The House of Tatterdemalion


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Tower of Bureaucracy

December 2nd, 2007 by tatterdemalion

Someone recently asked my help in figuring out what tariffs applied to the fabric they wanted to import. I balked, because that’s not really a fabric question—that’s a red-tape question, and bureaucracy is not my specialty. He insisted, and so—after making it quite clear I was no expert and not in the least bit interested in defending my choices in court—I gave my best guesses.

The fabrics in question are these:

1) 300 Denier Polyester Greige Goods

Width – 69″ Off-loom
Weight – 4.5 ounces per square yard
Construction – 2 ply 150 Denier x 2 ply 150 Denier Plain Weave Texturized Polyester
Count – 58 x 44
Other – No residual oils or sizings

2) 600 Denier Polyester Greige Goods

Width – 68′ Off-loom
Weight – 8.4 ounces per square yard
Construction -4 ply 150 Denier x 4 ply 150 Denier Plain Weave Texturized Polyester
Count – 54 x 36
Other – No residual oils or sizings

3) 600 Denier Finished Solution-Dyed Polyester

Width – Trimmed 60″
Weight – 8.69 ounces per square yard
Count – 45 x 35
Finish – DWR face and urethane backcoat with DM-50 fungicide
Put Up – 50 yard rolls
Color Availability – 9 – 10 standard colors plus the availability of custom colors

And the United States International Trade Commissions Tariff Information Center is here.

My best guess was that #1 would be listed under Section XI, Chapter 54, Man-made Filiments, 5407.51.20, which is described as: Woven fabrics of synthetic filament yarn, including woven fabrics obtained from materials of heading 5404 (con.): Other woven fabrics, containing 85 percent or more by weight of textured polyester filaments: Unbleached or bleached Weighing not more than 170 g/m2: Flat fabrics

My best guess at #2 was the same thing, except 5407.51.60, that is, the same type of fabric, but Weighing more than 170 g/m2.

And my best guess at #3 was that it would be listed on Section XI, Chapter 59, Impregnated, coated, covered or laminated textile fabrics; textile articles of a kind suitable for industrial use, 5903.20, which is: Textile fabrics impregnated, coated, covered or laminated with plastics, other than those of heading 5902 (con.): With polyurethane.

Luckily, I didn’t have to figure out the actual tariffs, which was a horrible awful mess. We’ll use fabrics one and two for our example. The running list has two columns for the tariffs. Column one has two sub-headings, ‘general’ and ‘special’. The ‘general’ tariff for these two fabrics is 14.9%, which seems pretty straight forward. Kind of. Sort of. I’m not sure what we’re taking 14.9% of or who is paying it (Is it the person from the foriegn country bringing it in, or is the person from the U.S. trying to buy it? And so then is the percentage a fraction of the raw cost, or is it 14.9% of whatever they can sell it for?), not that I really care to do the research to find out.

The ‘special’ sub-heading can be a little trickier. I get the part where it says “Free (BH,CA,CL,IL,JO, MX,P,SG)”. I think. I’m pretty sure it means there is no tariff if it is being imported from certain countries, and if you look up the abbreviations (or are smart enough to know what they mean to begin with), it’ll will all make sense. But when it lists “6% (MA) 8% (AU)”, I don’t know if that means instead of the 14.9% or in addition to. I think instead of. But don’t qoute me on that.

However, Column 2 is what really confuses me. It just says “81%” (for this listing), and when I try to look up what the Column 2 is referring to, all I find out is “Rate of Duty Column 2. 1/ Notwithstanding any of the foregoing provisions of this note, the rates of duty shown in column 2 shall apply to products, whether imported directly or indirectly, of the following countries and areas pursuant to section 401 of the Tariff Classification Act of 1962, to section 231 or 257(e)(2) of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, to section 404(a) of the Trade Act of 1974 or to any other applicable section of law, or to action taken by the President thereunder: Cuba North Korea

At about when it got to the point it said “pursuant to section 401 of. . .” it got too complicated and scary for me, and I ran away. Upon further reflection and peeking around the corner, I kind of guess it’s saying “We have economic sancitons against Cuba and North Korea, so there are mega-high tariffs if you try to import from there.” I think. Maybe. I have no interest in defending my opinion of what it’s trying to say in a court of law, thank you very much.

