Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Broken heroes on a last chance power drive

Sorry Bruce, make that "power strip."

It's a funny thing that Customs still puts out the Customs Bulletin. Seems like there is no point. Between a posting to its web site and a Federal Register notice, it seems like they should be able to have everything sufficiently public. But, they still put it out. And, every now and then, I find something surprising in it.

Today, I discovered that your basic surge protector-type power strip is not actually a device for protecting electrical circuits under 8536.30.80, which has a duty rate of 2.7%. Why would I ever have thought that? Well, because power strips generally include a fuse or circuit breaker and also circuitry to filter out spikes in voltage. The reason you use them is to protect the sensitive circuits in your expensive electronics. So, on its face, 8536 seems like a good heading for their classification. This makes so much sense that Customs issued a bunch of rulings to this effect.

Not so fast. Customs correctly found a problem with that kind of thinking (see page 56). If there is a circuit breaker or fuse plus surge protection circuitry, then the power strip incorporates two separate apparatus of heading 8536. Since those two items are on a board, panel or base, they fall within the terms of heading 8537 and specifically under 8537.10.90. Unfortunately, that tariff item has the same 2.7% rate of duty. It's a wash.

The moral of the story is as old as classification: read the full text of the heading every time.

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