The Harmonized System codes, or commonly known as HS codes, are product-specific numerical identifiers that are recognized and used internationally by over 200 countries. This coding system was developed by the World Customs Organization (WCO) as a way to distinguish a product’s commodity group in order to achieve universal classification within international trade.
You might be wondering, why do I need these codes? What exactly do they do? As an eCommerce fulfillment provider, we at ShipTop get these questions a lot. We like to remind our clients that all cross-border shipping in Canada requires HS Codes, for reasons such as:
- Ensuring the correct duty rates are applied to the goods;
- Managing trade statistics; and
- Protecting Canadians and other countries through identification of goods.
As a business owner that is importing or exporting goods, it is your responsibility to use the correct HS code for your products.
How can I find the right HS code to use?
Finding the right HS Code to use can be difficult, as they are broken down by very specific categories. To better understand this, let’s look at the example of the ketchup bottle:
HS Code: 3924.10
In this example above, each number relates to a specific identifier. The first two digits, ‘39’ reference Chapter 39: plastics and articles thereof. This is followed by ‘24’ referencing Heading 24: tableware and kitchenware. The next two digits, ‘10’ refer to the Subheading 10: Salt, pepper, ketchup dispensers, and similar products. Now, if the product was a plastic container of a different nature, let’s say a yogurt container, it would fall under a different heading number, therefore creating a different HS code altogether.
To find the list of chapters, headers, and subheaders of tariffs for your country, look on your local government website under trading and commerce. Here’s the latest Canadian customs tariff schedule. If you have a great eye for detail and are feeling up to the challenge of navigating each heading and subheading, then you can determine your HS Code through the aforementioned function. However, many of our eCommerce clients opt for hiring a customs broker to help determine the correct code. Some consultants we recommend are Livingston International, Farrow, and PF Collins.
What do I do with the HS code and why does ShipTop require it?
The HS code of your shipment needs to be visible to the customs authorities, so it must be attached to the outside of your freight or parcel that is shipping cross-border. All commercial invoices or customs documents must also have all HS codes of your shipment listed.
As your eCommerce fulfillment partner, we at ShipTop aim to handle all your fulfillment services in a fast and accurate way. International shipping can be a huge headache for many businesses, and as your shipping and logistics partner, ShipTop will take care of all the administrative work around international eCommerce selling. When you provide your products’ HS codes upon onboarding, we are able to add this information to our portal, ensuring seamless order fulfillment.
Canadian HS Code Chapters
Countries will mostly follow a similar chapter schedule for HS codes, but it is always recommended to check with your local government website to ensure you are adhering to the correct guidelines. Listed below are the Canadian HS code chapters. These can be read in much more detail on the Government of Canada website under ‘customs tariff.’
Chapter 1-5: Live animals; animal products
Chapter 6-14: Vegetable products
Chapter 15: Animal or vegetable fats and oils and their cleavage products; prepared edible fats; animal or vegetable waxes
Chapter 16-24: Prepared foodstuffs; beverages, spirits and vinegar; tobacco and manufactured tobacco substitutes; products, whether or not containing nicotine, intended for inhalation without combustion; other nicotine containing products intended for the intake of nicotine into the human body
Chapter 25-27: Mineral products
Chapter 28-38: Products of the Chemical or Allied Industries
Chapter 39-40: Plastics and articles thereof; rubber and articles thereof
Chapter 41-43: Raw Hides and Skins, Leather, Fur skins and Articles thereof; Saddlery and Harness; Travel Goods, Handbags and Similar Containers; Articles of animal gut (other than silk-worm gut)
Chapter 44-46: Wood and articles of wood; wood charcoal; cork and articles of cork; manufactures of straw, of esparto or of other plaiting materials; basketware and wickerwork
Chapter 47-49: Pulp of wood or of other fibrous cellulosic material; recovered (waste and scrap) paper or paperboard; paper and paperboard and articles thereof
Chapter 50-63: Textiles and textile articles
Chapter 64-67: Footwear, headgear, umbrellas, sun umbrellas, walking-sticks, seat-sticks, whips, riding-crops and parts thereof; prepared feathers and articles made therewith; artificial flowers; articles of human hair
Chapter 68-70: Articles of stone, plaster, cement, asbestos, mica or similar materials; ceramic products; glass and glassware
Chapter 71: Natural or cultured pearls, precious or semi-precious stones, precious metals, metals clad with precious metal and articles thereof; imitation jewellery; coin
Chapter 72-83: Base metals and articles of base metal
Chapter 84-85: Machinery and mechanical appliances; electrical equipment; parts thereof; sound recorders and reproducers, television image and sound recorders and reproducers, and parts and accessories of such articles
Chapter 86-89: Vehicles, aircraft, vessels and associated transport equipment
Chapter 90-92: Optical, photographic, cinematographic, measuring, checking, medical or surgical instruments and apparatus; clocks and watches; musical instruments; parts and accessories thereof
Chapter 93: Arms and ammunition; parts and accessories thereof
Chapter 94-96: Miscellaneous manufactured articles
Chapter 97-99: Works of art, collectors’ pieces and antiques.
Disclaimer: ShipTop assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of information from external links. If you are unsure or have questions regarding HS codes, please refer to a customs broker prior to shipment.