United States International Trade Commision Rulings And Harmonized Tariff Schedule
faqs.org  Rulings By Number  Rulings By Category  Tariff Numbers
faqs.org > Rulings and Tariffs Home > Rulings By Number > 1998 HQ Rulings > HQ 960954 - HQ 961085 > HQ 960989

Previous Ruling Next Ruling
HQ 960989

July 20, 1998

CLA-2 RR:CR:TE 960989 GGD


TARIFF NO.: 4820.10.2020

Mr. Gordon C. Anderson
C.H. Robinson International, Inc.
8100 Mitchell Road
Eden Prairie, Minnesota 55344-2231

RE: Classification of a "Contractors Folio;" Articles of Stationery; Letter Pads; Memorandum Pads; Portfolio; Not Attache Case, Briefcase, School Satchel; Headings 4820, 4202; Avenues in Leather v. United States, Slip Op. 98-54, Decided April 24, 1998

Dear Mr. Anderson:

This letter is in response to your request of August 25, 1997, on behalf of your client, Portables Plus, concerning the classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA) of a portfolio and writing pad, manufactured in China. A sample was submitted with your request.


The sample, identified by stock number 57022, and further described as a "Contractors Folio," consists of a lined memorandum pad or writing pad (which measures approximately 8-1/4 inches in width by 11 inches in height by 1/4 inch in thickness) with a cardboard backing which slips into a slot in the right interior side of a zippered jacket or case. The jacket, with pad inserted, measures approximately 13-3/4 inches in height by 10-1/2 inches in width by 1-1/4 inch in depth (in the closed position). The case is zippered on 3 sides and is composed of 100 percent woven nylon textile fabric.

The interior left side of the case features 2 full-width pockets (one with gussets, allowing for some expansion) for papers, 1 zippered, full-width pocket, 1 small open pocket, 3 slots for business or credit cards, and 5 pen holders. The article's exterior front has 1 flat, full-width slot.


Whether the article is classified under heading 4202, HTSUS, which covers, in part, attache cases, briefcases, school satchels, and similar containers; or under heading 4820, HTSUSA, which among other items, covers letter pads, memorandum pads, and other articles of stationery, including jackets.


Classification under the HTSUS is made in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI). GRI 1 provides that the classification of goods shall be determined according to the terms of the headings of the tariff schedule and any relative Section or Chapter Notes. In the event that the goods cannot be classified solely on the basis of GRI 1, and if the headings and legal notes do not otherwise require, the remaining GRI may then be applied. The Explanatory Notes (EN) to the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, which represent the official interpretation of the tariff at the international level, facilitate classification under the HTSUS by offering guidance in understanding the scope of the headings and GRI.

Among other merchandise, chapter 48, HTSUS, covers articles of paper or of paperboard. Note 1(h) to chapter 48, HTSUS, states that "[t]his chapter does not cover: Articles of heading 4202 (for example, travel goods)." Among the items covered by heading 4820, HTSUS, are notebooks, letter pads, memorandum pads, diaries and similar articles, binders (looseleaf or other), folders...and other articles of stationery...including cover boards and book jackets.... The EN to heading 4820 indicate that the heading covers various articles of stationery including (in addition to the examples noted above) notebooks of all kinds, file covers, files (other than box files), and portfolios. The EN also suggest that the goods of the heading may be bound with materials other than paper (e.g., leather, plastics or textile material) and have reinforcements or fittings of metal, plastics, etc.

Among other goods, heading 4202, HTSUS, provides for attache cases, briefcases, and similar containers. The exemplars named in heading 4202 have in common the purpose of organizing, storing, protecting, and carrying various items. EN (c) to heading 4202 indicates that the heading does not cover articles which, although they may have the character of containers, are not similar to those enumerated in the heading, for example, book covers and reading jackets, file-covers, document-jackets...and which are wholly or mainly covered with leather, sheeting of plastics, etc. Such articles fall in heading 4205 if made of (or covered with) leather or composition leather, and in other chapters if made of (or covered with) other materials.

