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Q: Customs Rulings for Importing New Commodities ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Customs Rulings for Importing New Commodities
Category: Business and Money > Small Businesses
Asked by: martinjay-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 25 Jan 2003 12:57 PST
Expires: 24 Feb 2003 12:57 PST
Question ID: 148471
I am writing a letter regarding a new commodity to be imported into
the United States (this is actually an aggregate of other things)
and want to know:
1) What structure should I use for the letter?
2) Where can I find some examples?
3) Where can I search online for past rulings from the Customs Service?
4) Thoughts, ideas or strategies on doing this.

Thanks, and this is my first shot at Google Answers, and if
I get a respectable answer, will post follow-up questions
for more money for help.

Request for Question Clarification by byrd-ga on 26 Jan 2003 13:25 PST
Hi Martinjay, and welcome to Google Answers.  I'd like to work on your
topic, as it's one with which I have some familiarity and find
interesting.  However, I'd like to point out that you've actually
asked four questions, not one. With all due respect, I'd suggest that
if you want a full and complete answer, you might consider reposting
each as a separate question, which will likely generate more interest
among the Researchers, and better, more complete answers for you. You
may want to take a look at this link to Google guidlines for
formulating and pricing your questions:

Best regards,

Clarification of Question by martinjay-ga on 26 Jan 2003 14:11 PST

I had actually just reread that this morning, trying to figure this all out.
After reading that I came to kind of the same conclusion.  I was doing
this as a test for a client, and before we spent 50-200 dollars we wanted
to see what kind of information we got.  Live and learn.  Going to do this
for now, if you could just answer 1) and let us know where 3) is, will
come back and provide more detail and a more interesting fee.
I saw 2-3 people had locked it up without answering it.  What I really
hoped for was that someone actually knew something about this
given that I have done research myself on the net without much
information other than the CFRs (have all those, please don't repeat).
Wanted to find someone who has actually done or advised on this.
Thanks for the answer, and if you can take care of those two above,
(will repeat here), we can close this puppy out and come back for more.

answer 1) and let us know where 3) is,

Subject: Re: Customs Rulings for Importing New Commodities
Answered By: byrd-ga on 26 Jan 2003 17:51 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi Martinjay,

Thank you for the clarification. I’ll be glad to assist you with your
revised question.  As I understand it, you’re in need of 1) some
direction as to how to structure a letter proposing the importation
into the United States of a new commodity that is not currently being
imported, as well as a 2)steer to a source of historical rulings from
the Customs Service.

First, here’s a brief review or refresher of the information I’m sure
you already know:

“All goods that enter the United States are categorized according to
the Harmonized Tariff Schedule. The act of placing goods into the
correct category is called classification. Classification determines
how much duty will be collected. Classification is more than simply
looking up an item in an index. It is a very complicated process
requiring the application of the General Rules of Interpretation; the
section, chapter and subheading notes; and the Explanatory Notes. The
importer is responsible for properly classifying his merchandise
before entry.

“If he is not sure how to properly classify an item, he can submit a
request, in writing, for a binding classification ruling to the
National Commodity Specialist Division, U.S. Customs, Attn:
Classification Ruling Requests, New York, NY 10048. The rulings will
be binding at all ports of entry unless revoked by the Headquarters'
Office of Regulations and Rulings.

“If an importer is not satisfied with the binding ruling received from
New York, he or she can appeal it to the Headquarters' Office of
Regulations and Rulings, Washington, DC 20229. The Customs Service
will not issue binding rulings in response to oral requests. Import
Specialists can give oral advisory rulings but the
classification-related opinions or advice of Customs Service personnel
at one port are not binding on the Customs ports elsewhere. Oral
inquiries may be made to Customs offices regarding existing binding
rulings that might cover your importation. Binding rulings may also be
researched on the Customs web site at “ 
( )

The U.S. Customs website states it thus:
 “A ruling is a written statement issued by Custom's Headquarters  or
the appropriate office of Customs that interprets the laws of Customs
as they apply to a specific commodity. Generally, rulings can only be
requested from Customs for future or prospective transactions.

