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HQ 960004

January 30, 1997

CLA-2 RR:TC:MM 960004 RFA


TARIFF NO.: 8505.19.00

Michael Rosbach
Rite Aid Corporation
P.O. Box 3165
Harrisburg, PA 17105

RE: Magnets; Household Ceramic Magnets; Permanent Magnets; Plastic Key Holder with Magnetic Back; Essential Character; Household Plastic Goods; T.D. 94-97; EN 85.05; GRI 3(b); ENs VIII and IX to GRI 3(b); HQ 953264

Dear Mr. Rosbach:

This is in reference to your letter dated October 30, 1996, inquiring as to the tariff classification of Plastic Key Holder with Magnetic Back under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). Your letter and sample were forwarded to this office for a response.


The merchandise, labeled as "Key Locker" Item No. G4013, are two black plastic boxes with ceramic magnets attached to the back, packaged together on a blister card. The plastic box measures approximately 1.75 inches wide by 3 inches long. The box is designed to hold a key inside and can attach to any metal surface due to the presence of the magnet.


Are magnets attached to other articles for household use classifiable as magnets 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.

In T.D. 94-97, 59 F.R. 62451, 62452 (December 5, 1994), Customs determined that composite goods consisting of a magnet and a plastic, textile or ceramic shell or housing should be classified by applying an essential character analysis pursuant to GRI 3(b). If the shell or housing portion of the article merely embellishes the product and acts as a decorative selling feature, and the essential character is imparted by the magnet, then the article is properly classifiable in heading 8505, HTSUS, as a permanent magnet. (see also HQ 953264, dated March 30, 1994, for a similar holding).

The Key Lockers are to be considered composite goods, because they each consist of a magnet and a plastic component. The subject goods are prima facie classifiable in heading 8505, HTSUS, as a magnet and in heading 3924, HTSUS, as an article of plastic. Because classification in a single heading cannot be determined by applying GRI 1, we must apply the other GRI's. GRI 2(a) is not applicable here because the merchandise is not incomplete or unfinished. GRI 2(b) states that if a product is a mixture or combination of materials or substances that are, prima facie, classifiable in two or more headings, then GRI 3 applies.

GRI 3(a) states in pertinent part:

. . .when two or more headings each refer to part only of the materials or substances contained in mixed or composite goods . . ., those headings are to be regarded as equally specific in relation to those goods, even if one of them gives a more complete or precise description of the goods.

Because the magnet and the plastic component fall under separate headings in the tariff schedule which describe only a portion of the goods, the headings are to be regarded as equally specific under GRI 3(a). Therefore, GRI 3(a) fails in establishing classification, and GRI 3(b) becomes applicable. GRI 3(b) provides that composite goods consisting of different materials or made up of different components, shall be classified as if they consisted of the material or component which gives them their essential character.

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (EN) constitute the official interpretation of the HTSUS. While not legally binding nor 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 F.R. 35127, 35128 (August 23, 1989). EN IX to GRI 3(b), page 4, states as follows:

[f]or the purposes of this Rule, composite goods made up of different components shall be taken to mean not only those in which the components are attached to each other to form a practically inseparable whole but also those with separable components, provided these components are adapted one to the other and are mutually complementary and that together they form a whole which would not normally be offered for sale in separate parts. (emphasis in original)

Because the subject articles are composite goods, we must determine which component provides the essential character. EN VIII to GRI 3(b), page 4, states as follows:

[t]he factor which determines essential character will vary as between different kinds of goods. It may, for example, be determined by the nature of the material or component, its bulk, quantity, weight or value, or by the role of a constituent material in relation to the use of the goods.

We find that the essential character is imparted by the permanent magnet. Removal of the magnet from the article would leave the product totally incapable of functioning as a magnetic key holder for metallic surfaces such as refrigerators, automobile bumpers, sheds, etc. Without the magnet, the plastic portion would have very little, if any, use. Based upon the GRI 3(b) and the above reasoning, we find that the Key Locker is provided for in heading 8505, HTSUS, as a permanent magnet.


The Key Locker is classifiable under subheading 8505.19.00, HTSUS, which provides for: "[e]lectromagnets; permanent magnets and articles intended to become permanent magnets after magnetization. . .: [p]ermanent magnets and articles intended to become permanent magnets after magnetization: [o]ther. . . ." The general, column one rate of duty is 4.9 percent ad valorem.


John Durant, Director
Tariff Classification Appeals Division

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