What is a Harmonized System (HS) code/classification number?

What is a Harmonized System (HS) code/classification number?

This is a 6-digit standardized numerical method of classifying traded products.


HS numbers are used by customs authorities around the world to identify products for several reasons including:


  1. Applying duties and taxes
  2. Import and export admissibility
  3. Whether or not the good should be physically examined


The first 6 digits of the Harmonized System code indicate the same product description for all 190 countries that are part of the World Customs Organization*. However, this does not mean that custom duty rates are the same in all of these countries.


There are over 5,000 groups of 6 digit codes. Some governments choose to add additional digits to the HS code to further distinguish products in certain categories. The HS code is also used to establish the basic rules of various trade agreements such as NAFTA.


‘*’ – The World Customs Organization is an independent, intergovernmental organization based in Brussels, Belgium.