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HQ 556596

May 15, 1992

CLA-2 CO:R:C:S 556596 WAW


TARIFF NO.: 8306.21.00, 9802.00.50

Mr. Sergio Alvarez
J.O. Alvarez, Inc.
224 South Bridge
P.O. Box 448
Hidalgo, TX 78557

RE: Applicability of subheading 9802.00.50, HTSUS, to bronze sculptures created by drilling, grinding, heat treatment, sandblasting, patinization, applying gold leaf, hand burnishing, painting; 071523; 555640; 555002; 555093; 071689

Dear Mr. Alvarez:

This is in response to your letter dated March 13, 1992, on behalf of Austin Sculptures & Decorative Art, Inc., requesting a ruling on the classification and applicability of subheading 9802.00.50, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), to bronze sculpture castings which are finished in Mexico and imported into the U.S. Descriptive literature and a photograph of the merchandise was submitted for review.


You state that bronze castings of various types and sizes will be manufactured in the U.S. at different locations. The manufacturers of the castings will be required to supply "Manufacturers Affidavits" to confirm the origin of the castings being made in the U.S., prior to their shipment to the McAllen, TX facility. Once the castings are received in McAllen, they are stored for a short period of time. The castings are then loaded onto a trailer and registered with Customs and imported into Mexico. In Mexico, the castings undergo the following finishing steps:

(1) The castings will be unpacked and inspected for any damage that may have occurred during shipment from the U.S.;

(2) The casting will be drilled and tapped to facilitate assembly to the base. Next, the seams will be removed from the casting by grinding, and any imperfections such as voids and bubbles will be filled by welding. Once these operations are performed, all of the repaired areas will be blended by use of abrasives and/or applying heat. The pieces are then sanded and polished and finally "sandblasted" using glass beads;

(3) The castings will then undergo a patinization process which involves the application of acids or other chemicals which react with the bronze to achieve a desired color. This application process is performed by applying heat, as a very specific temperature must be maintained in conjunction with the chemical application. During this process, the acids or chemicals are applied with various brushes to obtain different finishes. This process is very time consuming and critical;

(4) Next, a gold leafing is applied to the castings. This is accomplished by first varnishing the area and then laying the gold sheet on and hand burnishing.

(5) The sculpture is inspected and a clear coat of paint and/or wax is applied for protection.

(6) The sculpture is then attached to a polyester base, which is manufactured in Mexico, by means of a screw.

(7) Felt is attached to the bottom of the base in addition to the appropriate marking;

(8) All the pieces are packaged individually in a wooden box. The box is filled with a urethane foam which is molded to accept the specific piece;

(9) The wood box is then wrapped in a protective film and placed in a corrugated shipping carton containing polystyrene filler material. The carton is closed and shipped to the U.S.


(1) What is the proper tariff classification of the bronze sculptures under the HTSUS.

(2) Whether the bronze sculptures will be entitled to the partial duty exemption under subheading 9802.00.50, HTSUS, when imported into the U.S.


Tariff Classification of bronze sculptures

Classification of merchandise under the HTSUS is in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's), taken in order. GRI 1 provides that classification is determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes.

The merchandise is specifically provided for under subheading 8306.21.00., HTSUS, which provides for: "[s]tatuettes and other ornaments, of base metal: [s]tatuettes and other ornaments, and parts thereof: [p]lated with precious metal, and parts thereof." The general, column one rate of duty is 6.5 percent ad valorem.

