February 18, 2005 CLA-2 RR:CR:TE 967453 TMF
TARIFF NO.: 8481.80.10
Mr. George M. Keller Customs Advisory Services, Inc.
1003 Virginia Avenue, Suite 200, Atlanta, Georgia 30354
RE: Classification of Model SV100, Service Valve; Additional Information Submitted; New York Ruling Letter (NY) K87734, dated July 27, 2004
Dear Mr. Keller:
This is in reply to your letter dated September 20, 2004, to the National Commodity Specialist Division in which you requested on behalf of your client, Wilspec Technologies, a binding classification ruling for the SV100 Service Valve under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). Your original request was returned to you for clarification and further information.
Your letter of September 20, 2004, which provides additional information, was forwarded to our office for our determination. In reaching our decision, we considered the arguments made by counsel during a January 26, 2005, conference call. Also, in response to our request during this conference call, you submitted four diagrams of the subject merchandise for our review.
In your first submission, you stated the subject merchandise, identified as SV100 Service Valve, is used in residential and light commercial HVAC/refrigeration systems. You also indicated that the SV100 is designed to isolate sections of the refrigerant circuit in split air conditioning and heat pump systems thereby allowing the flow of refrigerant to circulate within the HVAC/refrigeration unit during normal operation. In your submission, you described the SV100 as consisting of a brass body, copper tubes, caps and service port with a Schrader valve. You also stated that the service port with Schrader valve is the part of the device that is used to convey refrigerant to the HVAC/refrigeration unit when it is charged and that the body of the SV100 contains no opening or closing device. The NCSD reviewed your submission and returned your request and requested additional information for clarification.
In your instant submission, you state that the SV100 is composed of two valves: a rotary motion valve and a Schrader valve. The rotary motion valve, also referred to you as a plug valve, is opened and closed by rotating it 90 degrees (a quarter turn) with an Allen wrench inserted from above. You state that the valve is used to connect refrigerant piping during installation and is designed to allow a service technician to isolate sections of the refrigerant circuit within which the valve is installed.
The Schrader valve, also known as a tire valve, is a spring-loaded device that is used in air conditioning for a threefold purpose, to (1) check refrigerant pressure; (2) charge Freon into the system; and (3), discharge Freon from the system. You state that these three functions are performed only through the Schrader valve port without actuation of the service valve and that it is actuated only in a small percentage of service calls, where the refrigerant circuit is broken (i.e., a broken coil, compressor or other major component).
You are claiming that the SV100 is classifiable as a check valve of subheading 8481.30, HTSUSA, or, in the alternative, as other taps, cocks, valves and similar appliances of subheading 8481.80.90, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States.
Whether the subject SV100 Service Valve is classifiable in subheading 8481.30 as a check valve, or in subheading 8481.80 as other taps, cocks, valves and similar appliances?
If the SV100 is classifiable under subheading 8481.80, is it hand-operated?
LAW AND ANALYSIS:
Merchandise is classifiable under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA) in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs). GRI 1 provides that classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative Section or Chapter Notes. When goods cannot be classified solely on the basis of GRI 1 and if the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes do not require otherwise, the remaining GRIs 2 through 6 may be applied.
Additionally, the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs) are the official interpretation of the Harmonized System at the international level. While neither legally binding nor dispositive, the ENs provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the HTSUS. See T.D. 89-80, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (August 23, 1989).
The HTSUS provisions under consideration are as follows:
8481 Taps, cocks, valves and similar appliances, for pipes, boiler shells, tanks, vats or the like, including pressure-reducing valves and thermostatically controlled valves; parts thereof:
Check (nonreturn) valves:
8481.30.10 Of copper * * * * 8481.80 Other appliances:
8481.80.10 Of copper 8481.80.90 Other
The subject SV100 meets the terms of the heading 8481, HTSUS, which provides eo nomine for valves. We also refer to Explanatory Note (EN) 84.81, that states that heading 8481 covers taps, cocks, valves and similar appliances, used on or in pipes, tanks, vats or the like to regulate the flow (for supply, discharge, etc.), of fluids (liquid, viscous or gaseous), or, in certain cases, of solids (e.g., sand). EN 84.81 also states:
Heading 8481 includes such devices designed to regulate the pressure or the flow velocity of a liquid or a gas. The appliances of heading 8481, HTSUS regulate flow by opening or closing an aperture (e.g., gate, disc, ball, plug, needle or diaphragm). They may be operated by hand (by means of a key, wheel, press button, etc.), or by a motor, solenoid, clock movement, etc., or by an automatic device such as a spring, counterweight, float lever, thermostatic element or pressure capsule [emphasis added].
