emphasis added). A previous ruling issued by this office on June 30, 1989, Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 083005, classified steel tool boxes under subheading 4202.19.0000, HTSUSA. Customs concluded that steel tool boxes of a type designed to be carried with the person, whether in or about the home, or by professional and non- professional persons, are containers similar to trunks, suitcases, vanity cases and other articles listed under Heading 4202. Accordingly, the tool boxes at issue in HRL 083005 were classified under 4202.19.0000, HTSUSA, rather than under 7326.90.9090, HTSUSA, the provision for other articles of iron or steel. As recognized in HRL 083005, articles of Heading 4202, HTSUSA, are excluded from classification under heading 7326, HTSUSA, by virtue of Explanatory Note (a) to Heading 7326.

The language in the first part of Heading 4202, "and similar containers," is a phrase which was interpreted by the Court of International Trade under the Tariff Schedules of the United States. It has yet to be interpreted by the courts under the HTSUSA. Nevertheless, the court's logic is clearly applicable here in light of the similarities between the relevant TSUS and HTSUSA headings. In DRI Industries, Inc. v. United States, 657 F. Supp. 528 (CIT 1987), aff'd, 832 F.2d 155 (Fed. Cir. 1987), the court ruled that a tool chest designed to store and organize tools and also to be carried with the person from place to place was properly classifiable as luggage for tariff purposes. In determining that the tool box was ejusdem generis with the exemplars listed in Schedule 7, Part 1, Subpart D, Headnote 2(a)(ii), TSUS, the court observed:

The exemplars listed in 2 (a)(ii) represent a category of containers or cases which are designed to store, organize and protect those contents from which the containers derive their name.

Although the DRI Industries case was decided under a different tariff, its interpretation of the Schedule 7, Section 2, Subpart D, Headnote 2 (a)(ii), TSUS phrase, "and like containers and cases designed to be carried with the person," is applicable to our interpretation of the phrase, "and similar containers," found in Heading 4202, HTSUSA. The rationale applied in DRI Industries is relevant here, as it was in HRL 083005. No restriction concerning the materials comprising the container exists in the first part of Heading 4202. The tool box at issue here is a container with characteristics similar to the enumerated articles in the first part of Heading 4202, HTSUSA, and therefore, is classifiable there.

Subheading 4202.19, HTSUSA, provides for trunks, suitcases, vanity cases, attache cases, briefcases, school satchels, and similar containers, of other materials. Subheading 4202.99, HTSUSA, provides for other containers not covered by the previous subheadings of 4202.

We find it significant that subheading 4202.19 omits spectacle cases, binocular cases, camera cases, musical instrument cases, gun cases, and holsters, which are also provided for in the first segment of Heading 4202. We also note that musical instrument cases, listed with the above omissions, are separately provided for in subheading 4202.92.5000, not as an article similar to those of subheading 4202.19, but as "other."

Accordingly, we are of the opinion that the "similar containers" language of subheadings 4202.11 through 4202.19, HTSUSA, was not intended to be the catch-all phrase for those articles enumerated in the first part of Heading 4202. Rather, articles similar to those containers listed in the first part of 4202, but not listed in the text of 4202.11 through 4202.19, are included within subheading 4202.99.0000, HTSUSA. As a result of this position, the subject tool box/cabinet is classified under subheading 4202.99.0000, HTSUSA, as containers similar to those enumerated in the first part of Heading 4202, not more specifically provided for in other headings of Chapter 42.


The tool box/cabinet and tool and connector assortments are, for tariff purposes, considered to be a set. The tool box/cabinet imparts the set's essential character, and is classifiable under subheading 4202.99.0000, HTSUSA. The set, therefore, is classifiable under subheading 4202.99.0000, HTSUSA. The applicable rate of duty is 20 percent ad valorem.

All previous rulings inconsistent with this result are hereby modified accordingly.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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