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 957792 - HQ 957977 > HQ 957917

Previous Ruling Next Ruling
HQ 957917

July 7, 1995

CLA-2 R:C:T 957917 ch


TARIFF NO.: 4202.92.1500

Louis S. Shoichet, Esq.
Tompkins & Davidson
One Astor Plaza
1515 Broadway - 43rd Floor
New York, New York 10036

RE: Modification of Headquarters Ruling Letter 087537; tariff classification of a tote bag; travel, sports and similar bag; not a handbag.

Dear Mr. Shoichet:

In Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 087537, dated October 2, 1990, you were advised that the tariff classification for a tote bag was subheading 4202.22.4500, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), which provides for handbags, with outer surface of certain textile materials. We have had occasion to review HRL 087537 and find that the tariff classification of the tote bag is partially 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 modification of HRL 087537 was published May 31, 1995, in the Customs Bulletin, Volume 29, Number 22.


In HRL 087537 the goods were described as follows:

The merchandise at issue is a 100 percent woven cotton bag measuring approximately 14 x 10 x 5 inches. It has a reinforced open top with double carrying straps. The article has no lining and no interior or exterior pockets or compartments.


What is the proper tariff classification for the tote bag?


HRL 087537 made reference to the similarity between the instant merchandise and the goods at issue in HRL 086094, dated March 16, 1990 (modified for reasons not relevant here in HRL 086676, dated March 21, 1990). In HRL 086094, we concluded that certain tote bags were classifiable as handbags, as they "function primarily as secondary handbags used to carry various objects which do not fit into a woman's regular handbag." This rationale was enunciated in J.E. Mamiye & Sons, Inc. v. United States, 509 F. Supp. 1268, 85 Cust. Ct. 92 (1980), aff'd, 665 F.2d 336, 69 C.C.P.A. 17 (1981) decided under the prior tariff, the Tariff Schedules of the United States (TSUS). In that decision, the Court concluded that the tariff item for handbags prevailed over a provision for textile shopping bags. In light of this precedent, the subject merchandise was classified as a handbag of subheading 4202.22, HTSUS.

However, HRL 086094 and HRL 086676 were subsequently revoked by HRL 950708, dated December 24, 1991. In that decision, we observed that:

HRL 086094 followed the rationale of J.E. Mamiye & Sons, Inc. v. U.S., 509 F. Supp. 1268 (1980), aff'd, 665 F.2d 336 (1981), in which the court addressed the issue of whether tote bags, which varied in size, color and material, were properly classifiable under the Tariff Schedules of the United States Annotated in a specific provision for handbags or as shopping bags under a provision for textile articles not specially provided for. The court noted that tote bags are used to carry items which do not ordinarily fit within a women's handbag and, on this basis, held that they were similar to handbags. In so holding, the court stated in relevant part:

The primary issue presented is whether the imported tote bags are handbags as claimed or whether they are excluded from classification under item 706.24, supra, by virtue of being shopping bags in accordance with Headnote 2(b) of Schedule 7, Part 1, Subpart D...As indicated, supra, the provision for handbags is an eo nomine provision...Ordinarily, use is not a criteria in determining whether merchandise is embraced within an eo nomine provision. However, use may be considered in determining the identity of en nomine designation...

Following this principle the record establishes that the involved tote bags are utilized by women as second handbags to carry items which do not ordinarily fit within a handbag...Accordingly, it is apparent that, while a tote bag may be used to carry purchases, nine of the eighteen witnesses who testified indicated it is used for the convenience of those items which do not fit within a handbag. Such testimony is sufficient to establish the use of a tote bag to be similar to a handbag...

Id. at 1274.

The canvas tote bags in question may in some circumstances be used by women as secondary handbags, that is to carry items which do not ordinarily fit within a handbag. However, cotton tote bags similar to those at issue are used for a variety of purposes. In Adolco Trading Co. v. United States, 71 Cust. Ct. 145, C.D. 4487 (1973), tote bags were described in broad terms.

[T]he term "tote is a general one used to indicate all types of carry bags, regardless of whether they are used for shopping or travel...


...[T]he word "tote" is a general term used by many manufacturers to refer to carry bags....

Id. at 151-152. The court concluded that:

The evidence establishes that...the term tote or tote bag is used in the trade to cover various types of carry bags, including shopping bags, and bags which may be luggage...and others which may be handbags....Thus the fact that an article may be bought, sold or referred to as a tote or tote bag does not establish that it is a handbag....

Id. at 155.

The tote bags at issue are made from cotton canvas and are often printed with company logos, or promotional or advertising information. Styles 103 and 128 have single snap closures; the rest have no means of closure. The bags have no pockets and are not lined or reinforced. Since they are of relatively coarse construction, carry advertising and provide little protection for the items they may contain, it is unlikely that the tote bags in question are used in a manner similar to a women's handbag.

The provision for travel, sports and similar bags is defined by Additional U.S. Note 1, Chapter 42, HTSUSA, as follows:

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 used 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.

Instead, it is Customs' opinion that canvas tote bags similar to those at issue are used as multipurpose bags to carry any number of sundry articles, such as food, books and/or clothing. Since they do not fit the terms of subheadings 4202.11 through 4202.39, and since they are a type of bag used to carry clothing and other personal effects during travel, Customs considers them to be travel, sports and similar bags within the meaning of Additional U.S. Note 1, Chapter 42, HTSUSA.

In HRL 951113, dated May 19, 1992, we were asked to reconsider HRL 950708. At that time, we stated that:

By specifically including shopping bags of this heading within the broad category of goods designed for carrying personal effects during travel, it is clear Congress (a) took notice that shopping bags may be correctly classifiable within heading 4202, HTSUSA, and (b) did not intend for the "travel, sports and similar bags" provision to encompass only those bags sufficiently sturdy to withstand the rigors of travel that conventional luggage is designed to meet.

Accordingly, HRL 950708 was affirmed.

In view of the foregoing, the Customs Service is no longer of the opinion that tote bags of a kind similar to the instant goods are classifiable as handbags. Rather, they are regarded as multipurpose bags for carrying various personal effects. We note that samples of the goods in question possess hangtags which market the totes as follows:

Canvas Tote
Hand/Shoulder Strap

Therefore, the totes are regarded as travel, sports and similar bags of subheading 4202.92, HTSUS.


The subject merchandise is classifiable under subheading 4202.92.1500, HTSUS, which provides for travel, sports and similar bags: with outer surface of textile materials: of vegetable fibers and not of pile or tufted construction: of cotton. The applicable rate of duty is 7.1 percent ad valorem. The textile category is 369.

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.

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
Commercial Rulings Division

Previous Ruling Next Ruling

See also: