US Court determines Thanksgiving and Christmas dinnerware is not eligible for duty-free entry into the US.

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In an interesting case, the U.S. Court of Appeals agreed with the Court of International Trade’s argument that dinnerware decorated with “festive motifs” and frequently used during Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner do not qualify for duty-free treatment because the articles are not “for use in specific religious or cultural ritual celebrations”.

The importer’s dinnerware included holiday designs such as Christmas trees, turkeys, wreaths etc. intended for using during a traditional Thanksgiving or Christmas meal. The importer initially claimed the dinnerware was duty-free under HTSUS 9817.95.01 “Certain Festive Articles”. The importer said the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners were specific cultural celebrations and the dinnerware was part of the performance of these celebrations. The CIT claimed, and the US Court of Appeals agreed, that while Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner were cultural celebrations, they however were not specific rituals as required under the HTSUS code.

 

Court of International Trade sides with Canadian textile importer and dismisses Customs $4.5 million penalty claim.

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In a just released decision by the the U.S. Court of International Trade (CIT), the CIT dismissed U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) efforts to collect $4.5 million in penalties against Tricots Liesse 1983, Inc. (Tricots), a Candian textile company importing goods into the US. The full text of the CIT Slip Op. 18-29 can be found here.

In the instant case, Tricots tried to correct NAFTA rules of origin claims by filing a prior disclosure with CBP. CBP issued an administrative penalty and duty demand while not providing Tricots an opporutnity for oral hearings during the administrative proceedings. CBP then filed suit against Tricots in the CIT to collect $4.5 MM in penalties and duties. In response, Tricots filed a motion to dismiss the claims because CBP did not allow Tricots the opportunity to attempt administrative remedies.

In short, the CIT opinion faults CBP for not allowing Tricots a “reasonable opportunity” to make oral representations after issuing the penalty notice. This decision helps future importers by ensuring any importer has the opportunity to receive an administrative hearing before CBP imposes a penalty.

If you have received a penalty notice from Customs and need assistance, contact experienced trade and customs attorney David Hsu at 832-896-6288, or by email at dhsu@givensjohnston.com.