Classification Pointers – Deconstructing “Parts of General Use”

A fundamental rule associated with classifying merchandise under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) is found under the General Rules of Interpretation, Rule 1, which provides in part: “classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter Notes.”

One of the primary functions of the HTSUS section and chapter notes is to indicate what is not included under those particular sections or chapters. A key note included throughout the HTSUS relates to certain types of articles known as “parts of general use.”

“Parts of general use” are defined under section XV, note 2 as follows:

Throughout the tariff schedule, the expression “parts of general use” means:

(a) Articles of heading 7307, 7312, 7315, 7317 or 7318 and similar articles of other base metals;

(b) Springs and leaves for springs, of base metal, other than clock or watch springs (heading 9114); and

(c) Articles of heading 8301, 8302, 8308 or 8310 and frames and mirrors, of base metal, of heading 8306.”

The term “parts of general use” appears in several places in the HTS. What it means is that articles classified under any of the headings specified in the definition are classified under those provisions and not as parts of the product in which they are used.
For example, a steel leaf spring formed to size and shape for use in the suspension of an automobile would be classified in chapter 73 as a steel spring and not as a part of a motor vehicle in chapter 87.

When a classifier encounters this definition it can be a bit daunting given the multiple headings and chapter references included in the definition. Also, each of the exclusionary section notes and chapter notes exclude “similar articles of plastics” under chapter 39. This means that the term “parts of general use” includes similar plastic parts.
For example, a plastic fastener of a specific length and thread pattern for use in a machine would be classified in chapter 39 and not as parts of machines.

In classifying parts of different imported products, one has to be on the lookout for parts of general use, as defined in the HTS, as this concept can change how those parts are classified.

The definition of parts of general use is quite expansive. Also, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has held in a number of notable cases that even if an article is specifically designed to be a component part of a parent item and serves much more than a general function it can still be classified as a part of general use.

It is therefore critical for a classifier to be ever mindful of the parts of general use exclusion to avoid incorrectly classifying an item as a part of a parent item rather than as a part of general use.

Written by Paul Fudacz, Senior Attorney