HS Code : how to know the nomenclature of your goods ?

International shipments with the HS Code

When shipping products internationally, it is important to ensure that your goods are properly classified for transportation and customs clearance. That's where the HS Code comes in. 

The Harmonized System HS Code is a standardized numerical method of classifying traded goods. It is used by customs authorities around the world to identify products when assessing duties and taxes. Want to know more? We will explain it all to you!


What is HS Code?

The HS Code, or Harmonized System Code, is an international classification system for goods used to facilitate trade between countries. It was developed by the World Customs Organization (WCO) and is now used by over 200 countries worldwide. Due to its versatile structure and multi-functional nature, the HS Code is a true "language of international trade".

This is one of the most powerful tools developed by the World Customs Organization because it addresses a fundamental need of governments: the ability to categorize traded goods. This allows both decisions to be made on immediate actions regarding specific goods (e.g., collection of duties, restrictions, or controls) and the information gathered to be used to support economic and trade policy and planning.

Each product is classified according to a six-digit code (sometimes eight) that identifies the characteristic and nature of the merchandise. The first two digits of the HS code represent the chapter, the next two digits designate the title, and finally the last two digits correspond to the subtitle of the product. In total, the HS Code allows the identification of more than 200,000 specific products!

hs code

For example:

  • Chapter 85 is for electrical devices:
    • For cell phones is 8517.14
  • Chapter 87 is for automobiles and other land vehicles:
    • For electric cars is 8703.80
  • Chapter 08 is for edible fruits:
    • For apples is 0808.10 (and for pears is 0808.30)

This harmonized system greatly facilitates the clearance of products, i.e. their entry into a new territory legally. The same code will apply to the United States, India and Brazil.

What is the HS Code for?

While the HS Code has many uses, its primary and fundamental purpose is the categorization of goods so that governments can assign and collect import duties and taxes. Most members of the World Customs Organization are developing countries or countries in transition to a market economy, which rely heavily on tariffs for their national revenues.

However, this is not just a tool for creating tariffs for duty collection. It is used in many other areas of government regulation and business practices, such as rules of origin, controlled goods tracking, internal taxes, freight rates, quota controls, and statistical reporting. It is also used to support border security by controlling the movement of dangerous goods.

hs code

The statistical data it provides is transformed into information on national and international trade that feeds into trade policy, economic research and analysis, and business decisions.

Goods must be properly classified to allow for proper revenue collection. In addition, accurate classification is necessary to ensure that the use of the HS Code in regulating trade and providing data for trade statistics and policy is not compromised. The more precise the application of the HS Code, the more it meets the needs of its users.

Where to find the HS Code?

The first way to find the HS Code is to consult your country's national customs tariff database. This database is usually available online and you can access it by using your product name or by doing a keyword search. The HS Code will then be displayed with a description of your product.

Logistics service providers, such as freight forwarders and customs agents, can also help you find the HS Code for your product. They often have extensive knowledge of customs formalities and regulatory requirements, and can guide you to the appropriate HS Code for your product.

Some trade organizations (chambers of commerce, trade associations...) can also help you find the HS Code for your product. They often offer online resources or expert help to guide you to the appropriate HS Code for your product.

There are also other online resources for finding your HS Code: World Customs Organization online databases, online databases of logistics service providers, websites specializing in the classification of goods...

The importance of the HS Code for international shipments

The importance of the HS Code for international shipments is that it allows for clear and accurate identification of products. When a product is shipped abroad, it must be declared to the customs of the destination country. The customs declaration must include the HS Code corresponding to the product being shipped. This allows Customs to verify that the product is allowed to enter the country, and to calculate the applicable customs duties.

Without an accurate HS Code, Customs may detain or delay the shipment if it cannot correctly identify the goods upon arrival at the terminal. In addition, an inaccurate or incorrect HS Code can result in additional costs to the shipper, including customs fines and storage fees.

This is also important for companies that want to export products overseas. By knowing the HS Code for their products, companies can determine the applicable customs duties and documentation requirements for shipments. This allows companies to plan their costs and delivery times more accurately, and to ensure that their products are shipped without problems.

hs code

Where to put the harmonized tariff schedule when making customs declarations?

The customs declaration is a mandatory formality for any product entering or leaving a country. Customs declaration documents typically include a commercial invoice, a packing slip and the actual customs declaration. The HS Code must be included in each of these documents.

Commercial invoice

The commercial invoice is a document detailing the products shipped, their value and other information. The HS Code must be clearly marked on the commercial invoice, usually as a separate column. It is important to ensure that the HS Code is correctly identified, as this will allow Customs to determine applicable duties and other regulatory requirements.

Packing slip

The packing slip is a document that details the products included in the shipment, their quantity and packaging. The HS Code must be included on the packing list for each product.

Customs declaration

The customs declaration is the primary document used to declare products to customs. The HS Code must be indicated on the Customs declaration, usually in a separate section. The HS Code must be accurate and consistent with the product descriptions included in the other customs declaration documents.

It is also important to note that the HS Code may vary from country to country. Therefore, companies should ensure that they use the appropriate HS Code for the country of destination of their products.

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