The Harmonised Commodity Description and Coding System (HS), or simply the Harmonised System, is an international nomenclature developed by the World Customs Organisation for the classification of goods.
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Comprised of about 5000 different commodity groups, each identified by a unique six digit code arranged in a logical and legal structure, the HS Code is a uniformed method of classification. Some HS Codes have additional numbers at the end of the code for further categorization at the national level.
HS Codes are used by more than 200 countries to aid Customs with the collections of international trade statistics. 98% of products which are traded internationally have HS Codes. Therefore, HS Codes help to standardize how products are identified globally.
It is also used to monitor controlled goods, freight tariffs, quota controls and trade policies, and more, by government bodies and private organizations.
An example of a HS Code is 1704.90.10.00. To understand what product the code is referring to we have to break it down;
17 refers to Chapter 17 of Section IV of the code – Prepared foodstuffs; beverages, spirits and vinegar; tobacco and manufactured tobacco substitutes
04 refers to sugar confectionery (including white chocolate), not containing cocoa
90 refers to confections or sweetmeats ready for consumption:
10.00 refers to candied nuts
Therefore, 1704.90.10.00 is candied nuts.
Ensuring that your shipping documents or invoices have HS Codes is important especially if you are shipping your products to countries where they are legally required by the Customs and Tariffs department.
Using the wrong HS Code or failing to add a HS Code to your product documentation could result in customs identifying the shipment as non-compliant, misleading or a misdeclaration – all of which come with penalties.