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The Complexity of Fabric Classification

As clothing is an article we deal with everyday, it seems to be pretty straightforward. When it comes to its tariff classification and the fabric(s) it’s made of however, things can get complicated.

The tariff is arranged by Section which generally categorizes similar merchandise together. It has titles such as “Vegetable Products” (Section II), “Plastics and Articles Thereof, Rubber and Articles Thereof” (Section VII), and “Footwear, Headgear, Umbrellas, Sun Umbrellas, Walking Sticks, Seatsticks, Whips, Riding-Crops and Parts Thereof; Prepared Feathers and Articles Made Therewith; Artificial Flowers; Articles of Human Hair” (Section XII).

At the beginning of each Section are “Notes” unique to all of those Chapters that are within the Section. Similarly, in the first part of each Chapter are Notes specific to the tariff provisions within that Chapter, along with Additional U.S. Notes that are unique to imports coming into the United States.

With regards to “Textile and Textile Articles,” the tariff provisions for these types of imports are found in Section XI, Chapters 50 through 63.

Making determinations on fabrics can be tricky due to reasons such as the type of combination of fibers, if such fibers had been brushed or cut during the processing thereby creating a “pile,” if fabric is adhered to another type of fabric, or if fabric has been coated or impregnated with a medium that contains varying percentages of a rubber and plastic combination.

The methodology for the classification of goods under the HTSUS is governed by what are known as the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI). The first GRI provides that classification determinations are made in accordance with the terms of the headings of the tariff schedule and any relevant Section or Chapter Notes.

When it comes to bonded fabrics, Note 2 to HTSUS Chapter 59 (entitled, “Impregnated, coated, covered or laminated textile fabrics; textile articles of a kind suitable for industrial use”) provides a general rule for bonded fabrics, stating that where a knitted or crocheted fabric is coated, impregnated, laminated or covered, then it would be classified in HTSUS Chapter 59.

Despite this general rule however, Note 1(c) to HTSUS Chapter 60 (entitled, “Knitted or crocheted fabrics”) sets forth an exception to this rule where the imported merchandise involves a knit pile fabric that is coated, impregnated, laminated or covered. Under this circumstance, these fabrics are classifiable within Chapter 60, under Heading 6001, and not under Chapter 59.

Moreover, Additional Legal U.S. Note one (1) to HTSUS Chapter 60 provides a specific definition for the term “long pile fabrics.” As defined, these are “fabrics made by inserting fibers from card silver into the loops of the ground fabric during knitting.” In everyday language, this simply means that a certain manufacturing process must have been utilized in order to qualify under this provision.

Needless to say, making classification determinations can sometimes seem like solving a puzzle as multiple Chapters and Notes need to be analyzed before any conclusions can be drawn.

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