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What HTSUS Codes Mean To Importing Goods

What HTSUS codes mean to importing goods
Shippers must know which Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States codes impact their freight. If there is a mistake, it could cost money or time in the importing or exporting process. Here’s how to figure all of that out.
Harriet Daniels
June 18, 2018
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Last Modified: July 25, 2023

When importing commodities into the United States, there are a number of certainties you’re sure to encounter. One of those is HTSUS codes. But what exactly is an HTSUS code and how is it used to import goods?

Simply put, HTSUS stands for the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States. HTSUS codes are 10-digit codes specific to U.S. imports and are used for tariff and product classification when importing goods.

Read on to learn more about how to find your HTSUS code, how HTSUS codes affect tariff rates, and how a licensed customs broker can help you identify correct HTSUS codes for your products.

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HTSUS Codes: What Importers Need to Know

Official Harmonized Tariff Schedule 2018

The first thing importers need to know is that HTSUS codes are required on all import shipments. Importers will want to make sure the HTSUS code they list is correct because it determines the amount of duty owed on a product.

When importing, the process can be complicated and it can be difficult to keep up with all the required documents. The cost of using a licensed customs broker can certainly have a significant ROI when it comes to importing. One area where they can offer expertise is in classifying a commodity in HTSUS.

Be forewarned that mistakes in classifying a commodity can wind up costing the importer more. While importers are skilled at running their own business, they often lack the knowledge required to classify their products. Every dollar counts in the import process. A licensed customs broker can help make sure that you do not overpay on imports coming through customs.

Not Sure What the HTS Code is For Your Products?

Use our simple and easy HTS Code Lookup Tool to find the HTS code for your products.

Finding the Right HTSUS Code

Finding the right HTSUS code is essential to fulfilling an essential aspect of importing goods — paying tariffs and/or duties. To illustrate how this works, let’s look at this example: Let’s say a shipment of handbags is being imported into the U.S.

Typically, in order to identify a product’s HTSUS code, you need a name or description of the item - in this case, handbags - its intended use, and the material it’s made out of. Once you have that information, you can search for handbags using an HTS code lookup tool and find the HTSUS code and tariff classification for your handbags.

In our example, simply searching for the word “handbags” identifies a product without any need for additional information, like intended use or material. After identifying our product, we find the HTSUS code for handbags is 3926.90.3300.

To break this down further, take a look at the table below.

Importing Handbags
HTSUS Code: 3926.90.3300
Section: Plastics/Rubbers
39: Plastics and Articles Thereof
3926: Other articles of plastics and articles of other materials of headings 3901 to 3914
3926.90: Other
3926.90.33: Handbags
3926.90.3300: No further breakdown

It is the HTSUS code that determines the tariff rate owed on a product as it comes through U.S. Customs. If an item is classified incorrectly, it can cause a delay in clearing customs and additional fees may also be applied. 

In the case of our handbags, the tariff rate associated with our HTSUS code is 6.5-percent when imported from a country with which the U.S. has no trade agreement with. There are also several countries that require no import duty because there is a trade agreement in place.

Use our simple and easy to use HTS Code Lookup Tool to find the HTS codes for your shipment.

Duty Rates & Tariff Schedules

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is the U.S. agency responsible for enforcing duty rates.

Importers can also use the U.S. International Trade Commission’s Tariff Database to determine their duty rate. The Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) is recognized globally and this database allows for simple HTS searches to be conducted.

While HTS codes are 6-10-digit codes used to classify products across the globe, US HTS codes are always 10 digits and specific to imports into the United States.

A licensed customs broker can be a valuable resource for importers during this process. Brokers are accustomed to navigating the database and cross-referencing information on behalf of clients. The customs broker understands how HTSUS codes work and what information is needed from the importer to classify goods.

A number of changes were made to the 2018 tariff code including adding new codes as suffixes for products like antenna parts or gift wrap ribbons. The HTSUS code, described as expansive, continues to evolve as adjustments are made or items are added to the classification list.

Can Licensed Customs Brokers Assign HTSUS Codes for Imports?

The short answer is: Yes. Licensed customs brokers can handle identifying HTSUS codes for imports. Once contracted and with power of attorney, the broker works on behalf of the importer.

However, in the eyes of CBP, it is ultimately the responsibility of the importer to make sure the cargo is classified correctly and assigned the right HTSUS codes. A good rule of thumb for importers is to work closely with the licensed customs broker on documentation. The details the customs broker needs to assign HTSUS codes for a shipment come from the importer. It is critical for the importer to provide sufficient information about the products to determine the classification for HTSUS codes.

The importer should not just walk away from the process once the customs broker begins the process. The broker needs the importer to remain involved to make sure the documents are correct and both are aware of what is outlined throughout.

Customs brokers can explain the process to importers and answer questions regarding HTSUS codes. The importer does not want to spend unnecessary funds to cover duty, taxes and fees at the point of entry. In order to ensure cargo is assessed at proper duty rates, the information from the importer is critical.

Need Help Finding the HTS Code For Your Products?

Our classification specialists have the knowledge and expertise to locate the correct HTS code for your imports.

Harmonized tariff schedule is recognized globally

Importers Have Work to Do

Importers need to know a number of specific details about the freight being shipped beyond its intended use upon arrival. Are you importing electronics? Or maybe you're importing candy into the U.S.?

Those details will need to be outlined since each aspect is categorized to determine the proper HTSUS codes. Customs bond agents will have the importer provide this detailed information and seek more specifics as needed. It’s better to start with correct information to expedite the process rather than slowing things down if something is missing.

The process of importing can be trouble-free with a few key tips relating to HTSUS codes.

  1.    Document what the goods in the shipment are made of
  2.    Use resources from the CBP and other agencies to estimate duty, taxes and fees
  3.    Contact a licensed customs broker to assist

A licensed customs bond agent is available to help importers manage the process including assigning HTSUS codes, for help with a customs bond, or to learn more about USA Customs Clearance and how we can help importers make sure all documents are in order. 

By working closely with licensed customs bond agents, importers ensure the right HTSUS code is provided for duty, taxes and fees at the port of entry.

Importing Goods With USA Customs Clearance

Now that you know more about HTSUS codes and how to use them, you can get even more assistance by working with USA Customs Clearance. We’ll make sure you have the right HTSUS codes associated with your imports so that you have a worry-free import experience.

Just like many aspects of clearing customs, HTSUS codes aren’t always straightforward. So when you need clarification on any aspect of your import, you can enjoy a consulting session with one of USA Customs Clearance’s licensed customs brokers. In 30-minute blocks of 1-on-1 time, you’ll get personalized attention where you can ask any question surrounding the shipment and clearing of customs for any type of commodity.

These same brokers, separate from these sessions, can also help you secure a customs bond for your goods. Customs bonds are necessary in many cases of importation; so whether you end up choosing a one-time, single-use bond or a continuous bond, USA Customs Clearance will aid you in the purchasing and implementation.

USA Customs Clearance has unique partnerships across the logistics industry that can help with many other needs pertaining to businesses such as freight shipments, order fulfillment and more.

So whether it’s HTSUS codes or any other aspect of clearing customs, turn to the intelligent, helpful professionals at USA Customs Clearance to lend a hand in boosting your business for success. For a free quote with no obligation to buy, contact us today at (855) 912-0406.

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