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HQ H014067

October 4, 2007



TARIFF NO.: 9107.00.4080

Mr. David Forgue
Ms. Christine Martinez
Barnes, Richardson & Colburn
303 East Wacker Drive
Suite 1100
Chicago, IL 60601

RE: Classification of a Timer-Operated Switch

Dear Mr. Forgue and Ms. Martinez:

This is in response to your letter dated June 20, 2007, to United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in New York, sent on behalf of Intermatic Incorporated (Intermatic), in which you requested a binding ruling pertaining to classification of a timer-operated switch, model number TN600, under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). Your letter was referred to this office for a response. In reaching our decision, we also considered the information you provided in a teleconference on September 28, 2007.


The product at issue, model number TN600 (TN600), is a timer-operated switch used to turn small electrical appliances on and off at designated times by making or breaking electrical circuits. The user can program the device to turn on and off electrical appliances up to two times in any 24-hour period. The device also allows the user to manually trip the on/off switch at any time.

The TN600 consists of a number of electrical components, including a snap-action switch and a synchronous motor

A synchronous motor is an electric motor in which the speed of rotation is proportional to the frequency of the A.C. power. See wordnet.Princeton.edu/perl.webwn., both of which are housed in an irregularly shaped plastic box. The synchronous motor is used to track the intervals between the inputted “current time” and the desired on and off points. On the front of the box is a dial which is marked in hours; on the back of the box is a plug; and on the side of the box is a socket. The TN600 is plugged into a wall outlet and an appliance is plugged into the TN600. The TN600 is valued at less than $5 per unit.


What is the proper classification under the HTSUS for the TN600?


Classification under the HTSUS is made in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs). 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 GRIs 2 through 6 may then be applied in order. The HTSUS provisions under consideration are as follows:

8536 Electrical apparatus for switching or protecting electrical circuits, or for making connections to or in electrical circuits (for example, switches, relays, fuses, surge suppressors, plugs, sockets, lamp-holders, junction boxes), for a voltage not exceeding 1,000 V:

8536.50 Other switches:


8536.50.90 Other:

8536.50.9040 Snap-action, other than limit

9107 Time switches with clock or watch movement or with synchronous motor:

9107.00.40 Valued not over $5 each.

9107.00.4080 Other

In addition to the terms of the headings, classification of goods under the HTSUS is governed by any applicable section or chapter notes. Note 1 to Section XVI Section XVI applies to Chapters 84 and 85 provides, in pertinent part:

This section does not cover:
(n) Clocks, watches or other articles of chapter 91.

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs) constitute the official interpretation of the Harmonized System at the international level. 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. The EN to heading 9107 (EN 91.07), HTSUS, provides, in pertinent part:

This heading covers devices which do not have the character of clocks of heading 91.05, but are mainly designed to break electric circuits automatically at given times.these devices must have asynchronous motor with or without reduction gear.

Time switches are used for the control of lighting circuits. They consist essentially of a mechanical or electric movement of the watch or clock type or a synchronous motor, usually a dial with or without hands, a time-regulating device. The whole is enclosed in a case with terminals. The dial is usually marked in hours and sometimes also in days and months; levers or pins around its periphery actuate the contact devices at desired times.

The heading also includes switches for making and breaking the circuit supplying electrical apparatus.

The EN to heading 85.36 (EN 85.36) provides, in pertinent part:

This heading includes:


These apparatus consist essentially of devices for making or breaking one or more circuits in which they are connected, or for switching from one circuit to another.

According to Intermatic, the TN600 is classifiable under heading 8536, HTSUS, by application of either GRI 1 or GRI 3. Intermatic claims that the TN600 is classifiable according to GRI 1 because it is an apparatus “for making or breaking one or more circuits in which [it is] connected.” See EN 85.36, HTSUS. Alternatively, Intermatic claims that the device may be considered a composite good comprised of both a timer and a snap-action switch by application of GRI 3. Pursuant to GRI 3(b) GRI 3(b) provides that “mixtures, composite goods consisting of different materials or made up of different componentswhich cannot be classified by reference to 3(a), shall be classified as if they consisted of the material or component which gives them their essential character.”, composite goods are to be classified “as if they consisted of the material or component which gives them their essential character.” The term “essential character,” refers to “the attribute which strongly marks or serves to distinguish what an article is; that which is indispensable to the structure, core or condition of the article.” Headquarters Ruling Letter (HQ) 956538, dated November 29, 1994; See also Better Home Plastics Corp. v. United States, 20 CIT 221; 916 F. Supp. 1265 (1996). In the present matter, Intermatic claims that the switch imparts the essential character because the purpose of the device is to turn lamps and small appliances on and off. Furthermore, the device could not reasonably be used independently as a timer because “there is no alert available to notify the user that the selected interval has passed.” As a snap-action switch, the argument follows, the TN600 is classifiable under 8536, HTSUS.

