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 > 1995 HQ Rulings > HQ 957531 - HQ 957667 > HQ 957667

Previous Ruling Next Ruling
HQ 957667

May 15, 1995

CLA-2 R:C:T 957667 ch


TARIFF NO.: 4820.10.2010

Ruby L. Wood
Evans and Wood & Co., Inc.
P.O. Box 610005
D/FW Airport, Texas 75261

RE: Modification of NYRL 864822; tariff classification of diaries, notebooks and address books, bound.

Dear Ms. Wood:

New York Ruling Letter (NYRL) 864822, dated July 5, 1991, concerned the classification of an organizer/address book under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). We have had occasion to review this ruling and find that the classification of this article under subheading 4820.10.4000, HTSUS, is in error.

Pursuant to section 625, Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. 1625), as amended by section 623 of Title VI (Customs Modernization) of the North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act, Pub. L. 103-182, 107 Stat. 2057, 2186 (1993) (hereinafter section 625), notice of the proposed revocation of NYRL 864822 was published April 12, 1995, in the Customs Bulletin, Volume 29, Number 15.


In NYRL 864822, the subject merchandise was described as follows:

It is a 2 x 10 x 17 cm looseleaf book consisting of a metal six ring binder, complete with pages (paper inserts), permanently mounted inside a cover made essentially of plastic and cotton fabric.

The pages are, for the most part, blank sheets that are lined and captioned to permit written entries of various kinds. With the aid of tabbed dividers, they are grouped into a number of different sections, including those for yearly, weekly and daily planning, notes, and telephone/address listings. A few pages are printed with handy reference information, such as a world time chart, a calorie/carbohydrate guide, and a 1991-1992 calendar.

The inside of the cover is fitted with an inexpensive ball point pen, and also incorporates pockets for carrying business cards and loose papers. In addition, the book features a strap/snap closure.

In NYRL 864822, the article was classified under subheading 4820.10.4000, HTSUS, as an article similar to a diary.


Whether the subject merchandise is classifiable in subheading 4820.10.2010, HTSUS, which provides for diaries, notebooks and address books, bound; or subheading 4820.10.4000, HTSUS, which encompasses in part articles similar to diaries, notebooks and address books, and unbound diaries, notebooks and address books?


Following the enactment of the HTSUS in 1989, the Area Director of Customs, New York Seaport, issued a number of ruling letters in which merchandise described as organizers, planners, agendas or engagement calendars were not regarded as diaries. At that time, the provision for diaries was reserved for books used as personal journals and suitable for extensive notations or narratives. As the submitted sample was not suitable for these purposes, it was classified as an article similar to a diary.

However, these early decisions were superseded by a series of rulings from Customs headquarters. See Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 089960, dated February 10, 1992; HRL 952691, dated January 11, 1993; HRL 953172, dated March 19, 1993; HRL 953413, dated March 29, 1993; HRL 955253, dated November 10, 1993; HRL 955199, dated January 24, 1994. The headquarters decisions made reference to the Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (1987), which defined the term "diary" as:

2. A book prepared for keeping a daily record, or having spaces with printed dates for daily memoranda and jottings; also applied to calendars containing daily memoranda on matters of importance to people generally, or to members of a particular profession, occupation, or pursuit.

Based upon this language, engagement books, agendas, organizers and planners designed primarily for the receipt of daily memoranda and jottings were classified as diaries.

Furthermore, in recent rulings we have made reference to judicial authority in this area. For example, in Baumgarten v. United States, 49 Cust. Ct. 275 (1962), the merchandise was described in part as a:

[P]lastic covered book, approximately 4 1/4 by 7 3/8 inches in dimensions. Its first few pages contain, successively, the date "1961," the notation "Personal Memoranda," calendars for the years 1960, 1961, and 1962, and a few statistical tables. The following 20-odd pages contain spaces for addresses and telephone numbers, each page more or less set aside for each letter of the alphabet. The remaining portion of the book consists of ruled pages allocated to the days of the year and the hours of the day and each headed with calendars for the current and following months. A blank-lined page, inserted at the end of each month's section, is captioned "Notes."

In Baumgarten, the Court observed that:

[T]he particular distinguishing feature of a diary is its suitability for the receipt of daily notations; and, in this respect, the books here in issue are well described. By virtue of the allocation of spaces for hourly entries during the course of each day of the year, the books are designed for that very purpose. That the daily events to be chronicled may also include scheduled appointments would not detract from their general character as appropriate volumes for the recording of daily memoranda.

Accordingly, the Court classified an appointment/telephone book with calendars and statistical information as a diary.

Similarly, in Brooks Bros. v. United States, 68 Cust Ct. 91 (1972), the submitted sample was an 8 inch by 10 inch spiral bound leather book which included pages suitable for use as a diary, but also possessed a significant amount of printed informational material. Citing Baumgarten, the Court noted that the "particular distinguishing feature of a diary is its suitability for the receipt of daily notations." As the informational material did not alter the essential nature of the article, it was classified as a diary.

In light of the foregoing administrative and judicial precedent, we conclude that the instant merchandise is properly classifiable as a diary, as the article functions primarily as a place for the receipt of daily notations. Diaries are classifiable in subheading 4820.10.2010, HTSUS, if they are regarded as bound. However, unbound diaries devolve to subheading 4820.10.4000, HTSUS. In HRL 955516, dated April 8, 1994, we stated that:

As the "Filofax" diaries contain ring binders that hold loose sheets in place, they are undoubtedly classifiable within heading 4820, HTSUSA. The next issue is whether ring binders make a diary "bound" so as to warrant classification within subheading 4820.10.2010, HTSUSA. This office has consistently held that they do. See HRL 089960 (2/10/92; 952691 (1/11/93); and 953172 (3/19/93). This position is supported by the EN to heading 4820, HTSUSA, which state that "goods of this heading may be bound with materials other than paper (e.g., leather, plastics or textile material) and have reinforcements or fittings of metal, plastics, etc." It is clear that metal binders were contemplated to fit within this heading's definition of bound articles. We do not agree with protestant's argument that merely because a metal loose leaf ring binder was not expressly cited as an exemplar of a "bound" article in the EN to heading 4820, that it is precluded from classification as such.

Accordingly, Customs has determined that diaries incorporating ring binders are regarded as bound for classification purposes. See also HRL 957148, dated October 21, 1994; HRL 955937, dated October 21, 1994. Based on our administrative precedent, the subject merchandise is classifiable as a bound diary of subheading 4820.10.2010, HTSUS.

In a submission, dated February 17, 1995, filed in connection with another matter, you contend that loose sheets of paper secured by means of spiral or metal fasteners are not "bound," as that term is used in heading 4820. You argue that prior administrative decisions in this area do not constitute "legal argument" and imply that they should be disregarded. However, pursuant to Customs Regulation 177.9(a) (19 CFR 177.9(a)), a principle set forth in previous ruling letters may be cited as authority in the disposition of transactions involving the same circumstances. Consequently, we regard the prior ruling letters in this area as legally significant.

Citing lexicographic sources, you note that the term "bound" is associated with words such as "secured," "firm or fast," "fastened," "tied." On the other hand, the term loose connotes "flexible," "changeable," "unfettered," "free." You assert that looseleaf and spiral fasteners do not secure paper inserts. Rather, they allow their contents to be flexible or changeable. Consequently, you reason that diaries possessing looseleaf or spiral fasteners should be regarded as unbound.

However, ring and spiral fasteners function to secure their contents. They are in fact designed to hold paper in place. In this regard, we direct your attention to subheading 4820.30, HTSUS, which provides in part for binders. The Explanatory Note to the heading, at page 687, states that the heading includes:

Binders for holding loose sheets, magazines, or the like (e.g. clip binders, spring binders, screw binders, ring binders). (Emphasis added).

Thus, heading 4820 specifies that the term "binders" include ring binders, and by implication spiral binders, designed for holding loose sheets. The note makes it clear a "binder" is not limited to more traditional bookbinding.

You claim that the term "binders" should be distinguished from the term "bound," as the latter is used in a more limited sense elsewhere in the Note. However, there is no indication that the Explanatory Note draws such a distinction. For this reason, we are of the opinion that the terms "binders" and "bound" should be interpreted in a manner consistent with one another. Thus, loose sheets of paper held together in a looseleaf binder are regarded as bound for classification purposes.

As noted above, the Explanatory Note to heading 4820, at page 687, states that:

The goods of this heading may be bound with materials other than paper (e.g., leather, plastics or textile material) and have reinforcements or fittings of metal, plastics, etc.

The first portion of this passage indicates that goods of the heading may be bound with materials other than paper, such as leather, plastics or textile material. It is important to recognize that these binding materials are merely examples and do not purport to be all inclusive. We have concluded that a ring binder is such a binding material. The second part of the passage goes on to state that goods of the heading may have reinforcements or fittings of such materials as metal or plastics. A metal ring binder may also be regarded as a metal fitting.

You have identified bound articles possessing metal fittings. Specifically, you observe that bound ledgers and manuals may possess metal fittings for the purpose of placing them on racks. We agree that bound goods of heading 4820 may possess extraneous fittings of metal. However, this point does not bear on the issue of whether a metal binder constitutes binding material. In addition, you have not indicated why a metal ring binder may not also be regarded as a metal fitting. Therefore, we see no need to disturb our findings in this area.

Our attention is also directed to subheading 4820.10.4000, HTSUS, which encompasses in part unbound diaries. You contend that under Customs analysis, the subheading would essentially be an empty provision. Subheading 4820.10.4000, HTSUS, is a residual provision for certain stationery articles and would describe items such as registers and account books. In addition, we note that the breakout for bound diaries occurs at the eight-digit national classification level. National breakouts were frequently inserted into the HTSUS to carry over the tariff treatment of identical merchandise from the prior tariff, the Tariff Schedule of the United States (TSUS). Item 256, TSUS, provided in part as follows:

Blank books, bound

256.56 Diaries, notebooks and address books...4%

256.58 Other...Free

Thus, under the TSUS, articles classifiable as diaries, notebooks and address books were required to be bound. We have been advised that under the TSUS spiral and ring bound diaries were classified in item 256.56, TSUS. It should be noted that in Brooks Bros., supra., a spiral bound leather book was classified as a bound diary. Therefore, our findings in this area are in accord with past Customs practice.


NYRL 864822, dated July 5, 1991, is hereby modified. The subject merchandise is classifiable under subheading 4820.10.2010, HTSUS, which provides for bound diaries, notebooks and address books. The applicable rate of duty is 3.6 percent ad valorem.

In accordance with 19 U.S.C. 1625, this ruling will become effective 60 days after its publication in the Customs Bulletin. Publication of rulings or decision pursuant to section 625 does not constitute a change of practice of position in accordance with section 177.10(c)(1), Customs Regulations (19 CFR


John Durant, Director

Previous Ruling Next Ruling

See also: