Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System) ofis an internationally standardized system of names and numbers to classify traded products. It came into effect in 1988 and has since been developed and maintained by theWorld Customs Organization(WCO) (formerly the Customs Co-operation Council), an independent intergovernmental organization based inBrussels, Belgium, with over 200 member countries.
The HS is organized logically by economic activity or component material. For example, animals and animal products are found in one section of the HS, while machinery and mechanical appliances are found in another. The HS is organized into 21 sections, which are subdivided into 99 chapters. The 99 HS chapters are further subdivided into 1,244 headings and 5224 subheadings.
Section and Chapter titles describe broad categories of goods, while headings and subheadings describe products in more detail. Generally, HS sections and chapters are arranged in order of a products degree of manufacture or in terms of its technological complexity. Natural commodities, such as live animals and vegetables, for example, are described in the early sections of the HS, whereas more evolved goods such as machinery and precision instruments are described in later sections. Chapters within the individual sections are also usually organized in order of complexity or degree of manufacture. For example, within Section X (Pulp of wood or of other fibrous cellulosic material; Recovered (waste and scrap) paper or paperboard; Paper and paperboard and articles thereof), Chapter 47 provides forpulp of wood or of other fibrous cellulosic materials, whereas Chapter 49 coversprinted books, newspapers, and other printed matter. Finally, the headings within individual Chapters follow a similar order. For example, the first heading in Chapter 50 (Silk) provides forsilk worm cocoonswhile articles made of silk are covered by the chapters later headings.
The HS code consists of 6-digits. The first two digits designate the HS Chapter. The second two digits designate the HS heading. The third two digits designate the HS subheading. HS code 1006.30, for example indicates Chapter 10 (Cereals), Heading 06 (Rice), and Subheading 30 (Semi-milled or wholly milled rice, whether or not polished or glazed).
In addition to the HS codes and commodity descriptions, each Section and Chapter of the HS is prefaced by Legal Notes, which are designed to clarify the proper classification of goods.
To ensure harmonization, the contractingpartiesto the Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, have agreed to base their national tariff schedules on the HS nomenclature and Legal Notes. Parties are permitted to subdivide the HS nomenclature beyond 6-digits and add their own Legal Notes according to their own tariff and statistical requirements. Parties often set their customsdutiesat the 8-digit tariff code level. Statistical suffixes are often added to the 8-digit tariff code for a total of 10 digits.
HS Chapter 77 is reserved for common use by the parties internationally. Chapters 98 and 99 are reserved for national use. Chapter 98 comprises special classification provisions, and chapter 99 contains temporary modifications pursuant to a parties national directive or legislation.
Since its creation, the HS has undergone several revisions – ostensibly, to either eliminate headings and subheadings describing commodities that are no longer traded, or to create headings and subheadings that address technological advancements and environmental concerns. The current version of the HS became effective on January 1, 2017.
The process of assigning HS codes is known as HS Classification. Allproductscan be classified in the HS by using theGeneral Rules for the Interpretation of the Harmonized System(GRI). HS codes can be determined by a variety of factors including a products composition, its form and its function. An example of a product classified according to its form would be whole potatoes. The classification will also change depending on whether the potatoes are fresh or frozen. Fresh potatoes are classified in position 0701.90, under the HeaderPotatoes, fresh or chilled, Sub headerOther, while frozen potatoes are classified in position 0710.10 under the HeaderVegetables (uncooked or cooked by steaming or boiling in water), frozen, SubheaderPotatoes.
An example of a product classified according its material composition is a picture frame. Picture frames made of wood are classified under subheading 4414.00, which provides forWooden frames for paintings, photographs, mirrors or similar objects. Picture frames made of plastic are classified under subheading 3924.90, which provides forTableware, kitchenware, other household articles and hygienic or toilet articles, of plastics. Other. Picture frames made of glass are classified under subheading 7020.00, which provides forOther articles of glass. And so on.
An example of a product classified according to its form is personal hygiene soap. When in the form of a bar, cake or moulded shape, such soap is classified under subheading 3401.11, which provides forSoap and organic surface-active products and preparations, in the form of bars, cakes, moulded pieces or shapes, and paper, wadding, felt and nonwovens, impregnated, coated or covered with soap or detergent: For toilet use (including medicated products). Conversely, liquid personal hygiene soap is classified under either 3401.20, which provides forSoap in other forms, or 3401.30, which provides forOrganic surface-active products and preparations for washing the skin, in the form of liquid or cream and put up for retail sale, whether or not containing soap.
