August 24, 2004
We have recently learned that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), instead of issuing a Federal Register notice or a proposed change of notice, will be seeking advice from the Harmonized System Committee (HSC), of the World Customs Organization (WCO), to clarify the classification of certain outdoor shoes that have textile outer soles. At various gatherings of the importing community, officials from CBP had announced that CBP was going to change its position on the classification of footwear with textile soles that are used for outdoor purposes. For the last two years, CBP has been allowing outdoor footwear with a textile sole at the time of importation to be classifiable under Heading 6405, which normally has a lower duty rate.
In CBP ruling HQ 123456 dated April 18, 2002, CBP Headquarters ruled that certain slip-on shoes that had a layer of textile on the outer sole were classifiable under Heading 6405, rather than under Heading 6404 at a higher duty rate, even though the textile sole might easily wear off within a few weeks after use. In CBP's opinion, "it is not necessary that the outer sole's textile layer have any commercial purpose."
Subsequent to this ruling, Customs issued many other rulings in which it allowed classification of outdoor footwear with textile soles or soles having a textile layer under Heading 6405. However, CBP has disallowed classification under Heading 6405 where the textile layers on the outsoles have been flimsy, and in cases where the textile layer can be easily peeled off.
CBP had informally indicated that it was proposing to change the classification of this type of footwear, whereby shoes with textile soles would be classified under Heading 6405 only if the primary use was indoor use.
Instead of publishing a proposed notice of change in the Federal Register or the Customs Bulletin , CBP has decided to forward several footwear samples of shoes with textile soles to the WCO for its opinion on the proper classification. We assume that these would be shoes for outdoor use.
The WCO meets twice a year in Brussels to review and issue decisions on various types of imported merchandise, generally in May and in November. Thus, at the earliest, this issue would be the subject of the November 2004 Session at the WCO.
The WCO is composed only of member governments and, thus, private parties cannot make submissions to the WCO on this issue. Rather, private parties currently supporting a Heading 6405 classification for outdoor shoes with textile soles should submit their comments to a government friendly to this position.
If you have any questions on any of the issues raised in this newsletter, please contact Steve Spraitzar at (415) 288-0427 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or George R. Tuttle at (415) 288-0425 or via email at email@example.com.
George Tuttle, Sr. and Stephen Spraitzar are attorneys with the Law Offices of George R. Tuttle in San Francisco. The information in this article is general in nature and is not intended to constitute legal advice or to create an attorney-client relationship with respect to any event or occurrence, and may not be considered as such.
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