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HQ 958320

December 20, 1996

CLA-2 RR:TC:MM 958320 MMC


TARIFF NO.: 9403.90.70

Port Director
U.S. Customs Service
1000 2nd Ave.
Seattle, WA 98104-1049

RE: Protest 3001-95-100309; Modular Furniture Components; GRI 2(a); EN V-VII for GRI 2 (a); HRLs 952850, 956969, and 087193

Dear Port Director:

The following is our response to Protest 3001-95-100309 concerning your actions in classifying and assessing duty on modular furniture components including work surfaces, storage bins, connectors, panels and end covers, under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). Literature with pictures of the subject components was submitted for our review.


The subject articles are described as components of a modular work station. They include: work surfaces, storage bins, connectors, panels, end covers, etc. According to the importer, amounts and types of individual work station components vary from shipment to shipment. Once imported the components are placed in a warehouse with other previously imported components. The warehouse uses a general inventory system.

The various components, when structured together, form workstations which are part of an entire modular furniture system. When a commercial customer decides to purchase a modular furniture system, the importer's interior designer meets with that customer to ascertain the needed components and configurations for each individual workstation in the system. Each workstation is uniquely designed by placing the various components in different places. After a workstation has been designed, the components necessary to assemble the designed workstations are shipped from the warehouse to the worksite.

Protestant entered the articles under subheading 9403.30.80, HTSUS. The entries were liquidated on March 3, 1995, under subheading 9403.90.70, HTSUS. A protest was timely filed on April 21, 1995. The subheadings under consideration are as follows:

9403 Other furniture and parts thereof:

9403.30.80 Wooden furniture of a kind used in offices: Other.

9403.90.70 Parts: Other: Of wood.


Are the components for a modular workstation classifiable as wooden furniture or as parts of wooden furniture?


Classification of merchandise under the HTSUS is in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's). GRI 1, HTSUS, states in part that for legal purposes, classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes.

Protestant asserts that the components as imported, meet the GRI 2(a) criteria for unassembled goods, and therefore, are classifiable as furniture; not parts of furniture. We disagree. GRI 2 (a), HTSUS, states in pertinent part that:

[a]ny reference in a heading to an article shall be taken to include a reference to that article incomplete or unfinished....It shall also include a reference to that article complete or finished (or falling to be classified as complete or finished by virtue of this rule), entered unassembled or disassembled.

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 or legally binding, 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 V-VII under GRI 2 (a) provides guidance on the application of GRI 2 (a), stating that:

(V) The second part of Rule 2 (a) provides that complete or finished articles presented unassembled or disassembled are to be classified in the same heading as the assembled article. When goods are so presented, it is usually for reasons such as requirements or convenience of packing, handling or transport.

(VI) This Rule also applies to incomplete or unfinished articles presented unassembled or disassembled provided that they are to be treated as complete or finished articles by virtue of the first part of this Rule.

(VII) For the purposes of this Rule, "articles presented unassembled or disassembled" means articles the components of which are to be assembled either by means of simple fixing devices (screws, nuts, bolts, etc.) or by riveting or welding, for example, provided only simple assembly operations are involved.

Unassembled components of an article which are in excess of the number required for that article when complete are to be classified separately.

The importer has stated the company's intent to eventually use all components of a particular shipment as components of complete workstations. However, individual work station components are imported and placed in a general warehouse with other previously imported components. Intermingling of components from separate shipments is required to assemble the workstations. It thus appears that a main reason the goods are entered unassembled is not for requirements or convenience of packing, handling, or transport, but because all the parts required for the assembled workstations may not be included in the same shipment. Therefore, these parts are considered bulk inventory and are separately classifiable on the basis of GRI 1, under subheading 9403.90.70, HTSUS, as other parts of wood.

This finding is consistent with Headquarters Ruling Letter ( HRL) 952850 dated April 14, 1993 in which we held that 7 various components of ball point and fountain pens imported commingled in quantities of approximately 1000, were not classifiable as unassembled pens, but rather as parts of pens. While the importer intended to convert all pen parts of a particular shipment into complete pens, importer's clients would at times order color combinations which the importer was unable to produce from the color components of a particular shipment. The importer was then required to use color components from other shipments. Therefore, Customs held that the pen components were not entered unassembled for convenience of packing, handling or transport, but because, due to color preference, all the parts required for the assembled pens may not be included in a particular shipment.

Finally, we note that other components of modular workstations have been classified as parts of furniture. See HRL 956969 dated April 4, 1995, classifying steel partition tiles for modular furniture and HRL 087193 dated May 30, 1990, classifying panels used in the construction of modular furniture.


The protest should be DENIED. The components for the modular furniture workstations are classifiable under subheading 9403.90.70, HTSUS, as other parts of wood furniture.

In accordance with section 3A(11)(b) of Customs Directive 099 3550-065, dated August 4, 1993, Subject: Revised Protest Directive, this decision should be mailed by your office to the protestant no later than 60 days from the date of this letter. Any reliquidation of the entry in accordance with this decision must be accomplished prior to the mailing of the decision. Sixty days from the date of this decision, the Office of Regulations and Rulings will take steps to make the decision available to Customs personnel via the Customs Rulings Module in ACS and to the public via the Diskette Subscription Service, Freedom of Information Act and other public access channels.


John Durant, Director
Tariff Classification and

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