What are Harmonized System (HS) codes?

The Harmonized System (HS) is a standardized international system to classify globally traded products. Its origin goes back many years, and the HS is currently managed and maintained by the World Customs Organization (WCO). All countries around the globe use the HS classification to identify and regulate import and export which is why it is part of many commercial invoices and global expert documentation. Each product is classified with a universal commodity code of up to six-digit–. Individual countries then further classify for tariff and regulation specific to their own country by adding additional digits to classify goods in more detail. The first two digits (HS-2) identify the category the goods are classified as. For example, the first two digits “18” describe cocoa and cocoa preparation. The next two digits (HS-4) identify sub-groups within that category, for example, “1806” is the four digits code for chocolate and other food preparations containing cocoa. The next two digits (HS-6) are even more specific. The HS code “180610” represents cocoa powder containing added sugar or other sweetening matter. Among other things, the HS codes are used to calculate import and export duty fees and taxes. Every commodity that crosses most international borders must be declared to export and import customs using the HS code to identify the type of commodity being shipped across the border and for customs organizations to assess duties and tariffs.

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