Version: 1.0.20.21 (2020-10-12 14:45)

Harmonised System

The Harmonised System, HS, nomenclature allows you to identify precisely your product and check what tariff lines and rules apply. It is a logical structure to classify goods, used uniformly by customs authorities around the world.

The Harmonised Commodity Description and Coding System (HS), commonly referred to as the Harmonised System, is an international system to classify goods developed by the World Customs Organisation (WCO). It is a broad classification system of around 5,000 six-digit product categories organised in a hierarchical structure by

  • sections
  • chapters (2 digits)
  • headings (4 digits)
  • sub-headings (6 digits)

and supported by implementation rules and explanatory notes.     

It allows economic operators, custom officials and legislators from any country to identify the same product by means of a numeric code.

Countries use the HS system as a basis for customs tariffs and the collection of statistical data. They further sub-divide the six-digit HS product categories into eight or more tariff lines for greater specificity. The European Union uses eight-digit codes.

How is the HS nomenclature structured?

  • 21 major sections
    • 97 chapters (2 digits)
      • headings (4-digit code)
        • sub-headings (6-digit code)
          • 5,000 commodity groups

Example of product classification

  • section II vegetable products
    • chapter 07 edible vegetables and certain roots and tubers
      • heading: 0705 lettuce (lactucasativa) and chicory (cichorium spp.), fresh or chilled
        • lettuce
          • sub-heading 070511: cabbage lettuce (head lettuce)
          • sub-heading 070519: other
        • chicory
          • sub-heading 070521: witloof chicory (chicorium intybus var. foliosum)
          • sub-heading 070529: other

Notes on the HS nomenclature

  • almost all countries in the world share the same interpretation for HS codes
  • the system is used by more than 200 countries and economies as a basis for their customs tariffs and for the collection of international trade statistics - over 98% of the merchandise in international trade is classified in terms of the HS
  • HS codes are constantly updated to reflect changes in technology and the emergence of new products - the most recent amendment came into force in 2017, thus the current version is named HS Nomenclature 2017 edition
  • in practice, however, some countries might adapt their procedures and legislation at different times - this sometimes leads to temporary inconsistencies
  • the Combined Nomenclature of the European Union (EU) is the EU's eight-digit coding system, comprising the HS codes with further EU subdivisions and legal notes specifically created to address the needs of the EU

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