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HQ 952722

September 27, 1994

CLA-2 CO:R:C:M 952722 KCC


TARIFF NO.: 8531.20.00

Donald Alfred Weadon, Jr., Esq.
Reinhart, Boerner, Van Deuren, Norris & Rieselbach, P.C. 601 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004-2602

RE: Liquid Crystal Display Modules; LCDs; 9013.80.60; Additional U.S. Note 1(a); principal use; signaling apparatus; EN 85.31; EN 90.13; HRLs 955062, 954788, 953115, 952502, 951868, 952360, 951288, 955294, 952973

Dear Mr. Weadon:

This is in response to your letter dated September 30, 1992, on behalf of Toshiba America Electronic Components, Inc., concerning the tariff classification of liquid crystal display modules under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). Additional submissions dated April 7, 13, July 15, September 14, October 15, and December 29, 1993, and information presented at meetings on February 10, and October 1, 1993, were considered in rendering this decision.


The liquid crystal display modules (LCDs) at issue are imported assembled with the necessary operational electronics, such as a printed circuit board with row and column driver integrated circuits, controller chips, Read Only Memory, Random Access Memory, a mounting bezel, and, in some case, backlighting. They incorporate either twisted nematic or super twisted nematic liquid crystal material. The LCDs are ready to be installed/"plug in" condition. The LCDs at issue are as follows:

Model Number Application #1 Application #2

Compressor Controls

IV Fluid Pump Unit
Cable TV Test
Equipment 29%
Unknown 7%

Control Devices 99%
Portable Label
Maker 1%

Portable Label
Maker 51%
Cellular Phone Test
Equipment 33%
Other 16%

Telecom Console 67%
Stenography WP 30%
Unknown 3%

Laser Printers 90%
Medical Scanner 10%

TLX-1151- 50BN
Electric Typewriter

Taxi Point-of-Sale

Chromatog Machine

Global Positioning
Fish Finder

Industrial Control
Test Device 50%

Measuring 84%

Medical Bedside

Global Positioning

Laser Printer


Are the LCDs classified under subheading 8531.20.00, HTSUS, as "[e]lectric sound or visual signaling apparatus...[i]ndicator panels incorporating liquid crystal devices (LCD's)...", or under subheading 9013.80.60, HTSUS, as "[l]iquid crystal devices not constituting articles provided for more specifically in other headings..."?


The classification of merchandise under the HTSUS is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's). GRI 1, HTSUS, states, in part, that "for legal purposes, classification shall be determined according to terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes...." The subheadings at issue are as follows:

8531.20.00 Electric sound or visual signaling apparatus (for example, bells, sirens, indicator panels, burglar or fire alarms), other than those of heading 8512 or 8530; parts thereof...Indicator panels incorporating liquid crystal devices (LCD's) or light emitting diodes (LED's)....

9013.80.60 Liquid crystal devices not constituting articles provided for more specifically in other headings; lasers, other than laser diodes; other optical appliances and instruments, not specified or included elsewhere in this chapter; parts and accessories thereof...Other devices, appliances and instruments...Other.

You contend that the LCDs are classified under subheading 8531.20.00, HTSUS, as "[e]lectric sound or visual signaling apparatus...[i]ndicator panels incorporating liquid crystal devices (LCD's)...." Heading 8531, HTSUS, has been held to be a use provision. See, Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 951288 dated July 7, 1992. Additional U.S. Note 1(a), HTSUS, states that:

[A] tariff classification controlled by use (other than actual use) is to be determined in accordance with the use in the United States at, or immediately prior to, the date of importation, of goods of that class or kind to which the imported goods belong, and the controlling use is the principal use.

Therefore, to be classified in this heading, the apparatus must be principally used for "signaling."

In understanding the language of the HTSUS, the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HCDCS) Explanatory Notes (ENs) may be consulted. The ENs, although not dispositive, provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the HTSUS and are generally indicative of the proper interpretation of the HTSUS. See, T.D. 89-90, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (August 23, 1989).

