Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Ruling of the Week 2016.16: July 4th Edition

I hope my readers in America, which is 90% of the readership, had a happy Independence Day Holiday. As is essentially mandatory, I watched fireworks and contemplated the range of pyrotechnical displays available. If we create a spectrum from the impressive aerial burst you might see at Disneyworld to tossing a lit match in the air, there are many options in between. Among the least entertaining versions of fire-related entertainment products is the so-called "black snake." I remember lighting these things off as a kid. They smoke a lot, create a messy and not particularly impressive ash trail, and leave enough residue on the sidewalk that an underage and unauthorized user is likely to get in trouble.

If you are not familiar with what I am on about, watch this:


As I am likely to do, I also wondered about the tariff classification and admissibility of these things.

In NY N114744 (July 23, 2010), Customs was asked for the classification of TNT CP1051 assorted color snakes of fireworks class 1.4G. The importer was asserting that the correct classification is as a festive article in HTSUS item 9505.90.20. I suggest you watch the video again. It is Exhibit 1 in proving that these are hardly "festive" even if intended as such, but that is my judgment, not a legal determination.

The alternative classification was 3604.10.90, which provides for other fireworks. Without much analysis, CBP jumped to General Rule of Interpretation 3(a) and held that Heading 3604 is the more specific of the two potentially applicable headings. The issue was whether the snakes were more properly treated as pyrotechnic toys or as fireworks in Class 1.4G. Inexplicably, to resolve this question about the 9th- and 10th-digit statistical suffix, Customs referenced the WCO Explanatory Notes. Apparently, a pyrotechnic toy is more likely to be handheld, while these items are lit on the ground and watched from a distance.

On top of that, the Consumer Products Safety Commission defines snakes as Class 1.4G as did the importer's documentation to the Department of Transportation.

As a result, the snakes were classified in 3604.10.9010 as other fireworks of Class 1.4G.


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