By Jacob Bunin
National Import Specialist                                        
U.S. Customs and Border Protection

   Knowledge of the principles that guide U.S. Customs’ classification of monumental and building stone is crucial to anyone who imports this merchandise into the United States -- including traditional importing firms, as well as any fabricator, who brings stone into the country and acts as the importer of record.

   Stone classification is based on its mineralogical properties and physical form at the time of importation. Two factors – the geological nature of the item and the degree to which it has been worked – will determine the applicable tariff provision for an imported stone.
   This article discusses some of the issues related to these basic concepts governing Customs’ classification of stone. (For more details, see our publications on the Internet, with detailed instructions on how to find them at the end of this article.)
   Generally, Chapter 25 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTS) covers crude stone and minerals, as well as stone and minerals worked in very simple physical ways (e.g., crushed, ground, powdered, washed, etc.). Stone worked beyond the point allowable in Chapter 25 is classifiable in Chapter 68. Importations of worked stone classifiable in Chapter 68 are more common than importations of crude and slightly worked stone classifiable in Chapter 25.
   Our discussion of classification distinctions, based on geological definitions in the section of this month’s article entitled “Geological Nature,” will be presented within the context of the 6802.9 subheadings (covering worked stone and articles of stone in Chapter 68 of the HTS), since importations of stones classifiable in these provisions are the most-common. However, the principle of geological definitions applies to both Chapter 25 and Chapter 68.
   We will also focus on distinctions in classification based on the extent to which a stone has been worked (Chapters 25 vs. Chapter 68, as well as distinctions between subheadings in each of these chapters).
   Note: The information contained in this article (like the information contained in the informed compliance publications on the Internet) constitutes informal advice that is not binding upon Customs and Border Protection.
   Prior to the importation of the merchandise, an importer who is uncertain regarding the classification of a specific stone may submit a request for a binding ruling on tariff classification to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Customs Information Exchange (CIE), One Penn Plaza, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10119, Attention: Binding Rulings Section. The ruling request should include a sample of the stone labeled with its brand name or style number and a description of the precise manner in which the item will be worked prior to importation into the United States. If the product is too large to submit as a sample, the inquirer should submit a portion of the stone that includes sections of the face as well as the side (or edge) and corner.
   The rulings program is an invaluable tool that allows importers to determine the correct classification before importation.
Geological Nature
   Stone is classified based on its geological nature. Any provision in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTS) which refers to a particular stone by name will only cover products that conform to the geological definition of the stone.
   Often a product that may be called by the name of a specific stone in the trade (i.e., a commercial definition) fails to meet the geological definition for that stone; this type of item may not be classified in the HTS provision for the specific stone. Since we classify stone based on geological definitions, we often send samples to our Customs laboratory for analysis to verify the geological nature of the items. 
   There have been many Customs rulings stating that geological definitions govern the classification of building stone. Note rulings 085266, 09-20-89; 945358, 08-18-93; 954374, 08-18-93; 952679, 01-16-93; 955738, 03-30-94; 957283, 11-07-95; 950713, 02-19-92; 086894, 11-23-90; 951525, 08-25-92; 957195, 03-13-95; and many others. Customs rulings may be found online here.