Each product that is imported into the United States and cleared through Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is required to be classified based on The Harmonized Tariff System of the United States. Those classifications are the responsibility of the importer (19 U.S.C. 1484), since they have firsthand knowledge of what the article is, what it is made of, how it is manufactured and the end use.
The importer should provide that classification information to their broker and work with their broker on any questions or concerns they might have on the proper classification of an item. An annual review of any classifications being used by the importer or their broker is strongly advised by customs. That review shows CBP that the importer is exercising due diligence and reasonable care in this part of their importing process.
With the 2018 Trade Tariff – Lists 1, 2 and 3 being implemented this year, many importers have renewed their focus on the classifications they use for their products, looking to see what other options might be available or more appropriate. Often, the importer asks the broker to provide guidance on classifications. Even though the broker can assist, most brokers will provide a statement with any classification that it is being provided on a strictly advisory basis.
Classifications sourced through the Customs Binding Ruling process is the only legally binding option available to importers, obtained from a National Import Specialist trained in classifying a particular commodity group.
In recent years, CBP has made the process of requesting a binding ruling much easier through the e-Rulings Template. As of 2017, the option to request a ruling for not only classifications, but also for certain marking questions, country of origin validation, NAFTA clarification and other Trade Program inquiries, was greatly improved with the electronic binding ruling request.
All requests are sent directly to the National Commodity Specialist Division (NCSD) of Regulations and Rulings in New York. With the use of the e-Rulings Template, the importer or their broker can provide all pertinent information such as pictures, graphs, diagrams and supporting documentation needed to allow customs to issue a ruling.
The ruling is normally processed within 30 calendar days of receipt. If, for some reason, the ruling request cannot be made electronically, binding rulings can still be requested by mail to:
The Binding Ruling process is available for the importer, potential importer or the importer’s broker, lawyer, consultant to use and the rulings are issued to the requesting party and are available to the importing public to review once the final ruling is made.
If you have questions regarding classifications you have been using or classifications your vendor might be suggesting you use, or you need assistance in preparing a binding ruling, please feel free to contact the Ascent Compliance team to review.