The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HS) is a global method of classifying products that are exported and imported for customs purposes. The six-digit coding system is administered on the international level by the World Customs Organization (WCO) through its member nations.
In the U.S., four digits are added at the end to create 10-digit codes in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) for imports, and Schedule B for exports. U.S. imports are governed by the U.S. International Trade Commission, and U.S. exports are governed by the U.S. Census Bureau's Foreign Trade Division.
The International Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HS Convention) has been in effect since 1988. It is a multilateral treaty that establishes an international uniform classification system for products and associated tariffs. The HS makes compiling trade statistics, monitoring products and regulating trade policies efficient.
HS Codes List
The HS Codes List is divided into 15 main categories that are further subdivided into sections, where the first two digits are unique to each section. The categories are Animal & Animal Products (01-05), Vegetable Products (06-15), Foodstuffs (16-24), Mineral Products (25-27), Chemical & Allied Industries (28-38), Plastics/Rubbers (39-40), Raw Hides/Skins/Leathers (41-43), Wood & Wood Products (44-49), Textiles (50-63), Footwear/Headgear (64-67), Stone/Glass (68-71), Metals (72-83), Machinery/Electrical (84-85), Transportation (86-89), and Miscellaneous (90-97).
U.S. Duty-Free Codes
In addition to the four extra digits the U.S. International Trade Commission adds to the end of each HS Code, there is also a list of letters added to imports originating from certain countries. Products with these letters at the end of the 10-digit code are given duty-free status and other preferential treatments, based on certain treaties into which the U.S. has entered.
The letters, based on the treaties, are: the United States-Australia Free Trade Agreement (AU), the Automotive Products Trade Act (B), the United States-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act (BH), the Agreement on Trade in Civil Aircraft (C), the North American Free Trade Agreement (CA or MX), the United States-Chile Free Trade Agreement (CL), the African Growth and Opportunity Act (D), the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (E or E_), the United States-Israel Free Trade Area (IL), the Andean Trade Preference Act or Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (J, J_ or J+), the United States-Jordan Free Trade Area Implementation Act (JO), the Agreement on Trade in Pharmaceutical Products (K), the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act (P or P+), the Uruguay Round Concessions on Intermediate Chemicals for Dyes (L), the United States-Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (R), the United States-Morocco Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act (MA), the United States-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (SG), the United States-Oman Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act (OM), and the United States-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act (PE).