Are HS/HTS codes universal?

According to the World Customs Organization, the governing body for Harmonized system, “Harmonized system is the universal economic language and code for goods and an indispensable tool for international trade”. HS codes are recognized in 98 percent of international trade.

HS code is a six-digit classification used world over to identify the tax rates and duty for specific types of internationally traded goods. These numbers are used for referencing the classification with vendors, customers and anyone outside the country.

Many countries (including the US), add additional digits to the HS code to further classify goods in different categories. These digits are unique to every country.

The Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) is the 10-digit classification system specific to the US. HTS codes are administered by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC). These codes help in estimating the customs duties you will need to pay upon importing a product into the US.

The first six digits of the HTS code are the HS code and the last four digits are unique. Every US importer must use this code.

For example, HTS code for candied nuts is 1704.90.1000.

1704: sugar confectionery (including white chocolate), not containing cocoa

1704.90 (HS Code): Confections or sweetmeats ready for consumption

1704.90.1000: Candied nuts (10 is the US subheading of the HS code and determines duty rates; last two digits stand for statistical suffix, which is not applicable in this case)

1704.90 stands for ready to eat confections and sweetmeats across the world. 1704.90.1000 refers to candied nuts being imported into US.