What Are HS Codes?
HS Codes, also known as the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, or simply the Harmonized System, are a standardized international system to classify globally traded products. The system was first implemented in 1988 and is currently maintained by the World Customs Organization. The HS Convention, signed in 1983, has over 205 member countries. As signatories, each country agrees to classify its tariff and duty structure according to the HS Code categories.
The Harmonized System is used to ease global trade by creating unified categories to classify different types of goods.
The Harmonized System categorizes about 5,000 commodity groups in simple six-digit codes, broken down into 21 Harmonized System sections, 96 Harmonized System chapters, and thousands of headings.
How Are HS Codes Structured?
- Chapter: There are 21 distinct sections that split into 96 chapters. Exception chapters include chapter 77, which is reserved for future use, chapters 98 and 99, which are limited to national use, and Chapter 99, which is a specific code limited to temporary modifications. In the above example, the chapter selected is 09, for “Coffee, tea, maté and spices”.
- Heading: The heading dictates the specific category within any particular chapter. In the example above, the 01 refers to coffee.
- Sub-heading: The last two digits of the international Harmonized Code are more specific, defining subcategories of products. For example, caffeinated coffee beans are 0901.21, but decaf is 0901.22. Incidentally, instant coffee would fall under a totally different heading – 21 – for miscellaneous edible preparations.
- Extra digits: Countries can use up to four extra digits for country-specific categorizations. For example, the United States uses ten digits codes for HTS codes (see below). The 0050 in the above example is used for non-organic coffee. Since these digits are unique, non-organic caffeinated coffee in another country would begin with the same 6 digits but the last four digits would likely be different.
What’s The Difference Between HTS Codes And Schedule B Numbers?
As a signatory to the HS Convention, the United States uses the six digit HS System categorization. However, for determining duty rates and statistical purposes, some countries break the classification down further by adding 1-4 numbers after the six digits. These numbers are called Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS ) codes.
In the US, the breakdown used for exports and imports are somewhat different, and so each has its own numbering system:
- US Harmonized Tariff Schedule codes (HTS-US ) are used for import categorization. Use this number for import paperwork and electronic filing.
- Schedule B codes are used for export categorization. Use this number for export paperwork and EEI filing.
What Are The HS Code Sections?
There are 21 Harmonized System Sections – the highest level of tariff code categorization. They are used to unify broad categories, like different types of vegetables (Section II, chapters 6-14). These sections are dictated by the WCO and are unified across every member country. The 21 HS Code sections include:
- Section 1: Animal & Animal Products (Chapter 1-5)
- Section 2: Vegetable Products (Chapters 6-14)
- Section 3: Animal or Vegetable Fats and Oils (Chapter 15)
- Section 4: Prepared Foodstuffs (Chapter 16-24)
- Section 5: Mineral Products (Chapter 25-27)
- Section 6: Chemicals & Allied Industries (Chapter 28-38)
- Section 7: Plastics / Rubbers (Chapters 39 and 40)
- Section 8: Raw Hides, Skins, Leather, & Furs (Chapter 41-43)
- Section 9: Wood & Wood Products (Chapters 44-46)
- Section 10: Pulp of Wood or of Other Fibrous Material (Chapters 47-49)
- Section 11: Textiles (Chapters 50-63)
- Section 12: Footwear / Headgear (Chapters 64-67)
- Section 13: Stone / Glass (Chapters 68-70)
- Section 14: Natural or Cultured Pearls (Chapter 71)
- Section 15: Base Metals (Chapters 72-83)
- Section 16: Machinery / Electrical (Chapters 84-85)
- Section 17: Transportation (Chapters 86-89)
- Section 18: Precision Instruments (Chapters 90-92)
- Section 19: Arms and Ammunition (Chapters 93)
- Section 20: Miscellaneous Manufactured Articles (Chapters 94-96)
- Section 21: Works of Art (Chapter 97)
How Do I Use HS Codes?
HS Codes are used by customs and logistics providers for a variety of purposes, from calculating duties and tariffs to ensuring that an importer is not importing banned or hazardous products. The true value of HS Codes is how globally recognized they are. Whether you’re importing purebred horses to the United States or Sri Lanka, the first six digits of that HS Code will be 0101.21.
How Do I Find The Right HS Code?
That’s exactly where Freightos’ Harmonized Code Duty Calculator comes in handy. Just head to the top of this page and start entering the product you’re shipping into the HS Code Finder. Since the Harmonized System Code uses very specific words, it may be easier to browse HS codes instead of searching. Add here another sentence about the “HS Code lookup” tool.
Once you find the right HS code, enter the value of your shipment. The HS Code calculator will tell you exactly what the required US duties are. If you encounter a problem, just report the bug with the calculator tool and we’ll be sure to fix it as quickly as possible!