Frequently asked questions

1. I want to know the tariff classification of a product in the Harmonized System

2. I want to know the duty rate (customs duty) for a product

3. I want copies of documents or reports of the Harmonized System Committee

4. I want information on the Harmonized System Nomenclature 2017 Edition

5. I want information on decisions taken by the Harmonized System Committee

6. Can I submit a classification issue to the Harmonized System Committee?

7. Can the decision-making process of the Harmonized System Committee be speeded up?

8. Can I get access to the Members Area of the WCO Web Site?

9. Can you give me some guidance on the structure and the length of the HS code?

10. Can I make suggestions for the amendment of the Harmonized System? 

11. Why is the Harmonized System not amended more often to meet the needs of the trade?   

12. Are HS codes always numbered consecutively?

13. Can representatives of the private sector participate in meetings of the Harmonized System Committee?

14. Where can I find ...?

15. How can I purchase WCO publications on the Harmonized System?

Your question/answer is not in this list ? Then, continue searching with the "Search" tool for this website.

1. I want to know the tariff classification of a product in the Harmonized System

As an intergovernmental organization, the WCO does not provide information about the tariff classification of goods to the private sector or to private persons, but only to WCO Member administrations. You are advised to contact the Customs administration of the importing country or exporting country for assistance.

Click here for e-mail addresses of officials responsible for Harmonized System matters in national administrations, which may advise you in matters related to HS classification, decisions taken by the HS Committee and policy matters.

The HS Nomenclature 2017 Edition, which is the valid version applied in international trade transactions, can be found on the WCO’s Nomenclature web page under Instruments
and Tools. (see also FAQ #4)

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2. I want to know the duty rate (customs duty) for a product

The WCO does not provide information about duty rates, because customs duties are applied by WCO Members at national level. You are advised to contact the Customs administration of the country concerned, or to consult one of the following web sites which provide public access to tariff rates of participating administrations (some data providers charge a fee for the information):

http://www.macmap.org/ (created by the International Trade Centre – UNCTAD/WTO)
http://www.unctad.org/ (produced by UNCTAD)
http://www.bitd.org/ (produced by the International Customs Tariff Bureau)
http://madb.europa.eu/ (the European Union's Market Access Database),
or search on the WCO web page for National and International Customs Tariffs.

The WTO also has a number of publicly available databases, publications, and analytical tools on customs duty rates that can all be accessed through https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tariffs_e/tariff_data_e.htm

The Internet addresses of electronic Customs tariffs are listed in Annex II to the document regarding the position of the Contracting Parties to the HS and non-Contracting Party Administrations, which can be found on the Nomenclature web page under Overview.

Click here for e-mail addresses of officials responsible for Harmonized System matters in national administrations, which may advise you in matters related to HS classification, decisions taken by the HS Committee and policy matters.

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3. I want copies of documents or reports of the Harmonized System Committee

The WCO Secretariat does not provide copies of working documents and reports, because they contain some business confidential information. To assist public research, the WCO maintains a historical documentation database ("Historical Documents"). This database contains Harmonized System Committee documents and reports (without disclosing the business confidential information or classification questions currently under consideration). Unfortunately, we have a back-log with regard to the publication of documents published prior to the 12th session of the HSC; we are working to remedy this situation as soon as possible.

For information on specific topics, you are advised to contact your national Customs administration. Click here for e-mail addresses of officials responsible for Harmonized System matters in national administrations, which may advise you in matters related to HS classification, decisions taken by the HS Committee and policy matters.

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4. I want information on the Harmonized System Nomenclature 2017 Edition

At present, the Harmonized System Nomenclature 2017 Edition is the valid version applied in international trade transactions. Click here for the HS Nomenclature 2017 Edition.

Click here for information about the HS 2017 amendments the consequential amendments and here for the HS Correlation Tables correlating the 2012 and 2017 editions of the Harmonized System (HS). 
 
For additional information about the amendments or the Correlation Tables, you are advised to contact your national Customs administration. Click here for e-mail addresses of officials responsible for Harmonized System matters in national administrations.
For publications on the Harmonized System Nomenclature 2017 Edition, please visit the WCO Online bookshop.

