In HQ H298524, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) discussed the classification of a disassembled “balance ball chair” consisting of a deflated exercise ball, a frame, caster wheels, a manual air pump, and a desk guide with stretching exercises. The frame of the exercise apparatus, made of a nylon plastic and steel, has a support bar on the back and caster wheels, which move and lock.  It holds a removable 52-cm anti-burst balance ball made of PVC plastic, capable of supporting a weight of up to 300 pounds.  The ball is sold deflated and must be inflated before use. the The item was “specifically developed to relieve stress on the spine, strengthen the core, improve posture and keep the body active while sitting.” The guide provides stretching and strengthening exercises that could be performed on the frame with the inflated ball. 

CBP examined whether the item should be classified under heading 9401 (Seats) or 9506 (Articles and equipment for general physical exercise…). GRI 1 provides that classification 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 may then be applied.  Pursuant to GRI 6, classification at the subheading level uses the same rules as classification at the heading level.

GRI 2(a) states:

“Any reference in a heading to an article … shall also include a reference to that article complete or finished (or falling to be classified as complete or finished by virtue of this rule), entered unassembled or disassembled.”

Under GRI 1, CBP looks to the terms of the headings and any relevant section or chapter notes.  It argues that even though the merchandise is called a “balance ball chair,” the name is not indicative of the tariff classification. The merchandise is disassembled and therefore cannot be classified under GRI 1.

Under GRI 2(a), the disassembled frame, caster wheels, deflated ball, manual air pump, and exercise guide are not a “seat” within the meaning of heading 9401, as the disassembled contents do not contain a seat at all.  Once assembled, the apparatus is distinguishable from the seats listed under EN 94.01 (e.g., lounge chairs, arm-chairs, folding chairs, deck chairs, etc.) because an exercise ball does not constitute a seat similar to the examples.  The frame with castor wheels is exercise equipment designed to hold the ball after it is inflated.  The ball can be removed and used separately for exercise purposes.  That the exercise performed might occur in a seated position does not make the balance ball or the assembled apparatus a seat.

By application of GRIs 2(a) and 6, CBP determines the classification of the item to be 9506.91.0030, HTSUS, which provides for “Articles and equipment for general physical exercise, gymnastics, athletics, other sports (including table-tennis) or outdoor games, not specified or included elsewhere in this chapter; swimming pools and wading pools; parts and accessories thereof: Other: Articles and equipment for general physical exercise, gymnastics or athletics; parts and accessories thereof: Other.” The general rate of duty is 4.6% ad valorem.