Understanding HS codes
The Harmonized System (HS) is multipurpose international product nomenclature developed by the World Customs Organization.
The idea is to assign a 6-digit code to goods in order to categorize them:
- The first two digits corresponding to the chapter. There are 99 chapters categorized into 22 broad sections. For example, the section “Live animals; animal products” oversees the chapters from “01” to “05”.
- The next 2 digits give the sub-chapter.
- The last 2 digits further specify the nature of the goods.
The 6-digit code is interpretable by customs around the world, but there are also extensions of these numbers to 8, 10 or even 12 digits, which are specific to the customs zones that created them.
For example, the European Union speaks of Combined Nomenclature (8 digits) or TARIC code (10 digits):
- The first 6 digits correspond to the harmonized system.
- The following 2, a subdivision of the category.
- The next 2 specify the category so as to be able to associate the relevant European customs and commercial regulations (tariff suspensions and preferences, prohibitions, licenses or anti-dumping duties).
If we take the example of code 1006302110, we can break it down as follows:
- In the Harmonized System (100630): Semi-milled or wholly milled rice, whether or not polished or glazed.
- In the Combined Nomenclature (10063021) specific to the EU: Semi-milled round grain rice, parboiled.
- In the TARIC system (1006302110) specific to the EU: Semi-milled round grain rice, parboiled in immediate packings of a net content not exceeding 5 kg.
French customs offer via their site RITA an interface for searching for an HS code by keyword.