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HQ 958347

January 29, 1996

CLA-2 RR:TC:MM 958347 LTO


TARIFF NO.: 8520.20.00

Ms. Linda M. Christy-Mohabeer
Sekin Transport International
P.O. Box 655464
Dallas, Texas 75265-5464

RE: Digital telephone answering machines; subheading 8517.81.00; EN 85.17; EN 85.20; Section XVI, Note 3; HQs 084990, 957243; NY 803541 revoked

Dear Ms. Christy-Mohabeer:

This is in response to your letter of April 11, 1995, to the Customs Service office in Dallas, Texas, and your letter of August 22, 1995, to this office, requesting the classification of the Murata VOMAX VF1000 telephone answering machine under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). Specifically, you request that we reconsider NY 803541, issued by the Area Director of Customs, New York Seaport, on November 9, 1994. Pursuant to section 625(c)(1), Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. 1625(c)(1)), as amended by section 623 of Title VI (Customs Modernization) of the North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act, Pub. L. No. 103-182, 107 Stat. 2057, 2186 (1993) (hereinafter "section 625"), notice of the proposed revocation of NY 803541 was published December 27, 1995, in the Customs Bulletin, Volume 29, Number 52. No comments were received in response to the notice.


The article in question is the Murata VOMAX VF1000 telephone answering machine ("VF1000"), which is a digital answering machine and messaging unit that is used in conjunction with a telephone set. It does not incorporate a telephone set. The VF1000 is used to record and playback voice messages. - 2 -

The VF1000 is also a full send and receive fax device. Received faxes can be printed or viewed in several ways: on a standard fax machine when connected to the VF1000 via phone jack; on a printer when connected via an optional printer interface; and on a television receiver when connected via a TV interface (for direct viewing on any standard NTSC or PAL television sets). Other features include pager notification, which when programmed, notifies the user whenever a voice call or fax call have been received, and remote access, which permits the user to retrieve voice or fax messages on a remote touchtone telephone by using a security code.


Whether the VF1000 digital telephone answering machines are classifiable under heading 8517, HTSUS, which provides for electrical apparatus for line telephony, or heading 8520, HTSUS, which provides for other sound recording apparatus.


The General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's) to the HTSUS govern the classification of goods in the tariff schedule. GRI 1 states, in pertinent part, that "for legal purposes, classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes . . . ."

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (EN) constitute the official interpretation of the Harmonized System. While not legally binding, the ENs provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the Harmonized System, and are generally indicative of the proper interpretation of these headings. See T.D. 89-80, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (Aug. 23, 1989).

In NY 803541, issued by the Area Director of Customs, New York Seaport, on November 9, 1994, the VF1000, which was believed to be an integral part of a standard telephone set (i.e., a telephone set incorporating an answering machine), was held to be classifiable under subheading 8517.81.00, HTSUS, which provides for other telephonic apparatus. See EN 85.17, pg. 1361 (which provides that the heading covers telephone sets " in which a telephone set . . . and a device for the transmission of recorded messages, and sometimes, the recording of incoming calls constitute an integrated unit"). The VF1000, however, does not incorporate a telephone set. Rather, it is used in conjunction with a telephone set, and it is classifiable in accordance with HQ 957243, dated February 16, 1995. In HQ 957243, this office determined that a similar digital answering machine, the "Bogen Answering Machine," was classifiable under subheading 8520.20.00, HTSUS, which provides for magnetic tape recorders - 3 -
and other sound recording apparatus, whether or not incorporating a sound reproducing device: telephone answering machines.

EN 85.20, pg. 1368, states that heading 8520, HTSUS, "covers all sound recording apparatus, whatever the purpose for which it is intended . . . . The heading also includes sound recording apparatus, incorporating a sound reproducing device." EN 85.20, pg. 1369, further states that the heading covers combined sound recording and reproducing apparatus, including "[t]elephone answering machines designed to operate in conjunction with a telephone set (but not forming an integral part of the set) to transmit a message previously recorded by the telephone subscriber and to record messages left by the caller (by means of an integral sound recording device) (emphasis in original)."

The VF1000 is designed to operate in conjunction with a telephone set to transmit a recorded message and to record messages left by the caller. The machines, which record the messages digitally in RAM memory, rather than on a magnetic tape, are sound recording apparatus incorporating a sound reproducing device. They are therefore classifiable under heading 8520, HTSUS, specifically under subheading 8520.20.00, HTSUS. While the VF1000 can also receive (on a separate fax machine, printer or television receiver) and redirect facsimile messages, the device's principal function is sound recording. See Section XVI, Note 3, HTSUS (for a contrasting decision on the classification of a facsimile machine that also functioned as a hands-free speaker telephone and an answering machine, see HQ 084990, dated October 3, 1989). Accordingly, NY 803541 is revoked.


The Murata VOMAX VF1000 digital telephone answering machines are classifiable under subheading 8520.20.00, HTSUS, which provides for telephone answering machines. The corresponding rate of duty for articles of this subheading is 3.1% ad valorem.

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


John Durant, Director
Tariff Classification Appeals Division

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