United States International Trade Commision Rulings And Harmonized Tariff Schedule
faqs.org  Rulings By Number  Rulings By Category  Tariff Numbers
faqs.org > Rulings and Tariffs Home > Rulings By Number > 1992 HQ Rulings > HQ 0088520 - HQ 0089261 > HQ 0089073

Previous Ruling Next Ruling

HQ 089073

January 7, 1992

CLA-2 CO:R:C:T 089073 HP


TARIFF NO.: 4202.92.4500

Mr. Marc S. Greenberg
Vice President
American Shipping Company
P.O. Box 1486
Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632

RE: DD 860014 affirmed. Travel bag; cosmetic bag; leather; plastic; essential character; value; labor; appearance; material

Dear Mr. Greenberg:

This is in reply to your letter of March 4, 1991, concerning the tariff classification of a travel bag, produced in China, under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA). Please reference your client Ohio Bag Corp.


The merchandise at issue consists of a travel bag, style 368-L, measuring approximately 6" x 8". The top of the bag has a zippered closure. The outer surface of the bag is approximately 50% leather and 50% vinyl. The front of the bag is made up exclusively of stitched patched leather and has two zippered pouches. The back of the bag is of vinyl sheeting. The lining is 100% vinyl.

In Miami, FL District Ruling Letter (DD) 860014 of February 14, 1991, we classified this merchandise under subheading 4202.92.4500, HTSUSA, as a travel, sports and similar bag, with an outer surface of plastic sheeting. You now request reconsideration of DD 860014, arguing that the leather portion of the bag should control classification. In your letter, you maintain that the pouch is more properly classifiable in subheading 4202.31.6000, HTSUSA, the provision for articles of leather, of a kind normally carried in the pocket or in the handbag.

Whether the bag is considered of plastics or of leather under the HTSUSA?


Subheadings 4202.31 through 4202.39, HTSUSA, provide for articles of a kind normally carried in the pocket or in the handbag. The Explanatory Notes indicate that subheadings 4202.31, 4202.32, and 4202.39 include such items as spectacle cases, note-cases (bill-folds), wallets, purses, key-cases, cigarette-cases, cigar-cases, pipe-cases and tobacco- pouches.

Subheadings 4202.91 and 92, HTSUSA, provides for travel, sports and similar bags. U.S. Additional Note 1 to Chapter 42 indicates that:

For the purposes of heading 4202, the expression 'travel, sports and similar bags' means goods, other than those falling in subheadings 4202.11 through 4202.39, of a kind designed for carrying clothing and other personal effects during trav el....

In cases such as the one at hand, a fine line separates a 4202.91 and 92 classification from a 4202.31 designation. The style and design of the subject cosmetic bag nonetheless suggest that it was intended to be a travel bag for the convenience of the individual, not as an accessory to a handbag. Consequently, the pouch is more properly classifiable in subheadings 4202.91 or 92, HTSUSA.

Subheading 4202.91, HTSUSA, provides for, inter alia, bags with an outer surface of leather. Subheading 4202.92, HTSUSA, provides for similar bags of plastics or textiles. The General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs) to the HTSUSA govern the classification of goods in the tariff schedule. GRI 1 states, in pertinent part, that:

... classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes ...

Goods which cannot be classified in accordance with GRI 1 are to be classified in accordance with subsequent GRIs, taken in order. GRI 3 states, in pertinent part:

When by application of Rule 2(b) [goods of more than one material or substance] or for any other reason, goods are, prima facie, classifiable under two or more headings, classification shall be effected as follows:

(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) [which requires that goods be classified, if possible, under the more specific of the competing provisions], 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 (EN) to the HTSUSA constitute the official interpretation of the tariff at the international level. While not legally binding, they do represent the considered views of classification experts of the Harmonized System Committee. It has therefore been the practice of the Customs Service to follow, whenever possible, the terms of the Explanatory Notes when interpreting the HTSUSA. Explanatory Note (IX) to GRI 3 provides:

For the purposes of [GRI 3(b)], composite goods made up of different components shall be taken to mean not only those in which the components are attached to each other to form a practically in separable whole but also those with separable components, provided these components are adapted to one another and are mutually complementary and that together they form a whole which would not normally be offered for sale in separate parts.

[C]lassification [of composite goods] is made according to the component, or components taken together, which can be regarded as conferring on the set as a whole its essential character.

The factors which determine essential character of an article will vary from case to case. It may be the nature of the materials or the components, its bulk, quantity, weight, value, or the role a material plays in relation to the use of the goods. In general, essential character has been construed to mean the attribute which strongly marks or serves to distinguish what an article is; that which is indispensable to the structure or condition of an article.

The leather and plastic portions of the bag are approximately equal. The leather portion comprises virtually all of the front of the bag (the portion primarily visible in public). The plastic portion comprises all of the back of the bag. In response to our request, you have submitted a cost breakdown for materials and labor. These figures show that the material cost for leather exceeds the material cost for the vinyl by nearly 10 times. Labor costs are fairly evenly divided between the sewing processes. Based upon these factors, we find that neither portion of the handbag "serves to distinguish what the article is;" neither imparts the essential character.

GRI 3(c) states that when "[g]oods cannot be classified in accordance with the above rules[, such goods] shall be classified under the heading which occurs last in numerical order among those which equally merit consideration." Subheading 4202.92 is therefore appropriate. DD 860014 is affirmed.


As a result of the foregoing, the instant merchandise is classified under subheading 4202.92.4500, HTSUSA, as trunks, suitcases, vanity cases, attache cases, briefcases, school satchels, spectacle cases, binocular cases, camera cases, musical instrument cases, gun cases, holsters and similar containers; traveling bags, toiletry bags, knapsacks and backpacks, handbags, shopping bags, wallets, purses, map cases, cigarette cases, tobacco pouches, tool bags, sports bags, bottle cases, jewelry boxes, powder cases, cutlery cases and similar containers, or leather or of composition leather, of plastic sheeting, of textile materials, of vulcanized fiber or paperboard, or wholly or mainly covered with such materials, other, with outer surface of plastic sheeting or of textile materials, travel, sports and similar bags, other. The applicable rate of duty is 20 percent ad valorem.

A copy of this ruling letter should be attached to the entry documents filed at the time this merchandise is imported. If the documents have been filed without a copy, this ruling should be brought to the attention of the Customs officer handling the transaction.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

Previous Ruling Next Ruling

See also: