What are HS Codes?

What are HS Codes?

We all know that importing and exporting goods can be a complicated process. You have to worry about customs duties, shipping and delivery, and making sure the product complies with the laws of both countries. But what do you do when you need to identify a product for import or export specifically? That's where HS codes come in. HS codes (or Harmonized System codes) are an international system for classifying products. They are used to identify specific items for customs purposes. Knowing your HS code can make navigating the customs process much more manageable. So what are HS codes, and how can they help you? Read on to learn more.

What are HS Codes?

HS Codes are the Harmonized System (HS) of tariff codes used to classify traded goods. Governments use the system worldwide to collect customs duties on imports and exports.

The code covers all products traded internationally and is a precursor to the creation of free trade agreements. It also helps countries track illegal activities such as smuggling and trafficking. The codes are revised every five years; the latest version was published in 2017.

These HTS import codes eventually consist of 8 to 10-digit codes, which help determine taxes and duties for imported products. Thus, it becomes essential for traders to use the correct HTS codes. 

The Benefits Of Using HS Codes

The use of codes for HTS shipping has many benefits that, includes;

Reduced Risk of Penalties or Delays because of Misclassification

Harmonized codes provide a standardized system for classifying goods, ensuring that products are correctly categorized and processed quickly by customs officials. This reduces the risk of penalties or delays due to misclassification, helping to ensure that your shipments reach their destination on time.

Reduced Shipping Costs Because Of More Accurate Declarations

 Properly classified goods will also help businesses reduce shipping costs, as they can make more accurate declarations of the value and quantity of the product being shipped. This allows them to take full advantage of any available duty reductions or customs discounts, further reducing shipping costs.

Improved Customs Processing And Faster Shipping Times

Using HS codes also helps improve customs processing times, as they allow shippers to understand their goods' requirements better to be cleared for export or import. This can help businesses reduce bottlenecks at customs and expedite the shipping process, ultimately improving efficiency and reducing turnaround times for products shipped internationally.

Related: What Does Clearing Customs Mean for Online Sellers?

How To Find The Right HS Code For Your Product

There are several ways to find the correct HS code for your product. One way is to consult with an expert at the United States Customs and Border Protection Agency. The CBP has a free online tool called the Harmonized Tariff Schedule Database, which you can use to look up specific products and their corresponding HS codes.

Another way to find the HS code for your product is to search for it on the World Customs Organization's website. The WCO also has a free online tool called the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, which you can use to search for specific products and their corresponding HS codes.

Finally, if you're not sure which HS code is suitable for your product, you can also consult with a third-party logistics provider or customs broker. These professionals have extensive experience working with companies to determine the correct HS code for their products, and they can provide you with advice and guidance on this process.

No matter which method you choose, it's essential to research and ensure that you're using the correct HS code for your product. This is the only way to ensure that you'll be able to clear customs and get your goods where they need to go.

Regardless of how you decide to find the correct HS code, remember to keep these steps in mind:

  • Research what products are included in each category.
  • Determine which type your product falls into.
  • Consult with the appropriate professionals to get advice on your situation.

Tips For Using HS Codes Correctly

While using HS codes may seem simple at first, there are several essential tips that businesses should keep in mind to maximize their effectiveness and avoid common mistakes. These include:

1. Always confirm your product's HS code with your customs broker or government agency before importing or exporting. Different countries use different versions of the HS code, so you must ensure you use the right one for your destination country.

2. Pay close attention to any changes to the HS code system, such as updates or revisions. These changes can sometimes significantly impact how you classify your goods, so it's essential to stay up-to-date with any changes that may affect you.

3. Work closely with your customs broker or agent to ensure that your HS codes are used correctly and consistently across all transactions. This will help to avoid any confusion or misunderstandings, as well as potential penalties for incorrectly classifying your products.

4. Consider using software tools or other resources to help automate the process of using HS codes and streamline your import/export operations. Many helpful tools can make the process easier and more efficient, so be sure to explore your options and find one that works best for you.

If you follow these tips, you can be sure to use HS codes effectively and minimize any potential issues with your international trade activities. With the right tools and resources, you can simplify and optimize your import/export process and enjoy many benefits of practical HS code usage.

Common Mistakes Made When Using HS Codes

Usually, traders make common mistakes while using HS codes pointed out below.

Not correctly vetting your customs broker

If the customs broker doesn't have a good reputation or is not up-to-date with all the newest regulations, you can pay more in fees. If a customs broker has been around for 30+ years, it usually means they've had several satisfied customers and are well-established within their local district.

Not being aware of tariff classifications

 If you don't know what the HS code is for your product or are using a broker that doesn't properly vet their customs brokers, there's a good chance you will get hit with some pretty steep tariffs. Knowing the tariff classification before sending products over borders, they can accurately predict any complications and work around them.

Not staying up to date with the changing laws: There are constant changes in the laws and regulations, so it's essential to stay on top of these if you regularly import goods.

Not Properly Communicating With Your Customs Broker

 If you haven't established good communication channels with your broker, they may not be able to get your shipment through customs efficiently. Establishing open lines of communication can help prevent errors and fees when importing goods across borders.

Overall, this post has highlighted HS code usage, its benefits, how to use it, and some common mistakes people use while applying the HS code. However, you can stop repeating these mistakes by following the tips above for properly using HS codes. 


HS codes are numbers and letters used to classify products for import and export. The World Customs Organization administers the codes, making it easy to identify the product and its associated tariff. Knowing your HS codes can help you save money on international shipments. Let's take a closer look at what HS codes are and how to use them! If you're looking for help fulfilling Amazon orders, Simpl can assist you. We have extensive experience shipping products worldwide and can take care of everything for you so that you can focus on running your business. Contact us today to learn more about our services!

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