HS- (Harmonized System) and HTS (Harmonized Tariff System) Codes

Get to know everything about the commodity codes

In this article you will get to know everything about commodity codes in international trade, such as HS (Harmonized System) and HTS (Harmonized Tariff System) Codes.


What is a commodity code? 

Commodity codes, also known as tariff codes, are internationally recognized reference numbers used to describe specific products during the import and export of goods. These codes are essential for customs declarations and can be found using a trade tariff tool. Most import commodity codes consist of 10 digits, but some may have an additional 4 digits.

What is an HS Code?

Harmonized System (HS) Codes are commonly used in the export process for goods. The HS is a numerical system developed by the World Customs Organization (WCO) to classify and categorize products and goods for international trade. These codes are crucial for customs, taxation, and trade purposes, as they enable uniform product identification and the collection of duties and tariffs. For example, in the UK, HS codes have 8 digits for exports and 10 digits for imports. (WCO - World Customs Organization (wcoomd.org)).


What other terminology Is used to describe HS codes?

  • Tariff Codes
  • Customs Codes
  • Product Codes
  • Schedule B (US)
  • CN Codes (EU)

HS vs HTS Code

HS-Codes and HTS Codes are not the same. Their main difference is the country of destination and the number of digits used:

  • HS Code (Harmonized System Code): This internationally accepted code for product classification consists of 6 to 10 digits and is used by customs authorities worldwide.
  • HTS (Harmonized Tariff Schedule): Is specific to the US. It extends the HS Code to a more detailed 10-digit level, primarily for customs and tariff purposes within the US. The first 6 digits of an HTS code are identical to the corresponding HS code.

How to determine tariff classification?


Tariff classification is the process of determining the correct commodity code for goods, necessary for the following purposes:

  • Statistical reporting at import and export
  • Ensuring the accurate collection of customs duties and taxes
  • Identifying any regulations that may apply to the import of these goods


Why are HS codes used?

HS codes serve several vital purposes:

  • Facilitating international trade by providing a common language for product classification.
  • Determining applicable customs duties and tariffs, aiding governments in revenue collection.
  • Supporting accurate and consistent statistical trade reporting.
  • Simplifying customs procedures and reducing the risk of disputes between trading partners (e.g., incorrect HS codes on documents can cause shipment delays and tax issues).
  • Enforcing trade regulations, including import and export controls.


Example of some commodity codes and their makeup

On the right you can find the exact the structure the commodity codes are made up of. 

Amongst these 3 separations, we have defined the HS Code: 180690.

To define even further the purpose of the chocolate powder for making hot chocolate, depending on your region there are additional digits to consider (see example below). In the US, the term HTS code is used for US Imports and can Include a further 2-4 digits onto the defined 6 above. This may be the 10-digit code for EU Imports in the EU, otherwise known as 'TARIC'. Your region of importation will define what additional digits you will need, if required.

The WCO has a tool which enables you to explore the multitude of goods and commodities within the database to Identify which HS code is right for you.

Broadly categorises the commodity in question, e.g., in the second example, it refers to chapter 18 (Cocoa and cocoa preparations).

Another defining separation, e.g. in the second example, the HS heading is 06 for Chocolate and other food preparations containing cocoa.

This refers to another layer to separate the commodity even further. In this case, we refer to subheading 90 as 'other'.

HS Code List Useful Tools:

Harmonized System | WCO Trade Tools- An interactive tool by the World Customs Organization to find the rightHS code.

Trade Tariff: Look up Commodity Codes, Duty, and VAT Rates - GOV.UK- A resource for searching HS codes.

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