Counsel’s argument overlooks Note 1(n) to Section XVI. According to note 1 (n), if the TN600 is classifiable in chapter 91, it is prima facie excluded from chapter 85. Prior to examining heading 8536, HTSUS, CBP must consider classification in chapter 91.

The TN600 features a synchronous motor and snap-action switch which is activated by the clock movement. The Court of International Trade (CIT) and CBP have previously considered the classification of such devices. In Admiral Division of Magic Chef, Inc. v. United States, 14 CIT 868, 874 (1990), a case involving the predecessor provision to heading 9107 under the Tariff Schedules of the United States (TSUS) The HTSUS, which went into effect January 1, 1989, is a new tariff system with rules of interpretation and application somewhat different from the TSUS. As noted in House Conference Report No. 100-576, dated April 20, 1998, on the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988 (P.L. 100-418), decisions by the Customs Service and the courts interpreting nomenclature under the TSUS are not to be deemed dispositive in interpreting the HTSUS. Nevertheless, on a case-by-case basis prior decisions should be considered instructive in interpreting the HTSUS, particularly where the nomenclature previously interpreted in those decisions remains unchanged and no dissimilar interpretation is required by the text of the HTSUS. In this case both the merchandise and the nomenclature of the tariff provisions lend themselves to similar interpretations under both tariff systems. See HQ 961127, dated February 16, 1999., the court defined the term “time switch,” stating: “The Court finds that the common, ordinary meaning of a time switch [is] an electric switch that automatically operates at a set time.’” This definition is to be considered in conjunction with EN 91.07 which identifies time switches as consisting of “essentially of a mechanical or electric movement of the watch or clock type or a synchronous motor, usually a dial with or without hands, a time-regulating device.”

Applying these definitions in HQ 085484, dated December 18, 1989, and HQ 085048, dated October 11, 1989, CBP held that electronic time switches for coffee makers, which incorporated solid state electronic clock movement and light emitting diode digital display, were classified as time switches in heading 9107, HTSUS. Similarly, in HQ 953933, dated August 10, 1993, CBP held that a dishwasher control panel which contained the controls for the timing and operation of cycles of the machine was classified as a time switch in heading 9107, HTSUS. More recently, in HQ 961127, dated February 16, 1999, CBP held that a “clean timer,” which contained a timer and was designed for installation in either gas or electric household ranges, was classifiable as a time switch under heading 9107, HTSUS. See also New York Ruling (NY) N014421, dated August 16, 2007, (The Pro-M sprinkler controller, with which up to four watering start times could be set, was classifiable as a time switch under heading 9107, HTSUS).

Consistent with the above-cited administrative precedent, we find that the TN600 precisely meets the description of heading 9107. The TN600 is a timer-operated switch with a synchronous motor which makes or breaks electric circuits. As with the above-mentioned devices, the user may program the TN600 to turn on and off electrical appliances a number of times in any 24-hour period. By application of Section XVI, note 1(n), therefore, it is excluded from classification in chapter 85.

