The classification of furniture is often considered to be among the most difficult due to interpretative variations. What is bedroom furniture? What is dining room furniture? Do the table legs or the table top define the essential character? In this article, I want to address another question: are seats with removable cushions considered to be upholstered?

To answer this question, we start by consulting the Explanatory Notes (ENs) to heading 9401, which constitute the official interpretation of the Harmonized System at the international level. While neither legally binding nor dispositive, the ENs provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the HTSUS and are generally indicative of the proper interpretation of these headings. If you don't care to delve into the EN, go ahead and skip to the last paragraph.

The ENs to heading 9401 state that “upholstered seats” are those having a soft layer of, for example, wadding, tow, animal hair, cellular plastics or rubber, shaped (whether or not fixed) to the seat and covered with a material such as woven fabric, leather or sheeting of plastics. Also classified as upholstered seats are seats the upholstering materials of which are not covered or have only a white fabric cover which is itself intended to be covered (known as upholstered seats “in muslin”), seats which are presented with detachable seat or back cushions and which could not be used without such cushions, and seats with helical springs (for upholstery). On the other hand, the presence of horizontally-acting tension springs, designed to attach to the frame a steel wire lattice, taut woven fabric, etc., is not sufficient to cause the seats to be classified as upholstered. Similarly, seats covered directly with materials such as woven fabric, leather, sheeting of plastics, without the interposition of upholstering materials or springs, and seats to which a single woven fabric backed with a thin layer of cellular plastics has been applied, are not regarded as upholstered seats.

In consideration of the above, if the detachable seats and back cushions are not necessary for the functioning and use of the seats, it is not considered upholstered.

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