“ .... Each ruling request must contain a complete statement about the
details of the transaction, including the name and address of the
supplier and a technical description of the commodity.”  (From: )

Also, the letter should give “1) the country of origin of the
merchandise; 2) the composition of the merchandise; 3) a full and
complete description of the article; and 4) the intended use of the
item.” (From the “Importer’s Reasonable Care Checklist:

The U.S. Customs, website, gives the following instructions: 
“A request for a ruling should be in the form of a letter.    
Requests for Valuation and Carrier rulings should be addressed to: 

The Commissioner of Customs
Attention: Office of Regulations and Rulings
Washington, DC 20229.
(The Division and Branch in the Office of Regulations and Rulings to
which the request should be directed may also be indicated, if known.)

**Requests for tariff classification rulings should be addressed to: 
Director, National Commodity Specialist Division
U.S. Customs
Attn: CIE/Ruling Request
One Penn Plaza-10th Floor
New York, NY 10119 

or to any service port office of the Customs Service.”

The current Commissioner of Customs is Robert C. Bonner

I have been unable to locate the name of the current Director of the
National Commodity Specialist Division.

The Customs website suggests you might address your letter to your
nearest port service center.  However, current information says that
is no longer the case:

“Customs has fortunately resumed the Customs Binding Rulings Program
where the National Import Specialists are located in New York City.
Ruling requests should now be submitted to Director, National
Commodity Specialist Division, United States Customs, Attn: CIE/Ruling
Request, One Penn. Plaza, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10119.

Be advised Customs is considering no longer allowing advance ruling
requests to be issued by the individual ports of entry, but only from
the National Commodity Specialist Division in New York. Similarly
under consideration, Internal Advice requests and Requests for Further
Review on Protests would be forwarded to the National Import
Specialists in New York, rather than to Customs Headquarters in
Washington, D.C.”

In summary, as to the actual structuring of the letter:
-Use your company’s (or attorney’s) letterhead
-Include the addressee and date in the heading
-Use standard formal business format for salutation, i.e. “Dear Mr.
(or Ms.     Name: (if known)” or “Dear Commissioner/;” or “Dear
-Indent paragraphs
-Summarize your request in the first paragraph
-Break down the details by paragraph. Include any and all information
in whatever form is most appropriate (i.e. bulleted lists, tables,
spreadsheets, etc.)to cover the above given required elements, while
doing so as concisely as possible.  Include attachments if necessary,
so noting such enclosures at the end of the letter as a list, e.g.
“Enclosures: Spreadsheet of estimated values
                                   Drawing of proposed item,”   etc. 
-Conclude with your request for a binding ruling.  Give any contact
names/information not already included in your letterhead
-Use a formal standard closing, e.g. “In awaiting your decision, I/we
are “Yours very truly,” following by your signature(s) above your
printed name(s).

Keep copies for yourselves, and be sure to send the letter by
certified mail, return receipt requested.

2) Historical data on over 90,000 Customs rulings can be found at this
searchable online database, the Customs Rulings Online Search System
(CROSS):  There are also some related
links provided.  However, they do include this note: “Please be aware
that not all rulings issued by HQ and NY since 1989 are yet included
in the database. They are still being collected and we hope to have
100% inclusion as soon as practicable.”

Further links:
Downloadable rulings:
Search the Legal Precedent Retrieval System OR download the Legal
Precedent Retrieval System delimited database:
Customs Bulletins and Decisions: 
Article on “Reasonable Care” concept: 

If anything is unclear, or if I have misunderstood your needs, please
do ask for clarification before rating/closing the answer, so I may
have the opportunity to ensure your satisfaction.  Best of luck to you
and your client in your venture.

Kindest regards,

Search terms used: 
customs rulings
customs binding rulings program
commissioner of customs
director national commodity specialist division
rulings request customs

Request for Answer Clarification by martinjay-ga on 26 Jan 2003 20:55 PST
As far as the letter goes, I was looking for how to
structure the content, not basic letter writing.
I go my money's worth, and you are on your
way to a five star, but wanted to get an idea of
how to structure the letter:

Show what you are bring in is a commodity
Demonstrate trade
Cite past rulings and the like

If you are not familiar with this, then that is
fine.  I hoped to find someone who has done
this, maybe even a lot, but knew it was a long
shot.  Thanks, the other stuff looked good.
Any insight on this from your or Comments
will be welcome.  If you have never done this,
then don't sweat it and thanks.  Good work.

- martinjay

Request for Answer Clarification by martinjay-ga on 26 Jan 2003 20:59 PST
Also, just shot my client an email.  I am going to close this
out after I get your next response if you have anything to
add, then we will decide in what question we will ask
next regarding this matter and put some real money
on the table to get help.  Thanks, and good job.


Clarification of Answer by byrd-ga on 27 Jan 2003 07:35 PST
Hello Martinjay,

I'm sorry; I apparently did somewhat misunderstand what you were
looking for.  Certainly, I didn't mean to insult your intelligence
with tips on how to write a letter since you obviously already know! 
However, you'd be surprised how many people do need assistance with
things like that.  In any case, I'd hoped a listing of the elements
that U.S. Customs states are necessary to include in your request,
with appropriate source citations, would suffice.

No, I haven't undertaken this process myself, though I have had
dealings with my local customs office over questions of what/how to
classify certain items for importation, as well as having some
experience perusing various customs publications for that purpose,
including the HTSUS.  It's a complicated business, made even more so
if you're proposing an item not previously classified.

Your suggestions for points to include are good ones, and it seems to
me you already have a fairly good grasp of the challenge you face. 
After searching unsuccessfully for an official Customs definition of
the word "commodity," I've come to the conclusion, based on official
usage in a number of contexts, including inclusion within the HTSUS,
that the word is used in its classic dictionary sense of "an article
of trade or commerce."  There are shades of meaning, of course, and if
you'd like to check those out to be sure you've covered all possible
aspects of the question as to whether your article is a commodity per
se, here are links to various definitions of the word.  However, it
would seem that just about anything that can be bought and sold would
fall under this broad definition somewhere.*1+0

Also, just for your information, here's a link to the glossary of
customs terms, with citations of the appropriate sections of the CFR:

As to demonstrating trade, certainly you would need to include the
planned and/or potential uses for the product/article.  If I were
doing this myself, I'd think of possibly including letters of interest
from potential buyers of your product to demonstrate a demand in this
country for what you propose to import, as well as perhaps results of
a market study showing the same. This could also help to show that a
need exists that isn't being currently met by existing
sources/manufacturers/importers. In addition, if you have any sales
figures, real or projected, here or elsewhere, for your product or a
similar one, that might also be helpful.

A citation of past rulings on similar articles would be mandatory, I
would think.  If the ruling(s) were favorable, its inclusion would
strengthen your case; if it were unfavorable, it would give you a
starting point for an argument as to why your particular proposal is
different and should receive approval.

One other aspect you might consider including would be a suggestion
(properly supported of course, by reference to past rulings and/or the
HTSUS) as to the proper potential classification of your commodity. 
Anything that could save time and/or work for the customs officer
assigned to your request would likely work in your favor as far as
obtaining the ruling you seek.
Again, I'm sorry I can't provide you with the personal experience you
were hoping for.  I would, however, recommend you consult with a
professional, such as an attorney experienced in foreign trade, or at
least a local customs official at your nearest port service office,
for a final going-over or proof of your letter before sending it in. 
This service is free, and your local official might have some
potentially useful advice to give.  Even a phone call could yield some
excellent tips.  If you don't know where/whom to contact, here are
some links that can help you locate your nearest office:

Ports of Entry:
Other Offices/Contacts:

Oh yes, there's one other thing I wanted to mention.  That is, the
U.S. Customs has recently changed its online presence.  Previously, it
was included in the U.S. Treasury Dept.'s website, but it now has its
own.  What makes this tricky is that many of the links currently
available on search engines, including Google, are still using the old
urls, i.e. "," which are no longer valid.  To
find just about any Customs information now, you will need to access
their main page ( ) and use either their "Help"
section or their internal search engine.  If you do an external search
on customs matters, just be aware of the change and save yourself a
lot of aggravation by not clicking on any links with the old url.

Thank you for the opportunity to assist you with this very interesting
question.  I hope I was able to be of some help and wish you good

Best wishes,
martinjay-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Thanks, and great job.  Got my money's worth.  Keep your eyes open as I will be
asking my client to utilize this service (this was with my money).  I am slowly
learning how to use this service and am usually far along with research myself.
I have 8 years of Management Consulting so I am pretty good myself.

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