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5. I want information on decisions taken by the Harmonized System Committee

Since February 1999, all decisions taken by the Harmonized System Committee (HSC) on the classification of specific products as well as the amendment of the HS Explanatory Notes and the Compendium of Classification Opinions are published on the Nomenclature web page under Committees, click here for information classification decisions taken by the Harmonized System Committee. These decisions are updated twice a year after each session of the Harmonized System Committee.

Furthermore, the WCO maintains a historical documentation database ("Historical Documents"). This database contains Harmonized System Committee documents and reports (without disclosing the business confidential information or classification questions currently under consideration). Unfortunately, we have a back-log with regard to the publication of documents published prior to the 12th session of the HSC; we are working to remedy this situation as soon as possible.

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6. Can I submit a classification issue to the Harmonized System Committee?

Because the WCO is an intergovernmental organization, such questions should be brought to the attention of the national Customs administration concerned or another intergovernmental organization, which might then ask the WCO Secretariat to place the issue on the agenda of the Harmonized System Committee.

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7. Can the decision-making process of the Harmonized System Committee be speeded up?

An excellent question and one with which the Harmonized System Committee (HSC) has been grappling. The HSC has taken steps to expedite the procedure for re-examination of questions which should result in a quicker reconsideration of decisions which one or more countries cannot accept. The best way to ensure a quick response by the HSC is for Customs administrations to submit questions on a timely basis with all of the information necessary for a considered decision. Economically important questions such as those usually considered by the HSC require time for trade consultations. It is therefore imperative that sufficient time be given to administrations for that purpose.

Click here for an information sheet explaining the procedure for examination (or re-examination) of questions by the HSC.

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8. Can I get access to the Members Area of the WCO Web Site?

Access to the restricted Members Area of the WCO Web Site is reserved to the Customs authorities of the WCO Member Administrations.

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9. Can you give me some guidance on the structure and the length of the HS code?

Click here for general information on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System.

The Harmonized System is governed by "The International Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System". The official interpretation of the Harmonized System (HS) is given in the Explanatory Notes (5 volumes in English and French) published by the WCO. The Explanatory Notes are also available online and on CD-ROM, as part of a commodity database giving the HS classification of more than 200,000 commodities actually traded internationally. You can purchase Harmonized System publications at the WCO Online bookshop.

The Harmonized System provides a logical structure within which over 1,200 headings are grouped in 96 Chapters, the latter being themselves arranged in 21 Sections. Each heading is identified by a four-digit code, the first two digits of which indicate the Chapter wherein the heading appears, while the latter two indicate the position of the heading in the Chapter. Thus, heading 10.01 ("wheat and meslin") is the first heading of Chapter 10, which, in its entirety, covers "cereals". In addition, most of the headings are subdivided into two or more 1-dash subheadings which, where necessary, are further subdivided into two or more 2-dash subheadings and which are identified by a 6-digit code (HS code). The HS comprises over 5,000 separate groups of goods identified by a 6-digit code, the first four digits thereof correspond to the relevant heading number, while the fifth and sixth digits identify the one- and two-dash subheadings respectively. The absence of such subheadings is indicated by a zero.

For example :
1. HS code 0205.00 means : the fifth heading of Chapter 2, which has not been subdivided;
2. HS code 0103.10 means : the third heading of Chapter 1, first subheading which has not been further subdivided;
3. HS code 0303.11 means : the third heading of Chapter 3, first two-dash subheading of the first one-dash subheading.

For an information sheet explaining that the Harmonized System has evolved into a multi purpose tool, click here.

At present, the HS Nomenclature 2017 Edition is the valid version applied in international trade transactions.

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10. Can I make suggestions for the amendment of the Harmonized System?

Because the WCO is an intergovernmental organization, suggestions for amendment of the HS should be brought to the attention of the national Customs administration concerned or another intergovernmental organization which might then ask the WCO Secretariat to place the issue on the agenda of the Harmonized System Committee.

Click here for an information sheet explaining the Harmonized System review process.

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11. Why is the Harmonized System not amended more often to meet the needs of the trade?

The Harmonized System is only amended every 5 years. There are several reasons and, frankly, competing interests. The drafting of amendments usually takes several years of deliberation by the Committees concerned and consultations with the trade. Thereafter, the HSC and the Secretariat need several years for revision of the HS publications, whereas Member administrations need time for translation of amendments into languages other than French and English, national legislative procedures, WTO negotiations, etc.

Click here for an information sheet explaining the Harmonized System review process.

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12. Are HS codes always numbered consecutively?

In principle, headings and subheadings are numbered in a consecutive way. This principle is, however, interrupted as from 1996 some HS code numbers disappeared as the result of the HS subheadings having been renumbered when their content was changed.

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13. Can representatives of the private sector participate in meetings of the Harmonized System Committee?

The basic answer is no. But the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) participates as an industry representative and observer in meetings of the Harmonized System Committee. The WCO would also be pleased to welcome representatives of other international organizations as observers. However, the WCO can not invite representatives of individual companies or regional organizations to meetings of the Harmonized System Committee.

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14. Where can I find … ?

Harmonized System Convention

Find here the text of the International Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System

Harmonized System Nomenclature 2017 Edition

The HS Nomenclature 2017 Edition, which is the valid version presently applied in international trade transactions, can be found on the Nomenclature web page under Instruments
and Tools.

Countries, territories or Customs or economic unions applying the Harmonized System

The list of countries, territories or Customs or economic unions applying the Harmonized System can be found on the Nomenclature web page under Overview.

Contact addresses of officials responsible for HS matters in national administrations

For e-mail addresses of officials responsible for Harmonized System matters in national administrations, which may advise you in matters related to HS classification, decisions taken by the HS Committee and policy matters, click here.

Electronic Customs tariffs

The Internet addresses of electronic Customs tariffs are listed in Annex II to the document regarding the position of the Contracting Parties to the HS and non-Contracting Party Administrations, which can be found on the Nomenclature web page under Overview.

Copies of HSC documents and reports

To assist public research, the WCO maintains a historical documentation database ("Historical Documents"). This database contains Harmonized System Committee documents and reports (without disclosing the business confidential information or classification questions currently under consideration). Unfortunately, we have a back-log with regard to the publication of documents published prior to the 12th session of the HSC; we are working to remedy this situation as soon as possible.

HS 2017 amendments

Click here for information about the HS 2017 amendments, complementary amendments and corrigendum amendments and the HS Correlation Tables correlating the 2012 and 2017 editions of the Harmonized System (HS).

Correlation Tables

Correlation Tables 2012/2017 correlating the 2012 and 2017 editions of the Harmonized System (HS).

Correlation Tables 2007/2012 correlating the 2007 and 2012 editions of the Harmonized System (HS).

Correlation Tables 2002/2007 correlating the 2002 and 2007 editions of the Harmonized System (HS).

Correlation Tables 1996/2002 correlating the 1996 and 2002 editions of the Harmonized System (HS).

WCO Recommendations related to the Harmonized System Convention

The Recommendations concerning the application of the Harmonized System Convention concern :

a. The introduction, at national level, of additional subheadings in WCO Member (or Customs) administrations’ statistical nomenclatures to control or to monitor international trade in certain commodities;

b. The facilitation of the collection, comparison and analysis of international statistics;

c. The promotion of objective, predictable and transparent classification practices.

For an overview of the WCO Council Recommendations related to the HS, click here.

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15. How can I purchase WCO publications on the Harmonized System?

You can purchase Harmonized System publications at the WCO Online bookshop, such as:

  • Harmonized System Nomenclature (Legal text)
    This publication contains the following:
    (a) The text of the International Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System;
    (b) The text of the Nomenclature established under the above Convention. The Nomenclature includes the General Rules for the Interpretation of the Harmonized System, the Section, Chapter and Subheading Notes, and the headings and subheadings.

  • Explanatory Notes to the Harmonized System
    As commentaries finalized by the Harmonized System Committee and adopted by the WCO Council, the Explanatory Notes constitute the official interpretation of the HS at international level.

    The Explanatory Notes are also available on online and on CD-ROM, as part of a database which groups all the available HS Tools, by adding to the information on the Nomenclature, the Compendium of Classification Opinions and the Explanatory Notes, that relating to the Alphabetical Index and the Brochure on Classification Decisions taken by the Harmonized System Committee.

  • Compendium of Classification Opinions
    The Compendium of Classification Opinions contains a list of some of the more important and/or difficult classification decisions taken by the Harmonized System Committee and adopted by the WCO Council.

  • Alphabetical Index to the Harmonized System
    This Index is an alphabetical list of the articles and products mentioned in the HS and its Explanatory Notes.

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