An example of a product classified according to its function is a carbon monoxide (CO) detector. If the CO detector captures and displays gas measurements, then it is properly classified under subheading 9027.10, which provides forInstruments and apparatus for physical or chemical analysis (for example, polarimeters, refractometers, spectrometers, gas or smoke analysis apparatus; instruments and apparatus for measuring or checking viscosity, porosity, expansion, surface tension or the like; instruments and apparatus for measuring or checking quantities of heat, sound or light (including exposure meters); microtomes. Gas or smoke analysis apparatus. If the CO detector does not capture and display gas measurements, then it is properly classified under subheading 8531.10, which provides forElectric sound or visual signaling apparatus (for example, bells, sirens, indicator panels, burglar or fire alarms), other than those of heading 85.12 or 85.30. Burglar or fire alarms and similar apparatus.
Although every product and every part of every product is classifiable in the HS, very few are explicitly described in the HS nomenclature. Any product for which there is no explicit description can be classified under a residual or basket heading or subheading, which provide forOthergoods. Residual codes normally occur last in numerical order under their related headings and subheadings.
An example of a product classified under a residual heading is a live dog, which must be classified under heading 01.06, which provides forOther live animalsbecause dogs are not covered by headings 01.01 through 01.05, which explicitly provide forlive equine,live bovine,live swine,live sheep and goats, andlive poultry, respectively.
As of 2015, there were 180 countries or territories applying the Harmonized System worldwide,2
HS code are used by Customs authorities, statistical agencies, and other government regulatory bodies, to monitor and control the import and export of commodities through:
Trade negotiations (e.g., theWorld Trade Organizationschedules oftariffconcessions)
Monitoring of controlled goods (e.g., wastes,narcoticschemical weaponsozone layerdepleting substances,endangered species)
Areas of Customs controls and procedures, including risk assessment, information technology and compliance.
Companies use HS codes to calculate the total landed cost of imported products and parts, and to identify selling and sourcing opportunities abroad.
HS classification is not always straightforward. Many automotive parts, for example, are not classified under heading 87.08, which provides forParts and accessories of the motor vehicles of headings 87.01 to 87.05. Automotive seats are classified as articles of furniture under heading 94.01, which provides forSeats (other than those of heading 94.02), whether or not convertible into beds, and parts thereof, and more specifically under subheading 9401.20, which provides forSeats of a kind used for motor vehicles.
In many jurisdictions, traders alone bear the legal responsibility to accurately classify their goods. Depending on the severity of the infraction, incorrect classification can result in the imposition of non-compliance penalties, border delays or seizures, or denial of import privileges.
There are several resources available to traders to assist in properly classifying their goods including:
The Official Explanatory Notes to the Harmonized System, published by the World Customs Organization
The US Census Classify your Commodity engine:
Classify your Commodity video tutorial by US Census:
Explanatory notes to the Combined Nomenclature of the European Union by the European Commission
Customs Rulings Online Search System (CROSS), by U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Binding Tariff Information (BTI), by the European Commission
Informed compliance publications, by U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Classification Guides, by HM Revenue & Customs
Harmonized Tariff Schedule for the United States
ITCsProduct Conversion Table on Market Access Map, an online database of customs tariffs and market requirements. The table allows you to search for product codes by name and convert them into any HS revision.
World Bank, Concordances from HS to other nomenclatures
HS Code Search Databaseby Foreign Trade Online
EU Combined Nomenclature Search Engineby European Commission – Eurostat
Customs Tariff of Canada (Canada Border Services Agency)
Integrated Tariff of the European Union – TARIC
Central Excise Tariff of Indiaby Department of Customs, Ministry of Revenue
East Africa Community Common External Tariffby Customs and Trade, East Africa Community, Governments of Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania
Japan Tariff Association webpage refers to Japan Harmonised System Code Search
Mexico import-export codes (Harmonized Tariff Schedule)by SIICEX and CAAAREM
Official Tariff Book of South Africa (South African Revenue Service)
U.S. import codes (Harmonized Tariff Schedule)byU.S. International Trade Commission
Australian Customs & Border Protection Service – Working tariff 2012
This page was last edited on 10 April 2019, at 18:22