The HTS code, or the Harmonized Tariff Schedule, is a code used to classify and define products in international trade. Each code has between 8-10 digits, the first 6 being an HS code, also called the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System. The code is used by all members of the World Customs Organization (WCO). The HTS is explicitly used for imports and exports in and out of the United States.
What is the HTS Code?
The HTS is important to know no matter where the goods are shipped, as it is commonly used by customs to identify a product’s duty rate when arriving in a new country.
In more detail, the HTS is a classification system that identifies the products by their name, use, or materials. There are over 17 thousand codes in total.
The system has 22 sections and 99 chapters, and all documents can be found on the Harmonized Tariff Schedule’s official website in PDF files.
Each number in an HTS code symbolizes where in the system it is placed. For example, code 6603.20.3000 is “for hand-held umbrellas chiefly used for protection against the rain” (there is a different code for umbrellas not meant for rain). In the code, the first two numbers, 66, point to the chapter. 6603 point to the heading, and 6603.20 to the subheading. The extra numbers, so 3000 in this case, are country-specific and can be 2-4 digits long. US-specific digits are called the HTSUS and are always 4 digits.
Some other examples of HTS codes are:
- 4421.10.00 – wooden clothing hangers
- 6802.23.00 – granite
- 8541.40.20 – LED
- 9613.20.00 – pocket, gas, or multiple-use lighters
- 9703.00.00 – sculptures and statues made out of any materials
What is it used for?
The HTS code allows the importer to check customs duty rates before shipping the product, reducing the risk of possible losses. It also shows regulations and specifications for exact countries; for example, when the product has a different rate or the import is completely banned.
Some example duty rates:
- Antiques of an age exceeding 100 years – 0%
- Roasted coffee, not decaffeinated – 2.6%
- Crude coconut oil in packings less than 1 kg – 4.4%
- Color projectors – 9.8%
- Motor vehicles for the transport of ten or more persons, including the driver with only a diesel engine, of a cylinder capacity less than 2.500 cm³ – 11.2%
How to determine a product’s HTS code?
Typically, the supplier will provide you with the HTS, but if not, it can be found on the HTS website. You can look for it manually or use the HTS search engine. Finding the correct category of the product might be a bit trickier, though, as the system does not work as a list of specific products. Some items can be found quite easily by typing in their name; however, that does not always guarantee the correct classification. For instance, a search for a knife with a ceramic blade will likely guide you to heading 8211, which is “knives with cutting blades.” It is not the correct classification, as this type of knife would be considered an “article of ceramics” and fall under a different heading.
The best way to classify products correctly is to read the specifications that your product might fall under thoroughly. Descriptions and subheadings should help you identify which category is the closest to your item. More specific guidelines can be found on the United States International Trade Commission website.
Even though suppliers will often provide you with the code, it also should be checked twice, as it might not be the one you need. For example, a Chinese supplier might provide you with the Chinese version of the HTS, which differs in the States. As mentioned, the last 2-4 digits point to a country of origin, and it changes if you move the product somewhere else.
HTS Code – summary
The HTS code is a way of classifying imported and exported products. It helps the customs bureaus identify the moved goods and determine the duty rates. Make sure to know your products’ HTS, as shipping them without that knowledge might result in problems. To do so, thoroughly read through the official instructions and make sure you placed the product in the most fitting class. If done correctly, it will make both the import and export process much more manageable.