EN 85.31 (pg. 1381) is fairly descriptive and restrictive as to the types of "signaling" indicator panels and the function they must perform in order to be classifiable in heading 8531, HTSUS. EN 85.31 states indicator panels and the like: "[a]re used (e.g., in offices, hotels and factories) for calling personnel, indicating where a certain person or service is required, indicating whether a room is free or not. They include:

(1) Room indicators. There are large panels with numbers corresponding to a number of rooms. When a button is pressed in the room concerned the corresponding number is either lit up or exposed by the falling away of a shutter or flap.

(2) Number indicators. The signals appear to illuminated figures on the face of a small box; in some apparatus of this kind the calling mechanism is operated by the dial of a telephone. Also clock type indicators in which the numbers are indicated by a hand moving round a dial.

(3) Office indicators, for example, those used to indicate whether the occupant of a particular office is free or not. Some types are merely a simple "come in" or "engaged" sign illuminated at will by the occupant of the office.

(4) Lift indicators. These indicate, on an illuminated board, where the lift is and whether it is going up or down.

(5) Engine room telegraph apparatus for ships.

(6) Station indicating panels for showing the times and platforms of trains.

(7) Indicators for race course, football stadiums, bowling alleys, etc.

Certain of these indicator panels, etc., also incorporate bells or other sound signalling devices (emphasis in original).

Therefore, only those LCD's which are principally used and/or limited by design to "signaling" are classifiable under subheading 8531.20.00, HTSUS. See, HRL 954788 dated December 1, 1993, HRL 953115 dated May 10, 1993, HRL 952502 dated March 18, 1993, HRL 951868 dated October 31, 1992, HRL 952360 dated October 15, 1992, and HRL 951288. The LCD applications enumerated above present limited indication information to a user, i.e., measurement, coordinates, flow rate, etc., and as such, they provide similar indication information as those types of limited indication functions enumerated in EN 85.31. Therefore, Customs concurs that the instant LCDs are principally used for visual signaling. See also, HRL 955062 dated March 21, 1994 (global positioning, traffic signal controller, portable data collector, lottery system, pipeline monitoring, gasoline pump indicator, and medical, measurement and industrial instruments), HRL 954638 (electronic price tags, medical instrumentation, diving equipment, camera controls, and industrial controls) and HRL 953115 (avionics LCDs for collision avoidance systems), which classified LCDs with limited operational capabilities for signaling functions under subheading 8531.20.00, HTSUS, as signaling apparatus.

LCDs are also classifiable under heading 9013, HTSUS, which provides for "[l]iquid crystal devices not constituting articles provided for more specifically in other headings...." EN 90.13 (pg. 1478) states:

(1) Liquid crystal devices consisting of a liquid crystal layer sandwiched between two sheets or plates of glass or plastics, whether or not fitted with electrical connections, presented in the piece or cut to special shapes and not constituting articles described more specifically in other headings of the Nomenclature (emphasis in original).

However, the subject LCDs are more specifically described in subheading 8531.20.00, HTSUS, as "[e]lectric sound or visual signaling apparatus...[i]ndicator panels incorporating liquid crystal devices (LCD's)...." Customs has consistently held that subheading 8531.20.00, HTSUS is more specific than subheading 9013.80.60, HTSUS. See, HRL 955294 dated March 18, 1994, HRL 954788, HRL 954638, and HRL 952973 dated August 5, 1993. Therefore, the LCDs at issue are classified under subheading 8531.20.00, HTSUS.


The Toshiba LCDs, model numbers TLX-1391, TLX-1391-EO, TLX-711A-30, TLX-711A-EO, TLX-711A, TLX-1301V-30, TLX-1151- 50BN, TLC-591-30N, TLX-1781-C3B, TLX-1013-EO, TLX-1741-C3B, TLX-1021, TLX-1241-30, TLX-1461, and TLC-671, are classified under subheading 8531.20.00, HTSUS, as "[e]lectric sound or visual signaling apparatus...[i]ndicator panels incorporating liquid crystal devices (LCD's)...." The corresponding duty rate for articles of this subheading is 2.7 percent ad valorem.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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