Classification can be an intimidating part of importing. So getting to know your HS and/or HTSUS codes is an important step to becoming a compliant importer.
Accurate and straightforward communication can be one of the most challenging barriers to overcome in the business of international trade, but there are programs in place to make it easier. Despite the complexity of language differences, people of all nationalities and linguistic backgrounds work successfully together every day in order to keep global trade alive and functioning smoothly. HS and HTSUS codes are a system designed to foster that success by providing a common language in which to classify goods.
What Are HS Codes?
The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HS) arose out of a need to communicate a product’s description effectively between diverse countries operating in the global trade arena. HTS Codes and HS Codes are a string of numbers is assigned in a specific order to define the attributes of a good that is being shipped with specificity.
This system works similarly to the Dewey Decimal System in that the first numbers in the string offer the most general information, while each number that follows specifies the description further. Because even a product’s preparation method can mean a difference in how it will be handled by Customs, this highly specific method of describing items is vital to the smooth functioning of the import/export process.
HS codes allow accurate classification of goods regardless of differences in spoken language between trading parties. The code “0601.90” represents the same good in every country that adheres to the HS standard. Without a common language like HS codes, international trade would be more difficult to conduct efficiently.
What Are HTSUS Codes?
HTSUS Codes are vital for anyone bringing goods into the United States. These codes are based on six-digit HS code standards but include an additional four digits, which specify U.S. duty rates and provide additional statistical information.
For an indepth look at the differences between HS and HTS codes, see our previous blog post comparing the two classification methods.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2013 and has been edited by Meredith Lambert to include infographics and updated information.