Applicability of duty exemption under subheading 9802.00.50, HTSUS

Subheading 9802.00.50, HTSUS, provides for the assessment of duty on the value of repairs or alterations performed on articles sent abroad for that purpose. However, the application of this tariff provision is precluded in circumstances where the operations performed abroad destroy the identity of the articles or create new or commercially different articles. See A.F. Burstrom v. United States, 44 CCPA 27, C.A.D. 631 (1956), aff'd, C.D. 1752, 36 Cust. Ct. 46 (1956); Guardian Industries Corporation v. United States, 3 CIT 9 (1982), Slip Op. 82-4 (Jan. 5, 1982). Subheading 9802.00.50, HTSUS, treatment is also precluded where the exported articles are incomplete for their intended use and the foreign processing operation is a necessary step in the preparation or manufacture of finished articles. Dolliff & Company, Inc. v. United States, 81, Cust. Ct. 1, C.D. 4755, 455 F. Supp. 618 (1978), aff'd, 66 CCPA 77, C.A.D. 1225, 599 F.2d 1015 (1979).

We have previously held that the polishing and cleaning of finished articles qualify as alterations under item 806.20, Tariff Schedules of the United States (TSUS) (the precursor to HTSUS subheading 9802.00.50). See Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 071523 dated December 1, 1983 (drilling, polishing and cleaning pearls qualify as alterations), HRL 555640 dated August 13, 1990 (gold jewelry exported for polishing will qualify for the duty exemption available under subheading 9802.00.50, HTSUS).

We also have held that electroplating and lacquering operations constitute operations that exceed an alteration for purposes of the partial duty exemption under subheading 9802.00.50, HTSUS. In HRL 555002 dated June 28, 1988, brass or bronze metal door knobs of U.S.-origin were sent to Mexico for electroplating through a liquid bath process and, in some cases, spray lacquering. The purpose of these operations was to impart a decorative brass or chrome finish to the door knobs, in addition to preserving the metal. The electroplating and lacquering operations did not chemically alter the brass or bronze metal. We held in HRL 555002 that the door knobs and rosettes were incomplete for their intended use and that the electroplating and lacquering was a necessary step in the preparation of the finished product. Therefore, the imported door knobs and rosettes were precluded from receiving the duty exemption under item 806.20 TSUS. See also HRL 555093 dated April 26, 1989 (foreign staining and lacquering of wooden furniture parts in Mexico is considered to exceed an alteration for purposes of subheading 9802.00.50, HTSUS); HRL 071689 dated May 31, 1984 (anodizing of certain heat transfer devices in Mexico was too extensive to be considered an alteration, since it caused oxides to enter into the structure of the basic metal, thereby changing the chemical structure of the articles).

With regard to the facts in this case, we believe that the patinization process, application of gold leafing, along with other finishing operations, are analogous to the electroplating, lacquering, staining, and anodizing operations in HRL's 555002, 555093, and 071689, and do not constitute acceptable "alterations," within the meaning of HTSUS subheading 9802.00.50. The above-described processes constitute a series of finishing operations which are necessary to the manufacture of the completed sculpture. The process of patinizing the bronze to a desired color is a significant manufacturing operation which has the effect of changing the character and chemical make-up of the outer layer of the bronze. That some of the same retailers who purchase the finished sculpture may also buy the sculpture that has not been patinized, painted or otherwise finished, does not change the fact that these foreign processing operations are necessary in the preparation of the finished article. We believe that the process of changing the color of the bronze, applying gold leaf and painting impart significant new characteristics to the sculpture giving it a unique and specialized appeal. Accordingly, it is our opinion that the finishing operations performed in Mexico constitute a process of manufacture which exceeds an alteration within the meaning of HTSUS subheading 9802.00.50.


The bronze sculpture is classifiable under subheading 8306.21.00, HTSUS, which provides for: [s]tatuettes and other ornaments, of base metal: [s]tatuettes and other ornaments, and parts thereof: [p]lated with precious metal, and parts thereof." The general, column one rate of duty is 6.5 percent ad valorem.

On the basis of the information presented, it is our opinion that the drilling, grinding, welding, patinizing, gold leaf application, painting and/or waxing and other finishing operations performed in Mexico on the exported bronze sculpture, do not constitute "alterations", within the meaning of HTSUS subheading 9802.00.50. Therefore, upon return to the U.S., the bronze sculpture will not be entitled to the partial duty exemption available under this tariff provision, but will be dutiable upon its full value.


John Durant, Director

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