The Customs tariff number system

The Customs tariff number system

What is a customs tariff number?

The customs tariff number (often called “HS Code”) consists of an 8 or 11-digit combination of numbers and is used, among other things, when goods are shipped. Among others it carries the following information:

  • Determination of import duties,
  • Import- and export restrictions,
  • anti-dumping measures.

To determine the customs tariff number, commodity groups are assigned ("ranked") to individual number combinations according to their characteristics and logic. From left to right, the combination of numbers makes it possible to determine the commodity more and more precisely according to its specific characteristics.

What is the organisation behind the standardisation of customs tariff numbers?

The use of “HS Code” is regulated by the World Customs Organization in the "International Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System". The WCO is an international organisation dedicated to the harmonisation of international trade. Since its foundation in 1953, 184 national customs administrations have already joined as of 2022 and more than 200 nations use this system to organise their import regulations.

What is the composition of the customs tariff number?

  • Digits 1-6: Subheading "Harmonised System" (HS) - these are harmonised worldwid.
  • Digits 7-8: Subheading - "combined nomenclature" (CN) - the 8-digit code is often used when exporting to a third country
  • Digits 9-10: Subheading "TARIC" - the 10-digit code is harmonised, for example, within the EU
  • Digit 11: "Code number" - within the EU, individual states can introduce their special features here

Illustrated with the example of "hexagon head screw":

Digits 1-2: 73 – Goods of iron or steel

Digits 1-4: 7318 – Screws of iron or steel

Digits 1-6: 7318 15 – Screws of iron or steel, with thread, also with corresponding nuts

Digits 1-8: 7318 1575 – Screws of iron or steel, with thread, with nut, with hexagon head

Digits 1-11: 7318 1588 80 0 – Iron or steel threaded bolts, with nut, with hexagon head, tensile strength: 800 MPa or more

In part 2, we will discuss the challenges for manufactureres regarding custom tariff numbers.

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Tobias Gabler
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