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HQ 957246

March 29, 1995

CLA-2 CO:R:C:T 957246 ch


TARIFF NO.: 4202.22.8050; 4202.92.3030

Steven S. Weiser, Esq.
Amy J. Johannesen, Esq.
Siegel, Mandell & Davidson, P.C.
One Astor Plaza
1515 Broadway
43rd Floor
New York, New York 10036-8901

RE: New York Ruling Letter 803074 affirmed; classification of handbag/wallet; tote bag; shopping bag; travel bag; not a composite article.

Dear Mr. Weiser and Ms. Johannesen:

This is in response to your letter, dated October 27, 1994, requesting reconsideration of New York Ruling Letter (NYRL), dated October 20, 1994, on behalf of your client, Liz Claiborne Accessories, Inc.. In that decision, a trifold container and a tote bag were separately classified as a handbag and a tote bag, respectively, under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). Samples were sent to this office for examination and will be returned to you under separate cover.


The submitted sample, style 80970, is comprised of two components. The first component is a trifold container closed by means of a double snap closure. It measures approximately 7 1/2 inches in length and 4 1/2 inches in width in its closed position and possesses a detachable shoulder strap. The article is composed primarily of nylon and opens to reveal a coin/utility pocket, a removable checkbook holder, an identification card window, credit card slots and a zippered pocket for paper currency. The exterior features a full length and width pocket with magnetic snap closure. The second component is a matching open top, double handle, tote bag measuring approximately 16 1/2 inches by 15 inches. You indicate that the tote bag will inserted into the exterior pocket of the trifold and the two components will be sold as a unit.


Whether the trifold container is classifiable in subheading 4202.32, HTSUS, as an article of a kind normally carried in the pocket or in the handbag; or in subheading 4202.22, HTSUS, as a handbag?

Whether the trifold container and the tote bag are classified together as a composite article, pursuant to General Rule of Interpretation (GRI) 3(b); or are classified separately?


Heading 4202, HTSUS, provides inter alia for handbags and wallets. Subheadings 4202.22 through 4202.29, HTSUS, encompass handbags; subheadings 4202.31 through 4202.39, HTSUS, describe articles of a kind normally carried in the pocket or handbag. The subheading Explanatory Note to heading 4202, at page 613, indicates that wallets are classified as an article of a kind normally carried in the pocket or in the handbag. Pursuant to General Rule of Interpretation 6, classification of goods at the subheading level shall be effected mutatis mutandis with General Rules of Interpretation 1 through 5.

The term "wallet" is not defined in the HTSUS or in the applicable Explanatory Note to heading 4202, HTSUS. However, we note the following definitions of the term "wallet" from lexicographic sources:

Essential Terms of Fashion: A Collection of Definitions, Charlotte M. Calasibetta, Fairchild Publications, 1986: An item used to carry paper money, credit cards, photographs and sometimes with a change purse or space for a check book or pad.

The Fashion Dictionary, Mary Brooks Picken, Funk & Wagnalls, 1973: 1. Flat purse or pocketbook, for carrying either paper money or coins.

Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam Co., 1977: 1. a bag for carrying miscellaneous articles while traveling; 2 a: billfold b: a pocketbook with compartments for change, photographs, cards, and keys.

Webster's New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1988: 1. [Archaic] a knapsack; 2. a flat pocketbook, as of leather, with compartments for paper money, cards, etc.; billfold.

We also recognize that the term "handbag" has been defined as follows:

Essential Terms of Fashion: A Collection of Definitions: Accessory carried primarily by women and girls to hold such items as money, credit cards, and cosmetics.

The Fashion Dictionary: Soft or rigid bag carried in hand or on arm. Size, shape, handle, etc., depend on fashion. Used by women as container for money and pocket-sized accessories.

Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary: 1. traveling bag; 2. a woman's bag held in the hand or hung from a shoulder strap and used for carrying small personal articles and money.

Webster's New World Dictionary: A bag, usually of leather or cloth, held in the hand or hung by a strap from the arm or shoulder and used, by women, to carry money, keys, and personal effects.

The trifold possesses attributes of both a wallet and a handbag. For example, it features credit card slots, pockets for paper currency/coins and an identification card window, which are associated with a wallet. On the other hand, it possesses a shoulder strap and a spacious exterior pocket suitable for holding various personal effects, which are characteristics of a handbag. As the item is described by two subheadings within heading 4202, HTSUS, we must resort to General Rule of Interpretation 3 to determine its proper classification.

Although the presence of a carrying strap permits the article to be worn on the shoulder in a manner consistent with a handbag, we conclude that a strap in and of itself should not affect its classification. In this regard, we note that the provision for handbags specifies that they may or may not have a shoulder strap. Moreover, in this instance the strap is detachable, suggesting a dual use for the merchandise as a handbag or a wallet.

We are of the opinion that the determinative feature of a handbag is its ability to hold several objects not associated with a wallet. In this instance, the interior of the container is fitted to hold objects associated with a wallet (i.e., credit cards, identification cards, paper currency and coins). However, the exterior pocket is spacious and may serve as a receptacle for a variety of personal effects. For example, we were able to place a small address book, small hairbrush, lipstick, nail polish and a set of keys on a chain into the pocket simultaneously. While you indicate that the tote bag will be inserted into the pocket at the time of importation, these articles may be separated and used individually after they are purchased. Although the trifold incorporates the features of a wallet, taken as a whole it has the character of a carry-all container. Consequently, it is classifiable as a handbag of subheading 4202.22, HTSUS.

GRI 3(b) states in pertinent part that composite goods consisting of different components shall be classified as if they consist of the component which gives them their essential character. Explanatory Note (EN) (IX), at page 4, provides that:

For the purposes of this Rule, 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 inseparable whole but also those with separable components, provided these components are mutually complementary and that together they form a whole which would not normally be offered for sale in separate parts.

Examples of the latter category of goods are:

(1) Ashtrays consisting of a stand incorporating a removable ash bowl.

(2) Household spice racks consisting of a specially designed frame (usually of wood) and an appropriate number of empty spice jars of suitable shape and size.

(Emphasis added).

Thus, goods consisting of two or more components will be regarded as composite goods, provided that they are "mutually complementary" and "that together they form a whole which would not normally be offered for sale in separate parts."

You contend that the trifold and the tote bag are mutually complementary and note prior decisions where we have deemed it significant that components were color coordinated and adapted to one another. See Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 951112, dated March 24, 1994 (HRL 950210, dated September 4, 1991, affirmed; swimshorts with matching belt are adapted to one another and form composite goods); HRL 081835, dated April 26, 1989 (blouse and tie of matching color constitute composite goods). Our attention is directed to a ruling in which we concluded that components which may be used separately were classified as a composite article. See HRL 950324, dated December 10, 1991 (nylon belt which could be used for other purposes classified with a lighting unit). Finally, you observe that on occasion Customs has regarded components as mutually complementary solely on the basis that they were composed of the same material. See NYRL 881356, dated January 29, 1993 (boxer shorts imported with drawstring pouch); NYRL 863176, dated June 5, 1991 (raincoat with carrying bag). As the instant components are composed of the same material and may be regarded as being adapted to one another, you conclude that they are mutually complementary.

In addition, you characterize the tote bag as "relatively flimsy" and argue that it would not normally be sold individually. Moreover, you reason that the components may be classified together so long as they "are not normally offered for sale separately by the importer." In other words, you buttress your claim by arguing that the importer would not actually sell these items separately as part of their product line. Consequently, you conclude that the trifold and the tote bag satisfy the criteria for a composite article.

However, the phrase "would not normally be sold in separate parts" does not refer to how the components are actually marketed. Rather, it pertains to whether the components would normally or principally be sold independently of one another. In the decisions set forth above, we concluded or implied that at least one of the components had no practical value when sold independently and was not of the type usually sold separately at retail. Thus, for example, insubstantial belts or ties were classified with garments so long as they were not of a kind normally sold in their own right. By way of contrast, we have determined that ties normally sold as separate accessory items are not classified with an accompanying playsuit. HRL 953063, dated June 8, 1993. In this instance, we conclude that there is a market for both the tote bag and the trifold as separate articles of commerce. Consequently, we conclude that the these items do not comprise a composite article and must be classified separately. We reserve judgment on whether the components are mutually complementary.

Chapter 42, Additional U.S. Note 1, states 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 travel, including backpacks and shopping bags of this heading, but does not include binocular cases, camera cases, musical instrument cases, bottle cases and similar containers.

The tote bag meets the description of a travel bag and is similar to a shopping bag in this regard. Consequently, it is classifiable as a travel bag of subheading 4202.92, HTSUS.


NYRL 803074 is hereby affirmed. The trifold is classifiable under subheading 4202.22.8050, HTSUS, which provides for handbags, whether or not with shoulder strap, including those without handle: with outer surface of textile materials: other: other, other, of man-made fibers. The applicable rate of duty is 19.8 percent ad valorem. The textile category is 670.

The tote bag is classifiable under subheading 4202.92.3030, HTSUS, which provides for travel, sports and similar bags: with outer surface of textile materials: other, other: of man-made fibers: other. The applicable rate of duty is 19.8 percent ad valorem. The textile category is 670.

The designated textile and apparel category may be subdivided into parts. If so, visa and quota requirements applicable to the subject merchandise may be affected. Since part categories are the result of international bilateral agreements which are the subject of frequent negotiations and changes, to obtain the most current information available, we suggest that you check, close to the time of shipment, the Status Report on Current Import Quotas (Restraint Levels), an issuance of the U.S. Customs Service, which is updated weekly and is available at the local Customs office.

Due to the changeable nature of the statistical annotation (the ninth and tenth digits of the classification) and the restraint (quota/visa) categories, you should contact the local Customs office prior to importing the merchandise to determine the current status of any import restraints or requirements.


John Durant, Director

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