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Guidance on Customs Classification of Articles for Christmas Activities, and Classification of Certain Other Goods When Imported into the EU

On 10 December 2016, the Official Journal published five new regulations which may be of interest to Hong Kong traders. The regulations classify, among others, a wireless speaker adapter, a tube that can be used for multiple purposes including in a medical environment, and an article classified as a television camera. Furthermore, one of the regulations provides guidance on the customs classification of “articles for Christmas activities”, which Hong Kong traders should be made aware of due to the current festive season.

Starting with the last-mentioned above, Commission Implementing Regulation 2016/2222 clarifies the contents of sub-heading 9505 10 of the EU’s Combined Nomenclature (CN), which is set out in Annex I of framework Regulation 2658/87 establishing a nomenclature of goods (the CN). sub-heading 9505 10 covers articles for Christmas activities imported into the EU’s 28 Member States.

New Regulation 2016/2222 states that, although some guidance on the interpretation of the term “articles for Christmas activities” has already been previously provided, divergent views continue to exist on the scope of the articles falling within said sub-heading 9505 10. Therefore, in the interests of legal certainty – for both Member States and traders – the scope has to be clarified further. This may be done by distinguishing between the traditional articles used for Christmas festivities and other fashionable articles that are used more generally as decorations during the winter season.

Thus, sub-heading 9505 10 covers articles that are broadly recognised as traditionally used at Christmas festivities and exclusively manufactured and designed as articles for Christmas festivities.

These are articles associated with the nativity (i.e. articles for the traditional Christmas crib), such as nativity figures, nativity animals, Bethlehem stars, the three nativity kings, and nativity scenes, as well as articles recognised as being used at Christmas festivities due to long standing national traditions. The latter includes artificial Christmas trees, Christmas stockings, imitation yule logs, Christmas crackers, Father Christmases with or without a sledge, and Christmas angels.

Notably, the sub-heading does not cover articles for the winter season which are suitable for a more general use as decorations during that season, because their objective characteristics suggest that they are not exclusively used for Christmas festivities but mainly as decorations during the winter season. These include icicles, snow-crystals, stars, reindeers, robins, snowmen, and other images of the winter season, whether or not the colours or outfits, etc. suggest a connection with Christmas.

Sub-heading 9505 10 also covers decorative articles for Christmas trees. These are articles designed to be hung on a Christmas tree (i.e. lightweight articles of generally non-durable material designed to decorate a Christmas tree). However, the articles must have a connection with Christmas.

Finally, Hong Kong traders may like to know the current conventional rate of duty for “articles for Christmas festivities” falling under sub-heading 9505 10. Such articles, if of glass, are free of such duty (CN code 9505 10 10). If “of other materials” (CN code 9505 10 90) then they will attract a conventional rate of duty of 2.7%.

New Regulation 2016/2222 will enter into force on the twentieth day following that of its publication in the Official Journal.

Commission Implementing Regulation 2016/2224 classifies an electrical apparatus, a so-called ‘wireless speaker adapter’. The wireless speaker adapter consists of, among other attributes, a built-in rechargeable battery and a Bluetooth technology based transmitter and receiver, a USB port for charging, and a 3.5 mm audio port, for connection to a speaker system (not present upon presentation to customs). The apparatus allows the user to listen to music from a smartphone or similar portable device on a home audio system or via separate loudspeakers. As the apparatus can only send and receive audio signals wirelessly via Bluetooth, and does not itself generate the audio signal or produce the sound it cannot be considered a sound reproducing apparatus. Classification under heading 8519 is therefore excluded. The apparatus is therefore to be classified under CN code 8517 62 00 as a machine for the reception, conversion and transmission of voice or other data. The product attracts a zero conventional rate of duty.

Commission Implementing Regulation 2016/2223 classifies a so-called ‘digital microscope’. Among other attributes, the digital microscope is equipped with four light emitting diodes, a complementary metaloxide-semiconductor (CMOS) sensor and a cable with a USB connector. The article functions only in conjunction with an automatic data-processing (ADP) machine and has no inbuilt recording capabilities. The article is capable of magnifying objects in a range of 10-200 times by means of an optical lens and capturing still images as well as video images that can subsequently be recorded on an ADP machine using dedicated software. Due to its various attributes, the article is to be classified under CN code 8525 80 19 as a television camera, attracting a conventional rate of duty of 4.1% (from 1 July to 31 December: 3.3, according to Annex I of the Combined Nomenclature published on 28 October 2016).

Commission Implementing Regulation 2016/2221 classifies an article consisting of three flexible tubes joined together with a Y-shaped connection piece. The article is made of various plastics such as polyvinyl chloride and acrylic polymer. A connector is used to connect the article to other tubes and/or devices (for example syringes) in a manner which prevents leakage. The article is used in various fields such as the medical environment, laboratory work, research and other environments where a connection which prevents leaking is required. The Regulation explains that, upon presentation to customs, the article is not identifiable as part of a medical instrument. Consequently, classification under heading 9018 is excluded. It is instead to be classified under CN code 3917 33 00 as other tubes, not reinforced or otherwise combined with other materials, with fittings. The article attracts a 6.5% conventional rate of duty.

Finally, Commission implementing Regulation 2016/2225 classifies an article that is mainly made of steel, designed for use with the track chain of a crawler type excavator. The article is classified under CN code 8431 49 80.

All of the abovementioned regulations will enter into force on the twentieth day following that of their publication in the EU’s Official Journal. Regarding the four regulations above that classify the goods they cover in the Combined Nomenclature, binding tariff information which does not conform with each of those regulations may continue to be invoked for a period of three months from the date of their entry into force.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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