HS Codes and how to read them

A HS code (or Harmonised System code) is an internationally recognised coding system for countries to classify traded goods via the labelled coded cargo. A HS code consists of 6 digits, which can be broken down and translated into information and descriptions of the goods being transported. HS codes are particularly important when importing goods for trade, going through customs clearance, and for warehousing and storage.

HS codes are a minimum of 6 digits, which match up to product descriptions. These descriptions start as broad categories, narrowing into more specific detailed hyponyms. Starting with 21 categories, these categories are then split into 99 chapters (with the exception of a few chapters, such as chapter 77 for future use, chapters 98 and 99 to be used for national use, and chapter 99 which is limited to temporary modifications).

How do you read a HS code?

A HS code is split into the four following:

Chapter

Starting with the broadest section, the first two digits of a HS code is referred to as a HS-2, which identifies the type of goods.

E.g. 09= Tea, coffee, mate and spices.

Heading

The second set of digits the HS-4, which directs to a more specific group within the previous chapter.

e.g. 09 05= Spices + vanilla

Sub-heading

The most specific of all the digits is the sub-heading, HS-6. The sub-heading describes the product in more detail, i.e. caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee are referred to with different numbers in the sub-heading, and instant coffee would be in a totally different heading (HS-4) due to its edibility.

Further digits

Should there be any additional information to be added, appropriate coded numbers are added after the sub-heading. For example, if a specific country of origin for products such as coffee is needed, further additional numbers can account for this.

An example of a HS code:

Avocado = 08 04 40 (00 00 00)

Chapter 08: Edible fruit & nuts, peel of citrus/melons

Heading 04: Dates, figs, pineapples, avocados etc. Fresh or dried

Subheading 40: Avocados

(00 00 00): These are additional digits or subdivisions for national purposes.