But really, it’s absurd. Say we had the above fabric #1, but it was dyed. Then we would have to pay 18.9c/kg + 17.6%. Assuming it wasn’t under the “special” sub-heading, or under Column 2. All because the fabric was dyed. If you have a synthetic filiament yarn “of nylon or other polyamides: Colored multifilament, untwisted or with a twist of less than 5 turns per meter, measuring not less than 22 decitex per filament, certified by the importer to be used in the manufacture of wigs for dolls” than there are no tariffs. But if it isn’t certifed to be for wigs for dolls, than there is a 8% tariff. Racket strings have a 2.7% rate of duty. “Other woven fabrics, containing 85 percent or more by weight of filaments of nylon or other polyamides: Suitable for making typewriter and machine ribbon, containing yarns the average decitex of which exceeds 28 but not 83, the total thread count (treating multiple (folded) or cabled yarns as single threads), of which per centimeter is not less than 59 warp and 39 filling and not more than 83 warp and 55 filling and in which the thread count of the warp does not exceed 60 percent of the total thread count of the warp and filling: With both selvages woven” has a 13.6% rate of duty. If you have, say, fabric that is “coated with gum or amylaceous substances,
of a kind used for the outer covers of books or the like; tracing cloth; prepared painting canvas; buckram and
similar stiffened textile fabrics of a kind used for hat foundations
“, and the fabric which is coated is of man-made fibers, it is 7%, but if it is made of “other” fibers, it is only 4.1%.

Why? Why, why, why? What difference does it make? Who cares?!

I’m sure there are plenty of long winded, complicated reasons why it is all so. About protecting this, and encouraging this, and blah, and blah, and blah.

Personally, I think it’s all absurd. You’re supposed be able to teach children the difference between right and wrong. When “right” and “wrong” get so complicated you need a lawyer (or twelve) to figure out which is which, something has got to be wrong with your laws.

For example, it could be simplified as thus: “All governements need money to run. One of the ways our government gets money is by demanding a percentage of all transactions that take place. For example, when you buy something from the mall, you have to pay 8.5% of whatever your new shoes cost to the state governement. It’s called sales tax. If you buy something from another country, you have to pay 8.5% to the federal government. And you can’t buy anything from these certain countries, because we’re at enmity with them. The end.”

I mean, honestly, can you imagine trying to decide which section, chapter, category and sub-heading your shoes fell into before buying them at the mall? Of course not! Yet if we import anything from another country, it makes a BIG difference whether the fabric is dyed or undyed, and if it is dyed, than it is important HOW it has been dyed, and on and on and on. It is utterly, utterly absurd.

Actually, it reminds me of the story of the Tower of Babel:

1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.

3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. 6 The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel—because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

It seems as though the “language barrier” has been broken—it’s a global economy now, right? But God doesn’t have to come down and mix-up the languages all over again, because even though we’re communicating, all we’re saying is “5407.42.30: Woven fabrics of synthetic filament yarn, including woven fabrics obtained from materials of heading 5404 (con.): Other woven fabrics, containing 85 percent or more by weight of filaments of nylon or other polyamides (con.):Dyed:Weighing not more than 170 g/m2—14.9%. . .5407.43.10:Of yarns of different colors: The thread count of which per cm (treating multiple (folded) or cabled yarns as single threads) is over 69 but not over 142 in the warp and over 31 but not over 71 in the filling (620)—12.2¢/kg + 11.3%. . .

Posted in Contemplations | 2 Comments »

2 Responses

  1. Rant of the Week: 12/2/07-12/8/07 » The Ethereal Voice Says:

    […] Everyone knows that government regulations are ridicules and overly complex. But sometimes it is hard believe just how ridicules they are. […]

  2. Jesse Says:

    I have to be honest – I don’t read all of what you write, because frankly I’m not into details.

    But, equally as earnest, I love skimming what you write and picking out your comments. I think that you have a very engaging way of making connections and illustrating them. For example – tarriffs on imports (did somebody miss their calling to be an attorney??), the idea that taxes could be simple and connecting that with the Bible and the Tower of Babel story?

    Simply fabulous! Thank you for writing and staying on the web.

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