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HQ 966415

July 17, 2003

CLA-2 RR:CR:TE 966415 RH


TARIFF NOS: 4911.91.20; 4911.91.40

Mr. David Knight
Willow Design & Publishing Limited
Cootehall, Boyle, Co.

RE: Revocation of NY D88805; Classification of blank cards; Heading 4909; Heading 4911; Heading 4817

Dear Mr. Knight:

On March 11, 1999, Customs (now Customs & Border Protection (“CBP”)) issued New York Ruling Letter (NY) D88805 to you concerning the classification of note cards from Ireland. In that ruling, CBP classified the note cards with no text under subheading 4817.20.4000 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), as letter cards, plain postcards and correspondence cards.

For the reasons set forth below, we find that NY D88805 was incorrect, and that the proper classification of the blank note cards is under heading 4911, HTSUS, as other printed matter.

Pursuant to section 625(c),Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. 1625(c)), as amended by section 623 of Title VI (Customs Modernization) of the North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act, Pub. L. 103-182, 107 Stat. 2057, 2186 1993), notice of the proposed revocation of HQ 089218 was published on May 21, 2003, in Vol. 37, No. 21 of the customs bulletin. CBP received two comments. A discussion of the comments will be set forth in the General Notice of Revocation and Modification, which will be published in the customs bulletin on August 6, 2003.


A description of the merchandise in NY D88805 reads as follows:

The samples are paper note cards or correspondence cards, each with a matching accompanying paper envelope, packaged for retail sale in a sealed clear cellophane wrapper.

They contain no printed messages, personal greetings, or announcements, and are decorated on the front face with printed reproductions of “thoughtfully selected and hand picked (flowers and leaves of) the fields and byways of Ireland”.

The interior faces are blank, and are thus suitable for written correspondence and/or greeting. The rear face of each card is suitably marked with its country of origin, Ireland. The two samples are designated “Code N1” and “Code N7”.


Are the note cards with no text classifiable under heading 4817, HTSUS, as envelopes, letter cards, plain postcards and correspondence cards, under heading 4911, HTSUS, as other printed matter or under heading 4909, HTSUS, as cards bearing a personal greeting, message or announcement?


Classification of goods under the HTSUS is governed by 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. Merchandise that cannot be classified in accordance with GRI 1 is to be classified in accordance with subsequent GRI's taken in order.

Additionally, the Explanatory Notes (EN’s) to the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System constitute the official interpretation of the nomenclature at the international level. The EN’s are not legally binding. However, they do represent the considered views of classification experts of the Harmonized System Committee. It has therefore been the practice of CBP to follow, whenever possible, the terms of the EN’s when interpreting the HTSUS.

Heading 4817, HTSUS, provides for “Envelopes, letter cards, plain postcards and correspondence cards, of paper or paperboard; boxes, pouches, wallets and writing compendiums, of paper or paperboard, containing an assortment of paper stationery.”

The Explanatory Notes to heading 4817, HTSUS, provide guidance on the scope of the heading. They read, in relevant part:

This heading covers paper stationery of the kind used in correspondence, e.g., envelopes, letter cards, plain postcards (including correspondence cards). Separate writing paper in loose sheets or in blocks and certain other articles referred to below are, however, excluded.

These articles may be printed with addresses, names, trade marks, decorations, crests, initials, etc., merely incidental to their use as stationery.

Letter cards are sheets of paper or paperboard or cards with gummed (and sometimes perforated) edges or other provision for closing or sealing without the use of envelopes.

Plain postcards do not fall in this heading unless they contain printed provision for the address or stamp or other indications of their use.

Correspondence cards do not fall in this heading unless they have deckled or gilt edges or rounded corners, or are printed or otherwise prepared in such a manner as clearly to indicate their use as stationery. Plain cards not so prepared are classified in heading 48.23, as are, generally, unprinted visiting cards.

The heading also covers boxes, pouches, wallets and writing compendiums, of paper or paperboard, containing an assortment of paper stationery.

