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About the Tariff

Tariff Terminology

Certain principles are of help in interpreting the terminology of the Tariff. First, it is essential to remember that because the main body and structure of the Tariff is based on the international Nomenclature, a lot of the wording used will not match the type of terminology commonly used in the U.S. or Canada, but will often sound a bit more British. Second, the updating of the Tariff tends to lag behind technological innovation. The descriptions of some products, especially those of a technologically sophisticated nature, might seem a little old-fashioned or out of date. For example, "computers" are referred to as "electronic data processing machines".

In addition, certain phrases and punctuation patterns have very specific uses and meanings. These are detailed in the following sections.

Terminology in Tariff Item Descriptions

Punctuation: Punctuation is important in interpreting the wording of the Tariff. Semi-colons, colons and commas are used for very specific purposes.

A semi-colon in a Tariff Item indicates a full stop and that the portions of the Tariff Item divided by means of a semi-colon are separate and distinct from each other. Take, for example, a description such as that given for heading 84.21:

Centrifuges, including centrifugal dryers; filtering or purifying machinery and apparatus, for liquids or gases.

This description refers to two separate product groups centrifuges and filtering or purifying machinery and apparatus. The qualifying phrase, including centifugal dryers refers only to the first product group, whereas the qualifying phrase for liquids or gases refers only to the second.

Colons: Colons (:) are used to indicate that additional information follows which pertains to the goods specified. Most commonly, it means that the product being described at one level is further divided at the next level down by some characteristic such as the material it is made of or whether it includes a certain part or performs a certain function. For example, the text for Subheading 8501.30 is worded Other DC motors, DC generators:. It is further divided into a second level of Subheadings that describes various types of motors and generators ie. 8501.31, Of an output not exceeding 750 W, 8501.32, Of an output exceeding 750 W but not exceeding 75 kW, etc.

Commas: Commas (,) are used to separate a list or series of goods within the product groups delineated by the semi-colons. At the end of a product group, a comma is used to separate the descriptor phrase from the list of goods to which it applies.

And/Or: The word 'And' is used in the same way as a comma, to connect items in a series which are all to be included together. 'And' may also be used when there is more than one condition which pertains to an item as in footwear with outer soles of leather and uppers of canvas. This means that the footwear must satisfy both conditions in order to be classified here.

The word 'Or' is generally used to show that alternatives exist. For example, in heading 73.20, Springs and leaves for springs, of iron or steel, the product in question can be made of either metal in order to be classified in that Heading.

Other: The word 'Other' is very important in the Tariff and can be a little tricky. It can occur on any level. At each level of the Tariff, the product in question is divided into groups. Typically, the first few groups on a given level are described specifically, with products that don't fit into any of these groups put into an Other category. For example, the Heading 73.20 refers to Springs and leaves for springs, of iron or steel. It is divided at the six digit level into 7320.10.00, Leaf springs and leaves therefor, 7320.20, Helical springs and 7320.90, Other. The Other refers to springs that do not fit into the other two groups. However, 7320.90 is also divided further, into 7320.90.10, Disc springs of a kind used in machine tools for working metal. and 7320.90.90, Other. Note that the digits 90 at every level are reserved for the Other category.


Terminology in the Legal Notes

Special terminology is also sometimes used in the Legal Notes portions of the Tariff.

Throughout the Nomenclature: One commonly used phrase is 'Throughout the Nomenclature'. This is used in case in which words or expressions are defined in the notes for a specific Chapter or Heading, but the definition will apply throughout the whole Tariff. On the other hand, if these words are not used in a definition given in the notes for a particular Section or Chapter, the definition should be taken as applying only to that Section or Chapter.

Inter Alia: This means "among other things". Typically it is used with a list of similar objects to indicate that the list is not exhaustive, and the classification is not restricted to just what is listed.

Mutatis Mutandis: The literal definition is "making due alteration for detail". When this wording is found in the Tariff, it allows an individual to make alterations for small specific details in order to complete classifying the item being imported.

Context: The phrases 'Except where the context otherwise requires' and 'Unless the context otherwise requires' mean that in those cases in which the Chapter or Section Notes are incompatible with the Heading/Subheading Notes or the text of Headings and Subheadings, the lower level notes and text will prevail.


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