GRI 6 states, in pertinent part:
[T]he classification of goods in the subheadings of a heading shall be determined according to the terms of those subheadings and any related subheading notes and, mutatis mutandis, to the above rules, on the understanding that only subheadings at the same level are comparable. For the purposes of this rule, the relative section, chapter and subchapter notes also apply, unless the context otherwise requires.
In the instant case, you assert that the merchandise is potentially classifiable in two subheadings, either subheading 8481.30, HTSUSA, which provides for check valves, or in the alternative, in subheading 8481.80, as other taps, cocks, valves and similar appliances of subheading 8481.80. Since the issue is determining the type of valve within heading 8481, we will consider classification at the six-digit level for classifying the instant merchandise by application of GRI 6, supra.
Subheading 8481.30: Check Valves
You state that the SV100 Service Valve meets the description of a check (nonreturn) valve and should be classified in subheading 8481.30, HTSUS, which provides eo nomine for check valves. As neither the HTSUS nor ENs define a check valve, we consulted the National Contractors Referrals and License Bureau, hereinafter referred to as "NCRLB", which defines a check valve as "a device which allows fluid or air to pass through in only one direction; a valve which prevents the back-flow of water or other liquid by automatically closing." The NCRLB also defined a Schrader valve as a "Spring-loaded device that permits fluid flow in one direction when a center pin is depressed; in other direction when a pressure difference exists. Id.
You state that the subject merchandise is a check valve within the meaning of the Canadian federal appeals decision, Deputy Minister of National Revenue v. Schrader Automotive, 162 F.T.R. 320 (1999), hereinafter referred to as "Schrader Automotive", and that by application of Treasury Decision 89-80, supra, "rulings of other countries using the HTS nomenclature are…supposed to be accorded instructive value." Therefore, in your opinion, you believe that we should consider Schrader Automotive for purposes of classifying the instant SV100.
In Schrader Automotive, the articles at issue were air chucks and tire valves that were imported separately for use in automobiles. In Schrader Automotive, the Canadian federal appeals court determined that tire valves (Schrader) meet the definition of a "check valve" because they prevent a reverse flow by closing when the preset pressure level is reached, thereby securing the medium in the vessel.
In your argument, you also claim that the instant SV100 is a check valve of subheading 8481.30, HTSUS by application of Schrader Automotive, supra. We disagree. The instant SV100 is composed of a Schrader valve and a rotary motion valve that is designed to be used in HVAC systems, not automobiles. Also, air chucks are used in the hand to actuate tire valves and the chuck incorporates the pin. In sum, the instant SV100 is not the same as the air chucks and tire valves of Schrader Automotive, which were imported separately. In this case, we do not find Schrader Automotive to be instructive for classifying the instant merchandise pursuant to T.D. 89-80, et. al, supra.
Furthermore, although you claim that the SV100 is a check valve since it allows flow in one direction, this is not controlling since a Schrader valve also allows flow in two directions. Rather, when classifying check valves, CBP has determined that the essential feature of a check valve is that "it uses gravity, fluid, and/or spring force to close the valve and does not require any type of manual manipulation [emphasis added]." See New York Ruling Letter (NY) G86497, dated February 6, 2001, in which CBP classified a tire valve in subheading 8481.80.1050, HTSUS.
Therefore, as the SV100 does not meet the terms of subheading 8481.30, HTSUS, which provides for check valves, it is precluded from classification in that subheading.
Subheading 8481.80: Other taps, cocks, valves and similar appliances
You assert that since the SV100 is not hand operated, then it should be classified in subheading 8481.80.90, which provides for other non-hand operated appliances. When considering this argument, the issue is which eight-digit provision within subheading 8481.80 is appropriate for classifying the instant SV100.
