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Costumes Can Be Scary at the U.S. Customs Service

New York, Oct 28, 2002

Halloween costumes: clothing or toys? That is the question that faces the costume industry and the U.S. Customs Service as a possible appeal trial approaches in early 2003 that could reverse a February 2002 federal court decision by the United States Court of International Trade. The outcome will affect consumers as well as foreign costume manufacturers.

The case involves the Customs Service's Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) and its categorization of costumes as either toys or apparel, which in turn determines the tariffs and other restrictions imported costumes are subject to. The HTS produced by Customs in 1989 excluded "articles of fancy dress" from Chapter 95, Toys, Games and Sports Equipment; Parts and Accessories Thereof, and instead categorized such items in Chapters 61 and 62 as articles of apparel. If categorized in Chapter 95, imported costumes would not have been subject to tariffs or quota and visa restrictions. In Chapters 61 and 62, they were.

The exclusion was challenged soon after it was written, and Customs conceded by allowing flimsy non-durable costumes to be categorized in Chapter 95. However, a new challenge arose recently when Rubie's Costume Company, Inc. of Richmond Hill, New York took the Customs Service to court, saying that the concession should never have been made and that all imported costume items should be categorized in Chapters 61 and 62 for apparel. Rubie's won the suit in February 2002, and the decision was implemented 10 days later. This Halloween, imported costumes have been subject to tariffs, which means higher prices for U.S. consumers. The U.S. Customs Service has appealed the decision; with a possible trial date in early 2003, the debate is not over.

Whether consumers consider their costumes to be fun and games or haute couture, it is important that they always consider their safety. Two American National Standards Institute members, the Toy Industry Association, Inc. (TIA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), are working to make sure costumes, and the people wearing them, are safe this Halloween.

TIA has been a sponsor of the National SAFE KIDS Campaign since 1996. Founded in 1987 as a subsidiary of the Children's National Medical Center, SAFE KIDS is now a national network of state and local groups that bring safety information to families in their own neighborhoods. This time of year, a primary focus of SAFE KIDS is Halloween safety. Their website offers tips for costume safety, such as applying face paint instead of vision-hindering masks, and other general safety precautions that parents and children should take when participating in Halloween activities.

The CPSC aids consumers by monitoring the safety of a wide variety of products, including costumes, accessories and decorations, and urging and publicizing recalls of products determined to be unsafe. On their website, consumers can search for recall information by month, company name, product type or product description. They also offer subscriptions to a recall mailing list. In addition, they have a printable brochure, produced in conjunction with Dunkin' Donuts, full of Halloween safety tips.

This year, whether dressing for fun or dressing for style, keep the treat in trick-or-treating by keeping safety in mind.

ANSI Incorporated by Reference IBR Portal