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HQ 560361

September 4, 1997

CLA-2 RR:TC:SM 560361 MLR


TARIFF NO.: 9802.00.80

Mr. Bruce Schiller
MSAS Customs Logistics, Inc.
8725 NW 18th Terrace
Suite 301
Miami, FL 33172

RE: Applicability of partial duty exemption under HTSUS subheading 9802.00.80 to t-shirts; washing; softening; Vircoscour

Dear Mr. Schiller:

This is in response to your letter of March 12, 1997, requesting a ruling regarding the applicability of subheading 9802.00.80, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), to garments assembled in Honduras and washed with Vircoscour. Samples of t-shirts before and after the washing process and a material safety data sheet describing the Vircoscour and Vircosoft compounds were submitted with your request.


It is stated that t-shirts will be assembled from U.S. components in Honduras. After assembly, the t-shirts will be washed. The purpose of the washing process is to provide adequate shrinkage and remove light to medium oil and soil. The process consists of the following steps:

1. Fill machine with 120ø F water
2. Wash 4 minutes with Vircoscour FVH 2%
3. Drain and fill 120ø F
4. Rinse 3 minutes
5. Drain and fill 120ø F
6. Wash 4 minutes Vircosoft H-1 4%
7. Extract 4 minutes


Whether the t-shirts assembled and subjected to a washing process abroad qualify for the partial duty exemption available under subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUS, when returned to the U.S.


Subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUS, provides a partial duty exemption for:

[a]rticles ... assembled abroad in whole or in part of fabricated components, the product of the United States, which (a) were exported in condition ready for assembly without further fabrication, (b) have not lost their physical identity in such articles by change in form, shape or otherwise, and (c) have not been advanced in value or improved in condition abroad except by being assembled and except by operations incidental to the assembly process, such as cleaning, lubricating and painting.

All three requirements of subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUS, must be satisfied before a component may receive a duty allowance. An article entered under this tariff provision is subject to duty upon the full cost or value of the imported assembled article, less the cost or value of the U.S. components assembled therein, upon compliance with the documentary requirements of section 10.24, Customs Regulations (19 CFR 10.24).

Section 10.14(a), Customs Regulations {19 CFR 10.14(a)}, states in part that:

[t]he components must be in condition ready for assembly without further fabrication at the time of their exportation from the United States to qualify for the exemption. Components will not lose their entitlement to the exemption by being subjected to operations incidental to the assembly either before, during, or after their assembly with other components.

Operations incidental to the assembly process are not considered further fabrication operations, as they are of a minor nature and cannot always be provided for in advance of the assembly operations. See 19 CFR 10.16(a). Relevant to the facts in this case, section 10.16(b)(1), Customs Regulations {19 CFR 10.16(b)(1)}, provides that "cleaning" is an incidental operation. However, any significant process, operation or treatment whose primary purpose is the fabrication, completion, physical or chemical improvement of a component precludes the application of the exemption under subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUS, to that component. See 19 CFR 10.16(c). Section 10.16(c)(4) specifically provides that the chemical treatment of components or assembled articles to impart new characteristics, such as shower-proofing, permapressing, sanforizing, dyeing, or bleaching of textiles, is not considered incidental to the assembly process.

This ruling will only address the washing process; it is assumed that the U.S.-origin components otherwise qualify for subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUS, treatment. It is alleged that the t-shirts will only be subjected to a washing process with Vircoscour and Vircosoft to provide adequate shrinkage and to remove light to medium oil and soil.

In Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 557195 dated October 14, 1993, Customs considered trousers and shorts made from a variety of fabrics that were washed with a detergent and enzyme fabric softener to give the garments a softer, smoother feel. It was found that the addition of an enzyme in fabric softener did not alter the color of the fabric or change its texture, and, therefore, was more analogous to those cases which have held that washing in detergent and fabric softener are operations incidental to assembly. See also HRL 554599 dated June 8, 1987; 554497 dated March 18, 1987; and 554582 dated March 12, 1987. Accordingly, it was held that washing the garments in hot water, detergent, and an enzyme fabric softener were operations incidental to the assembly process.

Similarly in this case, we have confirmed with the Office of Laboratories and Scientific Services that Vircoscour FVH and Vircosoft H-1 do not contain ingredients which cause color change or abrasion. That office informs us that Vircoscour FVH is a mild general purpose nonionic scouring agent that is not intended for use on heavy soils, and that Vircosoft H-1 is a cationic softener for synthetic and natural fibers. The laboratory also did not observe any significant fading or surface abrasion from the process, but did observe that the t-shirts were softer and had shrunk. Accordingly, it is our opinion that subjecting the t-shirts to the washing process above constitutes an operation which is incidental to the assembly process, pursuant to 19 CFR


On the basis of the information submitted, it is our opinion that the washing process above is incidental to the assembly process, pursuant to 19 CFR 10.16(b)(1). Therefore, the imported t-shirts may be entered under subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUS, with allowances in duty for the cost or value of the U.S. components incorporated therein, upon compliance with the documentary requirements of 19 CFR 10.24.


John Durant, Director

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