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HQ 963321

April 26, 2000

CLA-2 RR:CR:GC 963321 AML


TARIFF NO.: 6802.91.05

Mr. Richard H. Abbey
Mr. Joel W. Rogers
Ablondi, Foster, Sobin & Davidow, P.C.
1150 Eighteenth Street
Ninth Floor
Washington, D.C. 20036-4129

RE: Marble slabs for fireplace surrounds; HQs 955505 revoked and 960617 modified

Dear Messrs. Abbey and Rogers:

This is in reference to Headquarters Ruling Letter (HQ) 955505, dated March 22, 1994, and HQ 960617, dated December 16, 1997, which concerned the classification, under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), of marble fireplace surrounds (consisting of headers, footers, hearths, risers or legs) in subheading 6802.91.15, HTSUS. In HQ 955505, this office ruled that protest 1704-93-100338, which was filed on July 21, 1993 by Karen Geiger, on behalf of Intercontinental Marble Corp., should be denied. Descriptive literature was provided. In HQ 960617, which was issued to you in response to your April 29, 1997 letter, on behalf of Intercontinental Marble Corp., Customs clarified and upheld the decision made in HQ 955505. HQ 960617 noted that, should similar articles be entered which do not comprise an unassembled fireplace surround, those articles would be classified under subheading 6802.91.05, HTSUS, as marble slabs. In light of the stipulated judgments entered before the Court of International Trade in Court Nos. 94-10-00582 and 97-11-02013, we have reconsidered HQs 955505 and 960617 and now believe that those decisions are incorrect (although, of course, the specific liquidation and protest denial are not affected (see 19 U.S.C. 1514, 1515)). This ruling sets forth the correct classification and the analysis therefor.

Notice of the proposed revocation and modification was published on March 22, 2000, in Vol. 34, No. 12 of the Customs Bulletin.


The articles in HQ 955505 were described as follows:

The marble fireplace surround[s] . . . are stone articles designed to fit into a fireplace. Each product is an unassembled article consisting of several pieces, i.e., header, riser, legs and hearth, which form a special shape suited for a particular fireplace.

The articles were similarly described in HQ 960617, which analyzed in detail the decision reached in HQ 955505.


Whether the marble fireplace surrounds are classified under subheading 6802.91.05, as marble slabs, or under subheading 6802.91.15, HTSUS, as other articles of marble?


The classification of merchandise under the HTSUS is in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs). GRI 1 provides that classification is determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes. GRI 6 provides that for legal purposes, the classification of goods in the subheadings of a heading shall be determined according to the terms of those subheadings and any related subheading notes and, by appropriate substitution of terms, to GRIs 1 through 5, on the understanding that only subheadings at the same level are comparable.

The 1999 HTSUS heading and subheadings under consideration are as follows:

6802 Worked monumental or building stone (except slate) and articles thereof, other than goods of heading 6801; mosaic cubes and the like, of natural stone (including slate), whether or not on a backing; artificially colored granules, chippings and powder, of natural stone (in- cluding slate):

6802.91 Marble, travertine and alabaster:


6802.91.05 Slabs:

6802.91.15 Other.

In HQ 955505, Customs rejected the protestant’s contention that the articles, marble fireplace surrounds (consisting of headers, footers, hearths, risers or legs), were classifiable as marble slabs under subheading 6802.91.05, HTSUS. Customs reasoned that because the articles were, in their condition as imported, designed to function as and comprise a complete fireplace surround, the marble slabs were classifiable as other articles of marble under subheading 6802.91.15, HTSUS. That is, by operation of GRI 1, Customs determined that the articles were classifiable under subheading 6802.91, as marble. Pursuant to GRI 6, the remaining GRIs were applied in order to determine which subheading best described the articles as imported. We reasoned that because the marble slabs were installed together to form a uniquely shaped fireplace surround, they comprised an unassembled article and were therefore classifiable as marble other than in slab form.

In HQ 960617, we reaffirmed the determination made in HQ 955505. We reasoned that when the component articles of a fireplace surround are imported together, they are classifiable as an unfinished or unassembled fireplace surround – an article other than marble slabs and therefore classifiable in subheading 6802.91.15, HTSUS. HQ 960617 further held that depending on the “shipment configuration” within which the articles would be imported, the articles would be classified as marble slabs under subheading 6802.91.05, HTSUS. The prospective shipment configurations were described in HQ 960617 as shipments that would consist of marble slabs of a single size to be used as headers, footers, hearths, risers or legs; shipments of mixed pieces, not arranged and packaged as unassembled surrounds; and shipments of pieces arranged in matched, unassembled, but incomplete surrounds (i.e., each shipment would consist of matched marble slabs, but no group of slabs would contain all the pieces necessary to frame a fireplace).

Customs analyzed the classification of the articles imported in these configurations by applying several long-standing principles related to classification, by application of Additional U.S. Note 1 to Chapter 68, and after considering the holdings of two prior rulings. HQ 960617 restated the long-standing rule that an article is to be classified according to its condition as imported. See, XTC Products, Inc. v. United States, 771 F.Supp. 401, 405 (1991). See also, United States v. Citroen, 223 U.S. 407 (1911). We also restated the rule derived from United States v. Baldt Anchor, Chain & Forge Division of Boston Metals Co., 59 CCPA 122, C.A.D. 1051, 429 F.2d 1403 (1972), and Franklin Industries, Inc. v. United States, 1 CIT 349, Slip Op. 81-55 (1981), in which the courts held that to enjoy classification under a single tariff item number, all components necessary to the completion of a particular article must be imported in the same shipment.

Additionally, Customs addressed the effect of Additional U.S. Note 1, Chapter 68, HTSUS (see below), and of HQ 952678, dated December 30, 1992, and HQ 951047, dated September 17, 1992. In HQs 952678 and 951047, Customs held that under the definition provided in Additional U.S. Note 1, Chapter 68, HTSUS, pieces of marble the edges of which were cut more deeply or more widely than 1/32 of an inch were considered to have been “beveled, rounded or otherwise processed” to a greater extent than that needed to facilitate installation. Such pieces were held not to meet the definition of “slabs” of Additional U.S. Note 1, Chapter 68, HTSUS.

Customs has reconsidered its position, and now holds that upon importation, marble headers, footers, hearths, risers or legs for fireplace surrounds, provided they satisfy the criteria provided in Additional U.S. Note 1, Chapter 68, HTSUS, are classifiable in subheading 6802.91.05, HTSUS, as marble slabs.

The marble fireplace surrounds at issue are clearly classifiable under subheading 6802.91, HTSUS, as marble. The issue to be determined is whether the articles are slabs pursuant to Additional U.S. Note 1, Chapter 68, HTSUS, which states:

For the purposes of heading 6802, the term "slabs" embraces flat stone pieces, not over 5.1 cm in thickness, having a facial area of 25.8 cm2 or more, the edges of which have not been beveled, rounded or otherwise processed except such processing as may be needed to facilitate installation as tiling or veneering in building construction.

Additional U.S. Note 1 begins "for the purposes of heading 6802 . . .”. In heading 6802, HTSUS, the term "slabs" is used as a subheading under the basket provision for "other" worked monumental or building stone. It does not occur elsewhere in the heading. A careful reading of the U.S. Note, and a comparison of the subheadings at the same (8-digit) level clearly shows that the distinction to be made between "slabs" of heading 6802.91.05, HTSUS, and "other" articles of 6802.91.15, HTSUS, is that of the degree of working or processing to which the articles have been subjected. Such a distinction, based on the degree of work performed, is further evidenced by the terms of other subheadings under 6802, HTSUS (See, e.g., subheading 6802.91.20, HTSUS). The result is that "slabs," as defined in Additional U.S. Note 1, are classified separately from monumental or building stone that has been subjected to substantial working or processing.

When interpreting and implementing the HTSUS, the Explanatory Notes (ENs) of the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System may be utilized. The ENs, while neither legally binding nor dispositive, provide a guiding commentary on the scope of each heading, and are generally indicative of the proper interpretation of the HTSUS. Customs believes the ENs should always be consulted. See, T.D. 89-90, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (August 23, 1989).

The ENs to heading 6802, HTSUS, provide, in pertinent part, that:

This heading covers natural monumental or building stone (except slate) which has been worked beyond the stage of the normal quarry products of Chapter 25[.] The heading therefore covers stone, which has been further processed than mere shaping into blocks, sheets or slabs by splitting, roughly cutting or squaring, or squaring by sawing (square or rectangular faces).

The heading thus covers stone in the forms produced by the stonemason, sculptor, etc., viz.: (B) Stone of any shape (including blocks, slabs or sheets), whether or not in the form of finished articles, which has been . . . planed, sand dressed, ground, polished, chamfered, moulded, turned, ornamented, carved, etc.

The heading therefore includes not only constructional stone (including facing slabs) worked as above, but also articles such as . . . door or window frames and lintels . . . mantelpieces . . . etc. (Emphasis added.)

Stone slabs forming the tops of articles of furniture (sideboards, washstands, tables, etc.) are classified in Chapter 94 if presented with the pieces of furniture (whether or not assembled) and clearly intended as parts thereof, but such furniture tops presented separately remain in this heading [emphasis added].

The articles, as entered, are slabs of marble which conform to the size restrictions delineated by Additional U.S. Note 1 to Chapter 68 and to the preliminary criteria established in the EN (“stone, which has been further processed than mere shaping into blocks, sheets or slabs by splitting, roughly cutting or squaring, or squaring by sawing (square or rectangular faces)”).

Evidence was presented before the CIT that indicated that the articles in Court Nos. 94-10-00582 and 97-11-02013 are not regularly imported as unfinished surrounds. The marble headers, footers, hearths and risers or legs are designed, worked into and intended to be used as marble headers, footers, hearths and risers or legs; completely surrounding a fireplace opening when used in combination, independently (a single hearth, for example), or in any conceivable combination thereof. The marble slabs are imported in the various configurations provided above. The articles are not ready for immediate installation upon importation; rather, the articles are imported cut to general dimensions and must be further worked (e.g., trimmed to specific size) prior to final installation.

Finally, there is no “assembly” of the surrounds. The marble slabs are not joined by fasteners, do not permanently interlock to form a single whole, and do not comprise a single article for classification purposes. The various marble slabs (headers, footers, hearth, risers or legs) are arranged around a fireplace for aesthetic purposes according to the desired effect of the installer. The installation of any of the articles is not dependent upon the installation of the others; the individual articles are simply glued to the wall around a fireplace opening (sometimes referred to as a “firebox”). Thus, although the articles can be matched and installed by the color and pattern of stone, any of the articles can be installed independently of the others. As such, we no longer consider such articles upon importation to be unassembled surrounds. Upon importation, provided the articles comply with the edicts of Additional U.S. Note 1, Chapter 68, HTSUS (see above), and HQs 952678 and HQ 951047, the articles are classifiable under subheading 6802.91.05, HTSUS.


The marble fireplace surrounds (designated headers, risers, legs and hearths), whether imported as grouped pieces or as separate pieces, are classified under subheading 6802.91.05, as marble slabs.


HQ 955505, dated March 22, 1994, is REVOKED and HQ 960617, dated December 16, 1997, is MODIFIED. In accordance with 19 U.S.C. 1625(c), this ruling will become effective 60 days after its publication in the Customs Bulletin.


John Durant, Director

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