The cards in question clearly do not fall within the definitions of letter cards, plain postcards or correspondence cards, which are covered by the first part of heading 4817, HTSUS. Furthermore, the cards are not characteristic of any of the items in the second part of heading 4817, HTSUS, e.g., boxes, pouches, wallets and writing compendiums. Accordingly, we find that the cards are not classifiable in heading 4817, HTSUS.

Heading 4909, HTSUS, provides for “Printed or illustrated postcards; printed cards bearing personal greetings, messages or announcements, whether or not illustrated, with or without envelopes or trimmings.”

The terms “greeting, message or announcement” are defined in Webster’s Deluxe Unabridged Dictionary, 1979, as follows:
greeting – the act or words of a person who greets [at 800]; See also Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, 1991, defining greeting as “a salutation at meeting” or “expression of good wishes”;
message – any communication, written or oral, sent between persons
announcement – a written or printed notice [at 74].

In our opinion, the definition of “message” – any communication, written or oral – has a broad application. For example, a communication may be in the form of an editorial comment, expression of an idea, or the transmission or conveyance of knowledge or information. However, we note that marketing information such as a bar code, style number, company name and address, design/copyright and country of origin, which is generally printed on the back of a card, does not constitute a message sent between persons for purposes of heading 4909, HTSUS.

Additionally, the Explanatory Notes to heading 4909, HTSUS, provide examples of the products comprised in the heading, particularly:

Christmas, New Year, birthday or similar cards. These may be in the form of picture postcards, or consist of two or more folded leaves fastened together, one face or more being devoted to pictorial matter. The term “similar cards” is to be taken to include cards used to announce births or christenings, or for conveying congratulations or thanks. The printed cards may incorporate trimmings such as ribbons, cords, tassels and embroidery, or novelty features such as pull-out views, or be decorated with glass powder, etc.

The nomenclature in heading 4909, HTSUS, and the Chapter 49 notes make a distinction between printed material in the form of literary text and printed material in the form of illustrations. For example, heading 4909, HTSUS, is divided into two parts, separated by a semicolon. The first part of the heading provides for “printed or illustrated postcards.” Emphasis added. The second part of the heading covers “printed cards bearing personal greetings, messages or announcements, whether or not illustrated, with or without envelopes or trimmings.” Emphasis added. Based on the terms of the heading, the phrase

“bearing personal greetings, messages or announcements” clearly requires some form of literary text. Simply stated, cards of heading 4909, HTSUS, may consist of plain cards printed with a greeting, message or announcement, or cards with a printed greeting, message or announcement that are also decorated. The heading does not cover cards that are printed only with illustrations.

In addition to the language of heading 4909, Note 4 to Chapter 49, HTSUS, further demonstrates the distinction between literary and illustrated material for the purposes of that chapter. While the first part of that note addresses heading 4901, HTSUS (“Printed books, brochures, leaflets and similar printed matter, whether or not in single sheets”), the last sentence is relevant in this case. It states that “printed pictures or illustrations not bearing a text, whether in the form of signatures or separate sheets, fall in heading 4911.” Emphasis supplied.

Heading 4911, HTSUS, provides for “other printed matter including printed pictures and photographs.” In this case, since the note cards do not have a written greeting, message or announcement, they are precluded from classification in heading 4909, HTSUS. Consequently, the cards fall in heading 4911, HTSUS, as other printed matter.


NY D8805 is REVOKED.

We do not have sufficient information to provide you with the tariff classification at the 10-digit level. If the card is printed by lithography and is not over 0.51 mm in thickness, it is classifiable under subheading 4911.91.20, HTSUS. Merchandise classifiable under that tariff provision is dutiable at 0.3¢/kg.

If the card is not printed by lithography, it is classifiable under subheading 4911.91.40, HTSUS, as other pictures, designs and photographs. Merchandise classifiable under that tariff provision is dutiable at 0.3 percent ad valorem.

In accordance with 19 U.S.C. 1625(c), this ruling will become effective 60 days after its publication in the customs bulletin.


Myles B. Harmon, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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