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HQ 958572

February 5, 1996

CLA-2 RR:TC:MM 958572 RFA


TARIFF NO.: 9612.10.90

Mr. Robert Slomovitz
Chief, Machinery Branch
National Commodity Specialist Division
U.S. Customs House
6 World Trade Center
New York, NY 10048

RE: Tape Cassette Cartridges for Lettering Machines; Typewriter or Similar Ribbons, Inked or Otherwise Prepared for Giving Impressions; "Parts"; Headings 3919, 8442, 9612; EN 96.12; Legal Note 2(w) to Chapter 39; QMS v. United States; HQs 958098, 951857, 088950, 087037, 085833

Dear Mr. Slomovitz:

This is in reply to your memorandum of September 26, 1995 (CLA-2-84:R: N1:110), requesting our comments concerning the tariff classification of tape cassette cartridges for lettering machines under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS).


The merchandise consists of various tape cassette cartridges for use with the P-Touch lettering machines which will produce adhesive labels from 3/8 to ½ inches in width. The P-Touch lettering machines use either a keyboard, or a rotary knob with control button features to select letters or other characters to be printed on the labels. Each lettering machine contains an LCD display which allows for editing of text in the memory (holds up to 45 or 55 characters, depending upon the models) before printing. The lettering machines allow the user to print out a broad range of lettered labels that have a variety of applications in the office and home.

The tape cassette cartridges contain 3 spools of different printing media materials. One of the spools contains the adhesive plastic tape onto which the letters are printed. This tape actually acts as the finished label after it is printed and peeled from its paper backing. A second spool contains the colored plastic tape which is the "inked" material actually printed onto the plastic label; the "inked" ribbon is then rewound inside the cartridge. The third spool contains a clear plastic strip which covers the colored tape which is printed onto the adhesive label.


Are the tape cassette cartridges for lettering machines classifiable as strips of plastic, or as a "part" of a lettering machine or as typewriter or similar ribbons, inked or otherwise prepared for giving impressions, under the HTSUS?


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

The subheadings under consideration are as follows:

3921.90.40 Other plates, sheets, film, foil and strip, of plastics: [o]ther: [o]ther: [f]lexible. . . .

Goods classifiable under this provision have a column one, general rate of duty of 4.2 percent ad valorem.

8442.40.00 Machinery, apparatus and equipment (other than the machine tools of headings 8456 to 8465), for type-founding or typesetting, for preparing or making printing blocks, plates, cylinders or other printing components; printing type, blocks, plates, cylinders and other printing components; blocks, plates, cylinders and lithographic stones, prepared for printing purposes (for example, planed, grained or polished); parts thereof: [p]arts of the foregoing machinery, apparatus or equipment. . . . .

Goods classifiable under this provision have a column one, general rate of duty of free.

9612.10 Typewriter or similar ribbons, inked or otherwise prepared for giving impressions, whether or not on spools or in cartridges; ink pads, whether or not inked, with or without boxes: [r]ibbons:

9612.10.90 Other. . . .

Goods classifiable under this provision have a column one, general rate of duty of 8.8 percent ad valorem.

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (EN) constitute the official interpretation of the HTSUS. While not legally binding or dispositive, the ENs provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the HTSUS and are generally indicative of the proper interpretation of these headings. See T.D. 89-80, 54 FR 35127, 35128 (August 23, 1989). EN 96.12, pages 1609-1610, states that:

This heading covers:

(1) Ribbons, whether or not on spools or in cartridges, for typewriters, calculating machines, or for any other machines incorporating a device for printing by means of such ribbons (automatic balances, tabulating machines, teleprinters, etc.).

The heading also includes inked, etc., ribbons, usually having metal fixing fittings, used in barographs, thermographs, etc., to print and record the movement of the recording machine needle.

These ribbons are usually of woven textiles, but sometimes they are made of plastics or paper. To fall in the heading, they must have been inked or otherwise prepared to give impressions (e.g., impregnation of textile ribbons, or coating of plastics strip or paper with colouring matter, ink, etc.).

In HQ 087037, dated August 14, 1990, Customs determined that lift-off tapes on spools used in typewriters for automatic correction features were classifiable under heading 9612, HTSUS, because they are otherwise prepared for giving impressions. However, the Court of International Trade (CIT) held that color ink sheet rolls ("ISRs") designed for use in color thermal transfer printers which are used to print graphics with automatic data processing equipment, were not "similar ribbons" of heading 9612, HTSUS. QMS v. United States, CIT Slip Op. 95-65 (April 18, 1995). The CIT stated that the ISRs were not similar ribbons because they were very wide, measuring 228 and 325 mm in width, and were not uniformly inked along its length but coated with alternating color configurations throughout their lengths.

Because the tape cassette cartridges have a narrow width of 3/8 to ½ inches, and contains a uniformly "inked" ribbon which is impressed onto the plastic label, they meet the requirements of "similar ribbons" as stated in QMS. Like the lift-off tape in HQ 087037, we find that the tape cassette cartridges for the P-touch lettering machine are similar ribbons, inked or otherwise prepared for giving impressions onto an adhesive label and are of the type of merchandise described in EN 96.12. Therefore, the tape cassette cartridges are classifiable under heading 9612, HTSUS.

It has been suggested that the tape cassette cartridges are "parts" of lettering machines under heading 8442, HTSUS. Generally, a part of an article "must be an integral, constituent or component part, without which the article to which it is joined could not function." See HQ 958098, dated December 1, 1995; HQ 951857, dated August 14, 1992. The P-touch lettering machine's function is to allow the user to create labels. Although, the lettering machine cannot print labels without the tape cassettes, it is our opinion that the lettering machine is, by itself, a complete machine. (See HQ 085833, dated January 10, 1990, involving a typeset lettering and signage machine.) (See also HQ 958098, in which Customs determined that an intravenous administration set [IV set] was not a part of an infusion pump because the pump mechanically functions without the IV set.)

Classification of the tape cassette cartridges based upon their material components of plastic under heading 3919, HTSUS, was also suggested. Legal Note 2(w) to chapter 39, HTSUS, provides that: "[t]his chapter does not cover: . . . [a]rticles of chapter 96". Because the tape cassette cartridges are provided for under heading 9612, HTSUS, we find that classification under heading 3919, HTSUS, is precluded.


The tape cassette cartridges are classifiable under subheading 9612.10.90, HTSUS, which provides for: "[t]ypewriter or similar ribbons, inked or otherwise prepared for giving impressions, whether or not on spools or in cartridges. . . : [r]ibbons: [o]ther . . . . " The general, column one rate of duty is 8.8 percent ad valorem.


John Durant, Director
Tariff Classification Appeals Division

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