It is important not to confuse Schedule B with the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS). While Schedule B is an export classification system, HTS is an import classification system. Both make use of the World Customs Organization administered Harmonized System (HS). Incidentally, the first six digits of HS, Schedule B, and HTS remain the same for any given commodity.
Countries that make use of the HS have the liberty to define commodities beyond the six digits. However, the six-digit framework must hold all required definitions. In the U.S., the 10-digit Schedule B code is used to define commodities further.
HS numbers work in classifying products primarily for the purpose of customs. Owing to international agreement, majority of the countries recognize the same six-digit HS numbers. Getting a duty rate requires having complete product numbers used in the importing countries. This is not possible all the time, which is why businesses use Schedule B numbers for approximation.
The first two digits of an HS number identify the chapter under which a product is classified. The next two numbers represent a more specific group within the chapter. The next two numbers allow for further specification.
Exporters in the U.S. are required to know Schedule B numbers of their products because they are needed to complete documents such as Certificates of Origin and Shipper’s Export Declaration. They give you the means to calculate applicable tariff rates, and to check if preferential tariff applies on any of your products.
The website of the U.S. Census Bureau gives you free and easy access to the latest version of Schedule B codes.
The United States Census Bureau, which is part of the Department of Commerce, is responsible for administration of Schedule B. However, the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) administers import codes.
The Harmonized System first saw light of day in 1988. Now, most countries the world over have adopted this system. The Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) came into effect in January 1989. It replaced the then in use Tariff Schedules of the United States (TSUS).
The Harmonized System has gone through various changes since its inception. Revisions have been published in 1996, 2002, 2007, 2012, and 2017.
Here are a few Schedule B codes.
The first two numbers (06) in these codes refer to the chapter (Live trees and other plants; bulbs, roots and the like; cut flowers and ornamental foliage).
The next two numbers (02) identify the group within that chapter (Other live plants (including their roots), cuttings and slips; mushroom spawn).
The third set of two digits offers further specification. In these examples, the codes refer to: