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HQ 955475

February 25, 1994

CLA-2 CO:R:C:T 955475 BC


TARIFF NO.: 4819.40.0040

Richard J. Schultz, President
Plantation Design Group, Inc.
7410 Southwest Fourth Street
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33317

RE: Classification of a gift bag made of plastic-coated paper

Dear Mr. Schultz:

This responds to your letter of October 4, 1993, wherein you requested a binding classification ruling for a gift bag made of plastic-coated paper. You submitted a sample for our examination. We have reviewed the matter and our decision follows.


The merchandise at issue, as represented by the sample, is a flat-bottomed gift bag measuring 9.5 inches high by 7.5 inches wide, with a 4.5 inch gusset. It is made of paper with a plastic coating that provides a glossy surface. The paper has a plaid pattern and the bag has two braided textile handles. These bags are used by consumers who purchase them to package gifts, as an alternative to wrapped boxes.


What is the proper classification for the plastic-coated paper gift bags at issue?


Classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI). GRI 1 provides that classification is determined in accordance with the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes. Where goods cannot be classified solely on the basis of GRI 1, the remaining rules will be applied in sequential order.

Under GRI 1, classification in heading 4202, HTSUSA (Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated), is suggested. That heading covers the following named articles and similar containers:

Trunks, suitcases, vanity cases, attache cases, briefcases, school satchels, spectacle cases, binocular cases, camera cases, musical instrument cases, gun cases, holsters and similar containers; travelling 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, of leather or of composition leather, of plastic sheeting, of textile materials, of vulcanized fiber or of paperboard, or wholly or mainly covered with such materials or with paper.

It is arguable that the gift bag at issue is similar to a shopping bag. It is constructed like many shopping bags, as evidenced by the flat-bottomed shape and the braided textile handles. However, we need not address this argument since the gift bag is excluded from the heading on other grounds. The second part of heading 4202, HTSUSA (after the semicolon), provides that the articles of that part, and similar containers, be made of certain named materials, a list that does not include paper: leather, composition leather, plastic sheeting, textile materials, vulcanized rubber, and paperboard. The gift bag is made of paper (coated with plastic), which, if imported in material form, would be classified as paper in Chapter 48, HTSUSA. Since it is not made of the named materials, the gift bag cannot be classified in heading 4202, HTSUSA.

Another heading that is suggested for classification of the gift bag is heading 4819, HTSUSA. This heading covers, among other things, cartons, boxes, cases, bags and other packing containers, of paper. Customs in the past has classified bags of the kind at issue under heading 4819, HTSUSA. These bags were used for the same purpose as the instant gift bags and evidenced the same physical features, including plastic coated paper construction, flat bottoms, and textile cord handles. (See New York Ruling Letters 888004, dated July 14, 1993; 882749, dated March 15, 1993; 879382, dated October 23, 1992; 874235, dated June 24, 1992; and 869906, dated January 1, 1992.)

The Explanatory Notes (EN's) to the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System constitute the official interpretation of the nomenclature at the international level. While not legally binding, they represent the considered views of classification experts of the Harmonized System Committee. It has been the practice of the Customs Service to follow, whenever possible, the terms of the EN's when interpreting the HTSUS. In Treasury Decision (T.D.) 89-80, Customs stated that the EN's should always be consulted as guidance when classifying merchandise. (See T.D. 89-80, quoting from a report of the Joint Committee on the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988, endorsing use of the EN's in the classification of goods. 23 Cust. Bull. 379 (1989), 54 Fed. Reg. 35,127 (August 23, 1989).) (See also Totes, Inc. v. United States, No. 91-09-00714, slip op. 92-153 (CIT September 4, 1992), 26 Cust. Bull. No. 40, 35, 37 n. 3 (September 30, 1992), citing T.D. 89-80 and acknowledging the authority of the EN's.)

The EN's for heading 48.19 provide the following concerning the boxes, cartons, and bags of the heading: "This group covers containers of various kinds and sizes generally used for the packing, transport, storage or sale of merchandise, whether or not also having a decorative value." (See the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, Vol. 2, p.685-86.) That the gift bags at issue are used for packing purposes by consumers who purchase them at retail does not exclude them from the heading's coverage. The gift bags are in fact used to package merchandise; they are used to package gifts. The EN's indicate the wide variety of bags within the heading's scope by including various special purpose bags, such as vacuum cleaner bags and bags for travel sickness.

Based on the foregoing, we conclude that the gift bags at issue are classified as bags for packaging under heading 4819, HTSUSA.


The plastic coated paper gift bags at issue are classifiable under subheading 4819.40.0040, HTSUSA, which provides for "Cartons, boxes, cases and other packing containers, of paper . . ., other sacks and bags, including cones, other." The applicable rate of duty is 5.3% ad valorem.


John Durant, Director

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