Main Idea: The constituent component that is key to how the good is used may impart essential character to a composite good and determine classification under the HTSUS.
In ruling NY N327871 (Sept. 12, 2022), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) determines the tariff classification of birdfeeders from China. CBP reviews three specific products: Snacks’ N’ Treats Single Hanging Feeder (#38200), Copper Acorn Tube (#38288), and Grande Squirrel Resistant feeder (#50153). All three products are made predominantly of plastic and steel components and are designed for outdoor use.
The Snacks’ N’ Treats Single Hanging Feeder (#38200) is a black metal curved hanger with a hook at the top and a square open bottom with a blue plastic feeder dish inside the open bottom insert. The basin is made of acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) and the frame arm and hook are both made of steel.
The Copper Acorn Tube (#38288) is a bronze-colored cylindrical birdfeeder. This item contains a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic 10-inch tube and a threaded perch and finial made of aluminum. The birdfeeder also includes a four-inch tube locking ring, wire form retainer, roof, roof locator ring, threaded support post, hanger nut wire form, base locator ring, base, portal, and port hood – all of which are made of steel. The plastic feed tube contains a steel lid and a steel base. A flexible cable wire loop encased in plastic is attached to the top steel lid so the product can be hung. There are two ports where birds can perch on the feeder.
The Grande Squirrel Resistant Cage feeder (#50153) is a bronze-colored cylindrical bird feeder. There are four ports where birds can perch on the feeder. The feeder is designed to be squirrel resistant, so the spring-loaded perch shuts all ports simultaneously when the weight of a squirrel or larger bird lands on the perches or lid. The product contains a PVC plastic tube. The new base, portal, new roof, cage, top roof, deep wire form retainer, threaded rod, roof locking nut and oval ring are all steel. The plastic feed tube is inside the steel cage feeder and a steel hook is attached to the top steel lid so the product can be hung.
Classification under the HTSUS begins with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs), which apply in sequential order.” Under GRI 1, the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes will determine classification. In this instance, the birdfeeders are comprised of steel, aluminum, and plastic components, but no single heading in the tariff schedule covers birdfeeders of all three materials. Therefore, GRI 1 cannot determine classification.
Per GRI 2(b), goods comprised of more than one material or substance are classified under the principles of GRI 3. In relevant part, GRI3 (b) requires that composite goods made up of different components or materials be classified “as if they consisted of the material or component which gives them their essential character.” The subject bird feeders—comprised of steel, aluminum and plastic—are composite goods and GRI 3(b) is applicable. Therefore, the component that imparts the essential character to each birdfeeder will determine classification.
The Explanatory Notes (EN) to GRI 3(b) explain that “the factor which determines essential character will vary as between different kinds of goods. It may, for example, be determined by the nature of the material or component, its bulk, quantity, weight, or the use of the goods.” CBP further clarifies that the role of the constituent materials in how the good is used will impart essential character.
In this instance, CBP determines that the function of the steel and aluminum supports provide structure to the feeder and the steel components also provide the greatest value and bulk to both bird feeders. Therefore, the steel components impart the essential character to bird feeders comprised of steel and plastic.
As described above, the Copper Acorn Tube (#38288) is composed of more than one metal: steel and aluminum, which fall under different chapters of the HTSUS. Per Section XV, Note 7 of HTSUS, “the classification of articles of base metal containing two or more base metals are to be treated as articles of the base metal that predominates by weight over each of the other metals.” In the Copper Acord Tube, steel predominates by weight. Therefore, the Copper Acorn Tube is classified under heading 7323, HTSUS, which provides for household articles of iron or steel.
CBP ruled the applicable subheading for the Snacks’ N’ Treats Single Hanging Feeder (#38200), the Copper Acorn Tube (#38288), and the Grande Squirrel Resistant feeder (#50153) is 7323.99.9080, HTSUS, which provides for “Table, kitchen or other household articles and parts thereof, of iron or steel… other, other, not coated or plated with precious metal, other, other, other.” This provision carries a 3.4% ad valorem.
Finally, the subject birdfeeders are Chinese origin and, therefore, are subject to additional tariffs. “Pursuant to U.S. Note 20 to Subchapter III, Chapter 99, HTSUS, products of China classified under subheading 7323.99.9080, HTSUS, unless specifically excluded are subject to an additional 25% ad valorem rate of duty.” Importers also must report the appropriate secondary Chapter 99 subheading, 9903.88.03.