Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HS code) of the tariff nomenclature is an international standardised system of names and numbers for the classification of commodities.

The HS code system is based on a 6-digit nomenclature. Individual countries have extended this to 10 digits for import and 8 for export.

Nearly 200 countries use these HS codes as basis for:

  • import duties
  • trade statistics (Statistics Netherlands)
  • origin regulations
  • trade agreements
  • monitoring of controlled goods (including arms, waste, protected animal species)
  • risk analyses
  • Customs information systems

Since the HS code is subject to development, it needs to be ensured that the used codes remain up-to-date. When importing, a normal description of the goods needs to be stated, other than the standard text and in addition to the HS code. This is because Customs wants to be able to physically check the goods on the basis of this description. The HS code given by the supplier often suffices, but there is often uncertainty in the event of e.g. new technologies. Is that new telephone classed as a camera or otherwise? In order to be absolutely certain that the correct HS code is used for import purposes, it is best to ask for Binding Tariff Information (BTI). This applies throughout the EU if it concerns an identical product.

The HS code system is developed and maintained by the World Customs Organisation (WCO), an independent organisation at government level with around 160 members, having its seat in Brussels.

The HS code is also referred to as the goods code, statistics code, statistics number or tariff code. Please feel free to contact our staff for questions or advice.


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