Harmonized System (HS) Codes Explained: The Big Role of These Small Identifiers 

Table of Contents

The Harmonized System code, commonly known as HS code, is a product-specific numerical identifier that is 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 fulfillmentt 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 the identification of goods.

As a business owner who is importing or exporting goods, it is your responsibility to use the correct HS code for your products.

How can I find the right Harmonized system code to use?

Finding the right HS Code to use can be difficult, as they are broken down into very specific categories.

To better understand this, let’s look at the example of the ketchup bottle:

Ketchup Dispenser

Harmonized System Code or 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.

Harmonization Code ShipTop
Harmonization Code ShipTop

Harmonized Code Canada 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 silkworm 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; basket ware 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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *