Thursday, November 27, 2014

Ruling of the Week 16: Shoe Sizing Kits, Who Knew?

I have mentioned before that one of the side effects of being a customs lawyer is exposure, directly and indirectly, to all sorts of strange and interesting products. Take, for example, the dance shoe sizing kit. The kit consists of several left shoes in a spectrum of sizes and a ruler for measuring feet. The shoes and the ruler are marked "Sample Not for Resale." The tariff classification for this kit was determined in NY N257784 (Nov. 18, 2014). The purpose of this kit is, as you might expect, is to solicit sales of dance shoes from potential customers in the U.S.

As is often the case in rulings issued by the NY office of Customs and Border Protection, there is not a lot of analysis in the ruling, just a result; which we will get to in due course.

The first question to ask is whether the shoes and rulers constitute a retail set that should be classified as a whole under General Rule of Interpretation 3(b). If so, the sample shoes and the sample rulers, if put up for retail sale would be classified as a whole based on the one article that imparts the essential character.

In this case, there are multiple shoes and only one ruler, so it is a not hard to find that the shoes represent the essential character.

But . . . I feel guilty for teasing a lesson on essential character out of this ruling. CBP did not need to get to that.

Rather, this is an eo nomine classification based upon the fact that everything in the kit is a sample and is properly marked as such. That means that the kit is classifiable as 9811.00.60, which provides for "any sample (except samples covered by heading 9811.00.20 or 9811.00.40), valued not over $1 each, or marked, torn, perforated or otherwise treated so that it is unsuitable for sale or for use otherwise than as a sample, to be used in the United States only for soliciting orders for products of foreign countries."

So, the real lesson of this ruling is not about retail sets or essential character. The real lesson is that more often than not classifications are determined based on General Rule of Interpretation 1, without resort to essential character, relative specificity, or other "tie breaking" rules. There is an eo nomine classification for samples that applies. End of story.

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