Subheading 8481.80.10 or 8481.80.90
In support of classification within subheading 8481.80.90, you submitted a diagram that shows the connection of the fitting to a Schrader valve. You state:
There are no pictures of a technician in the field charging an AC unit. However, the connector shown in the attached picture is the same type connector that a field service technician uses to charge a unit…As the image reveals, the refrigerant hose is connected by means of an adapter (the same means of connecting used in Ruling NY E84743). It is the adapter that locks the hose fitting into place. The actual flow is actuated by the equipment, not by hand [emphasis added]…Beyond this, in AC schrader valves, the AC unit always must be running when charging the unit -- the circulation this causes, coupled with the pressurization of the refrigerant tank, draws freon into the system. If the AC unit were not running, no flow would be possible (i.e., the valve would not work). The technician makes the connection, turns the AC on, and can step back and let the system automatically charge [emphasis added]. (This aspect is obviously different than schrader valves for bicycle and car tires, which require constant manual manipulation to ensure that air is forced in and does not start seeping out) [emphasis added]. In other words, as in NY E84743, the valve is manually connected, but it is not manually activated or actuated.
In New York Ruling Letter E84743, supra, CBP classified a fill and drain valve and fill and vent valve in subheading 8481.80.9050, HTSUS. These valves were designed for use in fueling operations for spacecraft propulsion systems, not for servicing HVAC systems. The fill and drain valve was specifically described as "specially designed to be operated by use of a dedicated adapter", not as being operated by hand. The description of the fill and vent valve was "essentially the same as the fill and drain valve." In the case of these two valves, there was no evidence that any hand operation was involved. Consequently, CBP classified these two valves in subheading 8481.80.90, HTSUS. When comparing these two valves with the instant SV100, they are not the same as both are designed for different uses and the SV100 requires hand operation as required by subheading 8481.80.10, HTSUS.
The term "hand-operated" is controlling for classification of the instant SV100. We refer to the terms of the subheadings, not terminology such as "manually activated or actuated" as you suggest. In this case, subheading 8481.80.10 provides essentially for hand-operated valves and the ENs to heading 8481 indicate that a hand operated valve is a valve in which the valve mechanism relies on force applied by human hand (as opposed to force applied by a motor or other prime mover) to open and close.
Further, EN 84.81 states that this necessary force may be applied by means of a "key, wheel, press button, etc." used in the hand. Therefore, if a human hand supplies the force necessary to push, pull and/or turn the valve mechanism, the valve is hand operated. If a motor or similar machine supplies the force, whether or not it may be mounted onto the valve by hand, then the valve is not hand operated. In the case of valves with quick connect fittings, CBP has classified these articles as other hand operated appliances. See NY H85718, dated December 3, 2001, in which quick connect fittings that incorporated an opening and closing valve upon connection by hand were classified in subheading 8481.80.3090, HTSUS, which provided for other hand operated steel appliances; see also NY B85480, dated June 4, 1997, in which CBP classified a "quick release adaptor connector" in subheading 8481.80.1095, HTSUS, which provided for hand operated valves of copper, having a pressure rating of 850 kPA or over.
The instant Schrader valve is connected to a refrigerant hose by an application of force by human hands. In fact, we can compare the instant Schrader valve to other bicycle and automobile tire valves which were classified as hand-operated appliances, see NY 854510, dated August 17, 1990, in which CBP classified certain valves for vehicles in subheading 8481.80.1050; NY 853125, dated June 28, 1990, in which CBP classified a replacement tire valve assembly in subheading 8481.80.1050; and NY 87919, dated March 4, 1999, in which CBP classified a tire valve used to provide inflation for a tire and wheel assembly in subheading 8481.80.1050, HTSUS. In each of these aforementioned rulings, the applied force was by human hands.
In sum, the SV100 meets the terms of subheading 8481.80.10 because it requires the application of force by human hands to actuate the valve’s mechanism. We find the SV100 meets the terms of subheading 8481.80.10, HTSUS and it is precluded from classification within subheading 8481.80.90, HTSUS.
Under the authority of GRI 1, HTSUS, applied to the subheading level by GRI 6, HTSUS, the SV100 is provided for in heading 8481, HTSUS, and is classified in subheading 8481.80.10, HTSUSA, which provides for hand-operated valves of copper. The column one, general rate of duty 4 percent ad valorem.
Myles Harmon, Director Commercial Rulings Division