During the September 28, 2007 teleconference, counsel for Intermatic argued that the TN600 is excluded from heading 9107, HTSUS, by function of EN 91.07. According to the ENs, devices classifiable in that heading are “enclosed in a case with terminals “terminalsare metal parts intended for the reception of conductors, and small metal parts designed to be fitted on the end of electrical wiring to facilitate electrical connection (spade terminals, crocodile clips, etc.).” See EN 85.36..” Counsel argues that because the TN600 is not enclosed in a case with terminals, it is excluded from heading 9107, HTSUS, and classifiable instead in heading 8536, HTSUS. This office disagrees. As a rule, the ENs cannot restrict or limit the scope of the legal texts to which they correspond. Instead, the ENs provide a commentary on the scope of the legal text of each heading. Heading 9107, HTSUS, provides broadly for “[t]ime switches with clock or watch movement or with synchronous motor:” While EN 91.07 clarifies that these timer devices may be enclosed in a case with terminals, they do not restrict the scope of this heading only to devices of this description. The fact that the TN600 features plugs rather than terminals, therefore, does not necessitate classification in heading 8536, HTSUS.

During the teleconference, counsel also argued that the TN600 is classifiable in heading 8536, HTSUS, by application of GRI 1. This office disagrees. CBP has previously applied heading 8536, HTSUS, to “devices for making or breaking one or more circuits,” but which are not controlled by timing devices. Instead, heading 8536, HTSUS, has been applied to devices that are controlled by external events, unrelated to time. In HQ 950835, dated April 9, 1992, CBP classified an Automatic Rain Shutoff Device under heading 8536, HTSUS. This machine was an interrupter mechanism for a sprinkler system which operated according to water levels in the device itself. When water levels became too high due to rain, the device would interrupt the sprinkler’s timer mechanism. The Automatic Rain Shutoff Device was specifically excluded from heading 9107, HTSUS, because it did not work according to a timer. In excluding the item from heading 9107, CBP stated, in pertinent part:

Relevant ENsindicate that time switches of heading 9107 are mainly designed to make or break electric circuits automatically at given times, usually at times determined according to a previously established daily or weekly program. Time switches of this heading must have asynchronous motor. The device in issue does not conform to this description.

See also HQ 967295, dated February 14, 2005, (Automatic Pressure Switch designed for refrigeration and air conditioning HVAC equipment, classified under heading 8536, HTSUS. The pressure switch turned off and on based on the system pressure, and was automatically reset when the pressure was restored to a normal level). The TN600 is similarly excluded from heading 8536, HTSUS. Although EN 85.36 provides for apparatus which is “for making or breaking one or more circuits,” CBP administrative precedent has made clear that such apparatus cannot be controlled by timer devices. As a timer-operated switch controlled by a synchronous motor, the TN600 is therefore excluded from classification in heading 8536, HTSUS.

Intermatic’s argument for classification in heading 8536, HTSUS, also relies, in part, on the recent CIT decision, Rockwell Automation Inc v. United States, CIT Slip. Op. 2007-67, (2007). In that decision, the CIT held that short body time delay relays are classifiable as relays under heading 8536, HTSUS. Intermatic suggests that the subject TN600 is similar to the relay device in Rockwell in both function and appearance. The relay device in Rockwell directed electricity to a specific apparatus at a specific time. In addition, the device was a small, plastic box with a dial on the front and a connection port on the back. Nonetheless, the device is distinguishable. The Rockwell relays were time delays A time delay relay is a relay that stays on for a certain amount of time once activated. This time delay relay is made up of a simple adjustable timer circuit which controls the actual relay. The time is generally adjustable from approximately 0 to about 20 seconds with the parts specified. , which “delayed” the opening and closing of electrical contacts. When energized and instructed to open or close a circuit, the Rockwell relays delayed the action of a contact movement at a predetermined time interval. Unlike the TN600, these relays did not keep time like a clock. Furthermore, unlike the TN600, the Rockwell relays were not able to accommodate the mechanical display necessary to meet the definition of the clock/watch type movements required by heading 9107, HTSUS. The Rockwell decision is therefore inapplicable to the present matter.


The TN600 is classifiable under heading 9107, HTSUS. If valued not over $5, the TN600 is classifiable under subheading 9107.00.4080, HTSUSA, which provides for: “Time switches with clock or watch movement or with synchronous motor: Valued not over $5 each: Other.” The column one, general rate of duty is 15¢ each + 4% + 2.5¢/jewel.

Duty rates are provided for convenience only and are subject to change. The text of the most recent HTSUS and the accompanying duty rates are provided on the World Wide Web at www.usitc.gov.


Gail A. Hamill, Chief
Tariff Classification and Marking Branch

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