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Frequently asked questions & answers


What is the Harmonised System (HS)?

Developed by the World Customs Organisation (WCO), the Harmonised System is an international product nomenclature, comprising of 21 sections, 97 chapters and over 5000 commodity groups covering most goods in international trade.

It contains the rules of customs classification, section, chapter and explanatory notes in a logical structure that aids the classification of imports in to more than 200 countries around the world.

The WCO will normally update the nomenclature every 5 years and will add and remove codes as well as publish amendments to existing text. The next HS publication will be in 2022 and then again likely in 2027.

What is an HS Code?

The HS Code is a six-digit code that identifies a commodity. Its structure is based on the chapter number, heading and subheading codes of the HS nomenclature.

HS Code 620520 therefore would comprise of the following: -

All countries using the HS will publish their own tariffs using this universal code.

What is a tariff code?

A tariff code, sometimes referred to a commodity code, is a code published by each individual country or group of countries. It is comprised of the 6-digit HS code and may have an extension to the code comprising of usually between an additional 2 to 6 digits, depending on the country.

The additional digits permit each country to set duty rates and taxes for a greater range of products, monitor controlled goods and collect import statistics.

Why do countries have different rates of import duty for a tariff code?

Countries may have several different duty rates for imports of the same type of goods or commodity. Trade agreements between the importing and exporting countries may remove or reduce the amount of duty payable. If there is no trade agreement between the importing and exporting countries, then duty would be based on the most favoured nation (MFN) rate providing both are members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

How do I calculate how much import duty and taxes I will pay?

Import duty may be payable on your imports and, depending on the importing country, be based on the CIF or FOB value.

If import duty is based on the CIF value, the method most commonly used, you would need to include the cost of the goods, the freight cost and the cost of insurance to arrive at a dutiable value to calculate your import duty and taxes.

An example of importing clothing from China into the UK.

Goods Value - £2000.0
Cost of freight - £300.00
Insurance - £40.00
Total CIF Value - £2340.00
12% import Duty on the CIF Value - £280.80
Sub Total including duty - £2620.80
20% VAT on Sub Total - £524.16
Total landed cost including duty and VAT = £3144.96

Why is the HS Code Lookup tool unable to assign a HS/tariff code?

TariffTel contains hundreds of thousands of tariff/commodity codes covering a large range of imported goods. Ensure that your selections make sense, such as some textile clothing products need a construction method to be selected such as knitted or woven, rather than neither.

Some products have yet to be added to our database, which is updated weekly. If you are unable to find a product then you can always use our Ask Our Expert service.

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