Customs Cross Rulings and Verification

By Beatriz Ramirez, Free Trade Agreement Specialist,
Illinois SBDC International Trade Center

When exporting or importing, knowing the correct harmonized code for your product is critical. The harmonized code when exporting is called the Schedule B member. When importing, it is the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United State (HTSUS). It impacts duty rates, compliance with export documentation, and supports international marketing research. However, many companies may not know there is a very helpful tool for confirming the correct code.

Customs Border Protection (CBP) publishes all of the legally binding rulings that they develop in a web-based search system. Binding rulings are determinations by CBP of the correct harmonized code for a particular product. This platform includes rulings from 1980 to 2014. This website is particularly helpful because it includes cases with valuation, country of origin, duty drawback, duty deferral, tariff quota, eligibility under preference programs, and treatment of goods in transit that you can use as reference. The website is http://rulings.cbp.gov/

The public can access it at any time. Let’s try. Using the link above, practice with the simple word “filler.” The search automatically brings up rulings from 1990-2013. Then, select from the “Ruling Reference” column, the topic that most closely matched your issue.

Another user can use a more complicated search but obtain more precise results. For practice, enter “excavator piston engine.” Again, the search provides past Customs rulings. The results are more limited in number, but you saved time by eliminating irrelevant search results.

Reading past binding rulings is a very useful learning exercise because all rulings contain the justification CBP used in its determination. When these rulings relate to products you import or export, it can be a helpful guide even if the particular product in the ruling is not an exact match for your product.

The rulings are posted according to the information that companies have provided to CBP. In some cases, not all technical information is provided because it is confidential information, but it can give you a good idea about your classification.

If you have this dilemma and you do not have the time to read all the rulings in the CBP site, please contact the International Trade Center at Bradley University. They can assist in classification and verification according to the GRIs and the legal notes at no charge to you.  You can contact Beatriz Ramirez at 309-677-3075 or send an e-mail.