Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) codes are required by importers and exporters to trade goods around the world and accurately assess tariff and product classification. Unfortunately, finding the correct HTS code can be a challenge, especially for new importers. Thankfully though, there are tools and resources available to use.
HTS code lookup tools, licensed customs consultants, and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are all resources you can use to find your HTS code. Once you know your HTS code, you can access all of your product’s necessary import information, like tariff classification, duty requirements and government restrictions.
If you’re importing an item into the U.S., it’s imperative that you know your HTS code so that you can avoid fines, import delays and seizure of your products. Our guide below explores the various tools that can be used to find an HTS code. Additionally, we explain which resource is best to use based on your experience level and more.
When importing an item, there are three primary resources you can use to find an HTS code: HTS code lookup tools, licensed customs brokers and Customs and Border Protection.
Lookup tools are handy but require you to do all the work yourself - which, while possible, can be difficult and risky unless you know exactly what you’re doing. A licensed customs broker will cost you a little money up front, but will work with you every step of the way and can provide you with peace of mind that your information is accurate. CBP can also offer binding rulings to ensure that you are using the correct HTS code.
One of the common ways to find an HTS code, particularly if you’re set on doing the work yourself, is to use USA Customs Clearance’s HTS code lookup tool. You can input an item or keyword into the search bar and the tool will pull up a list of potential matches and their corresponding codes. The USITC has an online search tool as well.
HTS classification can vary based on an item’s composition, form and function which can make it difficult to pinpoint an item’s exact classification. For example, seats used in automobiles aren’t found under chapter and heading 8703 - “Motor cars and other motor vehicles” - but rather under a subheading for Furniture (9401) - “Seats (not those of heading 9402 (furniture))”.
Assuming you already know the HTS code for the item you’re looking to import, or if your supplier has already given it to you, you can put that code into the search bar and find exactly how your product is classified and what duty is owed on it. That information will vary depending on whether the U.S. has trade agreements with, or sanctions on, the country of origin.
Another option for importers is to use a licensed customs consultant. It’s important to remember that no matter whether you were given the HTS code from a supplier or you searched for the code yourself, you, the importer, are liable for any issues that could arise from providing an incorrect code.
Licensed customs brokers and import-export consultants are familiar with all of the ins and outs of importing, exporting and the entire customs clearance process. With their expertise, they can walk you through every step of the import process and provide you with a binding ruling on tariff classification. Once you have that information, you’ll know exactly what duty is owed on your products and the specific government regulations they’re required to abide by.
Finding the correct HTS code can be complicated and confusing but consulting with a licensed customs broker can help simplify the process and ensure that you’re only using accurate information.
If you’ve tried to find the HTS code for a certain product yourself, but are still having difficulty identifying the correct code, you can reach out to CBP and request a binding ruling. The ruling that CBP gives you is a final determination, so you can be sure you are using the correct HTS code for your import entries.
You can also speak with CBP’s Centers of Excellence and Expertise (CEE). The CEE is divided up by industry and is able to offer you advisory classification on your products. While this is not a binding ruling on tariff and product classification, it should give you a better idea of how to classify your products.
At first glance, HTS codes can look like a long and confusing string of numbers - especially to new importers. Fortunately, HTS codes can be broken down into two-digit increments that make reading them a lot easier.
HTS codes can be broken up into chapter, heading, and subheadings. In total, there are 21 sections, 99 chapters, and thousands of headings and subheadings. The more digits that are added to the code, the more defined the classification becomes.
Let’s take a look at a real-life example so that we can break down each portion individually and better explain how to read an HTS code. We’ll use Grated Roquefort Cheese (HTS code 0406.20.1000) as our example.
The first two digits in an HTS code note the chapter. In this case, the first two digits are 04 indicating that our product is located in the section on Animals and Animal Products. Chapter 04 is defined as ‘Dairy produce; birds' eggs; natural honey; edible products of animal origin, not elsewhere specified or included’. The chapter and section are the broadest categories.
The next two digits, 06, note the heading. The heading for 0406 is titled ‘Cheese and curd’. As you can see, with the addition of one more section, we’ve narrowed down our classification from all animal products, including honey and bird eggs, to just cheese products.
The third set of digits, 20, note the first subheading. In this case, 0406.20 falls under the subheading ‘Dairy produce; cheese of all kinds, grated or powdered’. We’ve now defined the classification down to the specific form that our cheese takes.
Now that we’ve got six digits, that completes our HS code, meaning that all grated or powdered cheese around the world will begin with the code 0406.20, no matter what country you import it from. The full code in our example, however, is an HTSUS code, meaning that it’s a 10-digit code unique to the United States.
The next two digits, 10, determine the duty required on the import into the U.S. In this case, 0406.20.10 defines the product as Roquefort cheese and indicates that there is an 8-percent duty requirement for imports from countries in which the U.S. has no trade agreements with, no duty required (unless otherwise stated) from countries in which the U.S. does have a trade agreement with, and a 35-percent duty requirement from countries in which the U.S. has sanctions on.
Finally, the last two digits will include any additional information necessary to further define the product. In this case, our full code is 0406.20.1000. The final two digits being 00 indicates that there is no further information needed to define the product.
|Importing Grated Roquefort Cheese|
|HTS Code: 0406.20.1000|
|Section: Animal and Animal Products|
|04: Dairy produce; birds' eggs; natural honey; edible products of animal origin, not elsewhere specified or included|
|0406: Cheese and curd|
|0406.20: Dairy produce; cheese of all kinds, grated or powdered|
|0406.20.10: Roquefort cheese|
|0406.20.1000: No further breakdown|
HTS codes are used to import items while Schedule B codes are used to export items to another country. However, due to the fact that both are 10-digit codes used in international trade, and even have matching six-digit HS codes for corresponding items, it’s easy to get the two confused.
Schedule B numbers are assigned by the ITC’s division of the U.S. Census Bureau and are exclusively used by the United States. There are more HTS codes than Schedule B codes, meaning that classifications for items imported into the U.S. are more detailed than items exported using a Schedule B code.
Providing the correct HTS code on your import entries and ISF filings is critical to engaging in international trade. Failing to do so, or providing the wrong HTS code can affect things like your product’s duty rates, government requirements, tariff reductions and anti-dumping orders.
Providing an incorrect HTS code can result in you paying too much or too little in customs duty, neither of which is a good thing. If you pay too little, you’ll be required to file a Post-Entry Amendment (PEA) to pay any additional duties owed. If not, you’ll receive additional fines from CBP on top of the remaining amount that you owe.
If you pay too much, it’s also possible to request a PEA to request a refund. This can be done until the entry is liquidated (typically 315 days after entry), after which you will have to file an administrative protest which can be done up to 180 days after the entry’s liquidation.
Other issues you might face due to providing the wrong HTS code include import delays, seizure of products and denied imports. As a shipper, you are liable for any issues that are caused by providing incorrect HTS information, so it’s imperative that the codes you provide are accurate.
Navigating the commercial import process and finding the correct HTS information can be complicated and confusing no matter how experienced you are. It can also lead to significant penalties if done wrong.
USA Customs Clearance, powered by AFC International, can provide you with access to a licensed customs broker capable of walking you through the entire import process. Our experts take the guesswork out of the situation, guaranteeing that you’ll have accurate information on tariff classification, duty requirements, government restrictions and more. Speak with one of our licensed import consultants and get help finding your HTS codes today.