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Assigning an HS Code

Summary of Assigning Harmonization Codes

  1. classification is the process of determining each segment of the tariff classification in a specific order;
  2. the first two digits of the tariff classification are the chapter;
  3. the third and fourth digits, together with the chapter, make up the heading; the fifth and sixth digits, together with the heading, make up the subheading; the subheading, plus two additional digits, make up the tariff item;
  4. a complete tariff classification number consists of a ten-digit number;
  5. the last two digits are for statistical purposes; subheadings can be preceded by one or two dashes; tariff items are preceded by three or four dashes;
  6. tariff classifications are preceded by five or six dashes;
  7. subheadings with one dash can only be compared to other subheadings with one dash; subheadings with two dashes can only be compared to other subheadings with two dashes; tariff items with three dashes can only be compared to other tariff items with three dashes; tariff items with four dashes can only be compared to other tariff items with four dashes;
  8. tariff classifications with five dashes can only be compared to other tariff classifications with five dashes; and.
  9. tariff classifications with six dashes can only be compared to other tariff classifications with six dashes.

Within the Harmonized System, goods are classified numerically in a hierarchical manner.

Hierarchical means that the goods in the tariff are ranked, that is, they are above, below, or at the same level as other items. When you are classifying goods, you must do so in order by first establishing the chapter, then the heading, the subheading, the tariff item, and finally the tariff classification.

As well, it’s important to know that the least processed goods are found in the earlier sections and chapters of the Customs Tariff and the more complex goods are found towards the back.

There are twenty-one sections in the Customs Tariff, listed in Roman numerals from I to XXI. These sections are further divided into ninety-nine chapters. Each section provides a broad topic with the chapters further defining the topic. For example, Section I covers live animals and animal products, while Chapter 1 covers live animals and Chapter 2 covers meat and edible meat offal. Section titles are only intended as a reference tool.

When using the CBSA online Customs Tariff, the PDF formats reflect the Customs Tariff in print copy. Whenever possible, use the PDF, rather than the HTML version.

A complete HS classification consists of a ten-digit number, and looks like this:

0801.22.00.00

This example refers to Brazil nuts (shelled), and the number is broken down in the following manner:

Chapter (first 2 digits) = 08

Heading (first 4 digits) = 08.01

Subheading (first 6 digits) = 0801.22 Tariff Item (first 8 digits) = 0801.22.00

Classification Number (all ten digits) = 0801.22.00.00

 Note:  Chapter 8 is located in Section II, Vegetable Products.  The section number does not form any part of the tariff classification number; however, there are often section notes which should be reviewed.

Chapter

The first two digits of the complete HS classification number are the chapter. For example, tariff classification number 1504.10.10.10 is in Chapter 15. It is important to remember that each chapter contains notes that must be reviewed.

Heading

The first four digits of a complete HS classification number are the heading; 08.01 is an example. The first two digits, 08, indicate the chapter. The last two digits, 01, indicate where to find the heading in the chapter. The heading example below tells us that coconuts, brazil nuts and cashews all have the same heading if they are fresh or dried, and whether or not they are shelled or peeled.

08.01   Coconuts, Brazil nuts and cashew nuts, fresh or dried, whether or not shelled or peeled.

Note: When a heading is used on its own, it is presented as 08.01 (a period is added after the chapter number).

Subheading

The first six digits of the tariff classification are the same for all countries adhering to the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System. Each six-digit subheading includes text that is preceded by either one or two dashes. Subheadings further describe the heading. Information in any subheading relates only to the goods in its heading.

Have a look at the subheadings beneath heading 06.01. These are one-dash subheadings, since they are each preceded by one dash.

06.01 Bulbs, tubers, tuberous roots, corms, crowns and rhizomes, dormant, in growth or in flower; chicory plants

and roots other than roots of heading 12.12.

  • Bulbs, tubers, tuberous roots, corms, crowns and rhizomes, dormant
  • Bulbs, tubers, tuberous roots, corms, crowns and rhizomes, in growth or in flower; chicory plants and roots

Since they are each preceded by one dash, these two subheadings may only be compared to each other. The goods being classified must fit into one of these two subheadings, and also into the heading (06.01). Here is another example of one-dash subheadings.

27.08 Pitch and pitch coke, obtained from coal tar or from other mineral tars.

  • Pitch
  • Pitch coke

In this example, pitch and pitch coke are one-dash subheadings that fall under the heading 27.08.

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