Monday, September 22, 2014

Ruling of the Week 9: Doc Brown, Red Matter, and Chicken Wire Frames

U.S. Customs and Border Protection takes a lot of heat for not being terribly responsive when it comes to ruling requests. I know, because I have thrown some of that heat. It is very difficult to develop a business plan when the importer does not know the applicable rate of duty. As a general rule, Customs does a good job of getting rulings out. Often times, those are well within the administrative guidelines for timeliness. But, when making that determination is difficult enough to require input from Customs Headquarters, where there is an international dispute about the correct classification, or when another party already has the issue before Customs, things can quickly get bogged down. That causes a lot of frustration. Apparently, Customs is taking bold new steps to satisfy the needs of importers. I know this from ruling N246515.

I found this ruling while looking for rulings with a fairly current date. I saw that N246515 references the importer's letter of September 18, 2014. As I write this post, it is September 22, 2014. A four day turnaround over a weekend is amazing customer service from CBP. But, it turns out to be better than that. I then noticed that CBP issued ruling on October 17, 2013about 11 months before the date of letter.

Several things might be happening here. I know from watching a lot of History Channel's hard science reporting (including Ancient Aliens and UFO Hunters), that normal causation can be interrupted by inter-dimensional quantum entanglement and magnetic vortices that form along geophysical ley lines connecting high-qi sites such as the pyramid complex at Giza, Machu Picchu, and Stonehenge. My guess is that the ley line between Stonehenge and the Nazca lines runs through New York. Specifically, it probably runs through the Office of the National Import Specialist Division. That is a plausible explanation for how Customs answered an inquiry before it was sent.

Another possibility is that Customs seized a Delorian, not knowing it has a flux capacitor and 1.21 gigawatt plutonium generator installed. When a CBP officer got it up to 88 MPH, it jumped into the past, where the officer responded to this letter before jumping back to the future. Perhaps a despondent Romulan with access to red matter is involved.

A less likely possibility is that someone typed the wrong date in the letter and I happened upon it as a result. William of Ockham was a parsimonious kill joy.

On to the substance.

Crafty people can do all sorts of useful, or at least decorative, things with what the rest of us might consider to be junk. In this case, the imported product was chicken wire affixed to a wooden frame. Apparently, this item is used as the base on which crafty types affix decorative items to make wall hangings and whatnot.

CBP was aware of similar items being imported for use as jewelry racks. On that basis alone, CBP decided to classify these items "accordingly," meaning as jewelry racks. I have already spent too many words on this ruling, so I will keep this short and simply say, "Huh?" I'm not sure how supportable that analysis is.

The next problem was that CBP needed to determine whether the racks are of metal (i.e., chicken wire) or wood (i.e., the frames). Here, CBP found that neither component prevailed to provide essential character. As a result, it applied General Rule of Interpretation 3(c) and used the last occurring applicable tariff heading. In this case, that was 8302.50.00 as base metal mountings, fittings, and similar articles . . . brackets and similar fixtures . . . ."

That is a duty-free provision, so I assume everyone was happy regardless of the consequences to time and space.

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