How to look up HS tariff code

We have published several guides about doing HS classification using WCO’s classification rules and we always urge traders to classify their products following these rules. Nonetheless, WCO’s General Rules for the Interpretation of the Harmonized System are not the easiest set of instructions to follow, plus the Explanatory notes are lengthy and technical in nature.

In this article we look at a method many brokers around the world use to do HS classification.

1. Search the US ruling database. On this site, you can also try searching with the exact brand and model name of the product, or the brand and model name of similar competitor products.

2. Search Zauba for any available information. You can also search on any other look up sites you may have come across. On these sites, you should try to search with other names of the products. For example, if you were trying to find the HS code of camera tripod, you should try searching using teams like “tripods”, “camera accessories” and “camera stand”.

Note: For steps 1 & 2, if you are attempting to classify a chemical, you can try to search using the CAS number.

3. Do a general search on Google with the keywords “HS code for …”, “tariff code for …” & “HS classification for …”

4. Compare the first 6 digits of the HS codes you find from doing Steps 1 to 3 and shortlist a few suitable HS codes.

5. Go back to the review the Explanatory Notes for the selected HS codes and check for exclusions and/or inclusions.

6. If you get stuck, you can attempt to classify the product from scratch, but focusing your attention on using the GRIs to decide between the short listed HS codes.

This is by no means a perfect method for classifying your products. In fact, we would highly recommend against using this method exclusively.

While this method may give you a sense of security that you are classifying your products the same as some other importer, it is not a foolproof method of classifying your product. Keep in mind that some studies indicate more than 30% of classifications are wrong across world.

While we are on this topic, we would like to add that importers and exporters should never completely rely on any HS code lookup tool they may find on the Internet. These automated solutions are in no way able to make 100% accurate classifications all the time. Even the paid solutions that have started to use rudimentary forms of AI to do HSN classification require extensive user side set-up to create a solution that works, and that too only for specific companies.

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