In several Headquarters Ruling Letters (HQ), Customs has considered the classification of goods featuring certain characteristics common to the enumerated exemplars of headings 4202 and 4820, HTSUS. In HQ 959791 and HQ 959792, dated February 11, 1997, and issued to modify HQ 955655 and HQ 955656 (dated July 14, 1995), respectively, this office found that competition between headings 4202 and 4820 was resolved by note 1(g) to chapter 48 (now note 1(h) to chapter 48), which excludes articles of heading 4202 from Chapter 48. We noted the requirement of GRI 1, that "classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes," and that other GRI may be used "provided such headings or notes do not otherwise require."

Since the exclusionary note to chapter 48, HTSUS, did require that other GRI not be used to determine classification, the fact that certain of the articles subject to HQ 955655 and HQ 955656 were prima facie classifiable in heading 4202, should have precluded classification of those goods under heading 4820, HTSUS. Analysis pursuant to any GRI other than GRI 1 was therefore inappropriate. On that basis, HQ 955655 and HQ 955656 were modified by HQ 959791 and HQ 959792, respectively. The above analysis was reiterated and fully supported in a decision by the Court of International Trade in Avenues in Leather v. United States, Slip Op. 98-54, decided April 24, 1998 (hereinafter Avenues).

There may remain a small number of Customs rulings in which articles were found to be prima facie classifiable under both headings 4202 and 4820, HTSUS, and in which the exclusionary note to chapter 48 should have been applied to preclude classification of goods within chapter 48. Rulings that have been issued by

Customs under the provisions of 19 CFR Parts 174 or 177, that are inconsistent with the principles of the Avenues decision are revoked/modified by operation of law.

With regard to whether the "Contractors Folio" is prima facie classifiable under heading 4202, HTSUS, it must be determined whether the article merely has the character of a 4202 container, or whether its primary purpose is to organize, store, protect, and carry various items. The article is designed to organize and conceivably protect small and/or flat items in addition to the writing pad. The case's depth of only 1-1/4 inch, however, and its lack of handles or straps, indicate that the article is not designed to easily store, protect, and carry additional items such as a newspaper, a book, and/or other objects normally carried in an attache case or briefcase. Although the case has the character of a container, with perhaps more features than a simple jacket or cover, it does not have the requisite physical attributes Customs has found common to the containers of heading 4202. We find that the jacket's added features serve to enhance the primary purpose of the "Contractors Folio," which is to provide a convenient and organized method by which to take notes in a variety of locations and circumstances.

In HQ 956940, issued November 25, 1994, this office classified in subheading 4820.10.2020, HTSUSA, two styles of portfolios whose dimensions (13-1/2 inches by 10 inches by 1 inch), features (zippered closure, pockets, slots, and pen holder), and contents (an 8-1/2 inch by 11 inch writing pad) were substantially similar to those of the "Contractors Folio." Although those cases also possessed some features that might be found in an attache case, it was noted that the pockets of the exterior and interior were essentially flat and suitable only for loose papers, business cards, and other small, flat items. We concluded that those cases functioned primarily as organizational aids for note taking and that they retained the character of jackets and covers that are not covered by heading 4202. Since heading 4820 covers letter pads, memorandum pads, and other articles of stationery with jackets or covers, the writing pad and its case, as a whole, constitute an article of stationery. The "Contractors Folio" is classified in subheading 4820.10.2020, HTSUSA.


The zippered portfolio with pad, identified by stock no. 57022 and described as a "Contractors Folio," is classified in subheading 4820.10.2020, HTSUSA, the provision for "Registers...
diaries and similar articles: Diaries...and similar articles, Memorandum pads, letter pads and similar articles." The general column one duty rate is 2.4 percent ad valorem.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

Previous Ruling Next Ruling

See also: