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The Harmonized System

Publish Date: 
Saturday, December 29, 2012 - 07:00

All import and export codes used by the United States are based on the Harmonized System (HS). The HS assigns 6-digit codes for general categories. This 6-digit code is known as the Harmonized System number.
Countries that use the HS are allowed to define commodities at a more detailed level than 6-digits, however all definitions must be within that 6-digit framework. The U.S., for example, defines products using 10-digit codes in its Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS).
Export codes, also known as Schedule B numbers, are administered by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Import codes are administered by the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC).
Harmonized System (HS) and Schedule B numbers
Harmonized System (HS) numbers are used to classify products for customs purposes. By international agreement, most countries recognize the same first 6 "harmonized" digits.
To get a duty rate, one needs to have the complete product number used by the importing country. Since this is sometimes difficult, companies can use the Schedule B number to approximate.
Schedule B Numbers are used to classify exported products in the United States and are based on the international HS system. HS numbers and Schedule B numbers will be the same up to the first 6 digits as the importing country's classification code.
Why you need to know your product's Schedule B and HS numbers
Exporters need to know their product's Schedule B and HS numbers for the following reasons:
To determine applicable import tariff rates and whether a product qualifies for a preferential tariff under a Free Trade Agreement.
The Schedule B number is needed to complete the Shipper's Export Declaration, Certificates of Origin and other shipping documents.
The HS Number may be needed on shipping documents, such as certificates of origin.
How to identify your product's Schedule B number
The Census Bureau provides the Schedule B Search Engine as an online tool and an instructional video to help you classify your products. The Schedule B search tool is the most commonly used method for classifying products.

After consulting the Search Engine, you can obtain further assistance on Schedule B numbers from a commodity specialist at the U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Division:
Durable goods (metals, machinery, computer, electronic and other miscellaneous goods) call: 301-763-3259
Non-durable goods (food, animal, wood, paper, mineral, chemical and textile goods) call: 301-763-3484
For assistance identifying your appropriate HS number you may also contact your local Export Assistance Center or call the Trade Information Center at 1-800-USATRAD(E).
If you are having difficulty determining your Schedule B number, you may also want to review the Customs Rulings (CROSS) database.
The Census Bureau produces The Schedule B: Statistical Classification of Domestic and Foreign Commodities Exported from the United States that can be ordered from the Government Printing Office by calling 202-512-1800. The stock number is 903-009-00000-4. The CD-ROM version can also be purchased from the Census Bureau by calling 301-457-1086.