HS Codes / Tariff Codes

Tariff codes (also called HS or Harmonised System codes):

When goods are imported or exported you have to classify them. The tariff code is the international system that is used to classify traded items. Tariff codes exist for almost every product involved in global trade. This number is based on an international classification system and therefore enables Customs departments from different countries to be able to communicate with each other.

The tariff code is often also called the HS (Harmonised System) number. A tariff heading will have a minimum of four digits and represents a broad category of products. A full tariff code is made of 8 digits and a 9th check digit. This code represents a specific product or commodity. In the following table you can see how the digits (on the left) increase as the product gets more specific in its definition.

Below is an example from the Customs Tariff book:

Heading/ Subheading Article Description
06.03 Cut flowers and flower buds of a kind suitable for bouquets or for ornamental purposes, fresh, dried, dyed, bleached, impregnated or otherwise prepared.
06 03.1 –  Fresh:
06 03.11

06 03.12

– –  Roses

– – Carnations

 

It is important that you use the correct tariff or HS code to declare imported and exported goods as the duty tax payable by the buyer  is linked to it. The use of the wrong code could therefore make a big impact on the cost of your goods. Additionally, using the wrong code could results in Customs clearing delays and/or Customs charging hefty penalties.

The easiest way to get the correct tariff code is to ask your supplier. They need to put the relevant code on all their export documents and will have made the effort to get the correct one. If you are a first-time exporter or want to double check your tariff code, you can arrange for a professional tariff determination. Or simply use our Tariff Code Look Up which is available in our Calculators section.

For more information on how to calculate the import duty and VAT of your shipment consult our Calculating Import Duties and VAT  guide.

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