A current case in federal court is attempting to address when or if a passenger van is actually a cargo van.
The case involves Ford Motor Company and their imports of passenger vans that removed a row of seats and sold the vehicles as cargo vans. Cargo vans were levied a duty of 25%, whereas their passenger van counterparts were only taxes 2.5%. Specifically, Ford imported “passenger vans” into the US from Turkey. After they cleared customs, the second row of seats were removed, windows blocked and holes on the floorboard for the seats were covered.
In 2017, the Court of International Trade ruled in Ford’s favor, but the government has appealed and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit heard oral arguments yesterday (Monday 11, 2019). Many are watching the ruling as this may impact what strategies companies implement when “tariff engineering” imports to avoid higher duty amounts.
Tariff engineering and finding alternate classifications under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the US (HTSUS) are common ways importers try to lower their duty amounts.
The Ford argument is the goods should be classified as they are imported and subsequent altering does not matter. However, the government claims Ford’s wording of the vehicle is “for the transport of persons” instead of goods, ie is a cargo van.
Will update as soon as a decision is made.
If you are interested in how your company can “tariff engineer” goods or want to discuss alternative classifications for your goods, contact experienced trade attorney David Hsu at 832-896-6288 or email David’s catchall email: firstname.lastname@example.org (will be sent to David’s email@example.com) email.