Monday, June 29, 2009

Classification of Decals, Stickers & Labels

Thank you for joining us for our series on classification. Last Monday, we discussed the classification of gaskets. Today, we will explore the classification of decals, stickers and labels.

Aren’t decals, stickers and labels all the same thing? These items “stick” to something else, right? Is there one tariff provision that covers these items? Obviously, the answer to these questions is “no.” The HTS makes classification of certain items more complex than we might expect. Thus, we have the need to provide a little more depth to our research and not just assume that the first provision we find will cover our product. This requirement becomes quite evident in our attempt to classify decals, stickers and labels. Due to the information needed and complexity of classifying these items, the purpose of this article is only to identify the primary differences between the articles so that our readers will be aware of the options.

First, it is important to have a basic definition of each article for classification purposes.

A decal usually consists of an image printed onto a coated sheet, usually of paper or plastic. The imprint is coated with an adhesive and is designed to be transferred from the sheet to another object to serve as a decoration, informational marking, etc. The transfer is generally made by placing the entire sheet to the receiving surface and applying pressure to the back of the sheet.

For CBP purposes, a sticker is a gummed piece of paper or plastic that has been printed with designed, pictures, words, etc. Stickers are normally peeled off their backing and stuck onto the surface using the pressure from a finger.

Labels are virtually indistinguishable from the paper stickers; however, for purposes of the tariff, the difference is related to their principal use. Stickers are primarily used for decorative purposes, while labels are used to convey information about the items to which they are attached.

Maybe our first thought was correct. To the average consumer, decals, stickers and labels are all the same thing, but to the importer, customs broker and CBP, they are very different items.

As with many products, the classification of the decals, stickers and labels will depend on what they are made of and how they are used. Therefore, before these articles can be classified, we must determine what they are made of and how they are used.

Next, we want to identify the possible classifications. Decals, stickers and labels are found in some of the following HTS Chapters.

Plastic Stickers – 3919 (flat)
Plastic Stickers – 4911 (3-dimensional)
Paper Decals - 4908
Paper Stickers – 4911
Paper Labels - 4921
Textile Labels - 6307

Consulting the Section/Chapter Notes and Explanatory notes will also provide some additional detail about the properties of these articles that are included in and/or excluded from certain tariff provisions.

Closely related to this step is the importance of the invoice description of these items. Since the average person might consider these items to be indistinguishable, the party preparing the invoice might describe all of these articles as decals. If you were presented with an invoice for “decals,” could you properly classify them from only one word? From our research, we now know that we must determine the material and use in order to properly classify these items. It would be extremely difficult and unwise, from a compliance standpoint, to attempt classification with only the word “decal.” Remember, binding rulings and Informed Compliance Publications can be great resources when classifying difficult items.

Click HERE to view a CBP Ruling on plastic decals.
Click HERE to view a CBP Ruling distinguishing a paper sticker from a paper label.
Click HERE to view CBP’s Informed Compliance Publication on Decals and Stickers.

Join us next week as we tackle another challenging classification issue. If you have any specific commodities or sections of the HTSUS that you would like to see discussed in this series, please feel free to post a comment or send your suggestions to

No comments: