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Although I offer the Freelancer's FAQ information free of charge, I'm finding that the costs of operating a web site are steadily increasing. If you find this information useful, a donation would be gladly appreciated.
Anne W.

Anne Wallingford, WordSmith

 

Freelancer's FAQ



The Harmonization Code and
the Export of U.S. Goods & Services


CAVEAT: The following information is meant as a guideline. Information is based on research as well as specialists at the U.S. Census Bureau. For information, follow the links listed below.

The Harmonization Code and the Export of U.S. Goods & Services

In the last few years, the international community has standardized import and export classifications. This international agreement has led to the development of a Harmonized System of numbering import and export products. This is not a decision made only by the United States, but a decision made by the international business community. And like any governmental ordinance, it is complex.

How does this standardization affect you, the independent contractor or small business owner? When you ship products internationally, you are required to assign the products a code number that complies with the HS (Harmononized System) standard. Any business selling merchandise internationally has to assign a code number to shipped products. This code number is to appear on the invoice along with other standard export/tariff information. (Note: At this time, an individual selling a single item internationally from an auction site sale must complete standard custom forms, but does not have to assign a code number.) Also, if you sell to a U.S. business that in turn sells your product overseas, you may still need to assign a code number to your product. This is so your customer/client will add the correct HS number to its own invoices.

As of June 2003, the assigning of code numbers applies only to products, not to services. In other words, those who sell services (such as editing and writing) internationally do not have to assign a code number to their services. However, this ruling is very likely to change sometime during the next decade as the international coding system is expanded.

To learn more about international trade regulations, go to the Trade Information Center http://www.usitc.gov/tata/hts/. The top right column lists several links to HTS Tools including the Current Tariff Database. The following paragraph comes directly from the Tariff & Tax Information site:
In the U.S., HS (Harmonization System) numbers are also called Schedule B and HS Tariff Classification numbers. To find tariff information for exports of U.S. products, you must identify the HS number for your product up to the six-digit level. If possible, it is recommended that you classify your product to the eight-digit level to ensure proper duty identification.

To summarize:

  1. Any business selling merchandise to an international vendor has to assign a Harmonization System number to shipped products.
  2. Common usage may refer to all HS numbers as “Harmonization Codes.”

Schedule B Export Codes
In the U.S., Schedule B codes are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Census Bureau.

The following information has been taken directly from the Census Bureau's web site, http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/schedules/b/
“There are millions of trade transactions occurring each year. These transactions are classified under approximately 8,000 different products leaving the United States. Every item that is exported is assigned a unique 10-digit identification code. Every 10-digit item is part of a series of progressively broader product categories. For example, concentrated frozen apple juice is assigned a 10-digit identifier that is aggregated into a broader category assigned a 6-digit identifier described as apple juice. The 6-digit identifier described as apple juice is aggregated into a broader category assigned a 4-digit identifier described as fruit juices and vegetable juices, etc. The 4-digit identifier is further aggregated into a broader category assigned a 2-digit identifier described as Preparations of Vegetables, Fruit, Nuts etc.”

What is a HS (Harmonized System) number?

  • Harmonized System (HS) numbers are classification numbers assigned to individual products. The HS number is used by Customs authorities around the world to identify products for the application of duties and taxes. These numbers are typically 6 to 10 digits long. The first 6 digits are standardized worldwide, while additional numbers are used by some governments to further distinguish products in certain categories.
  • In the U.S., HS numbers are also called Schedule B and HS Tariff Classification numbers. To find tariff information for exports of U.S. products, you must identify the HS number for your product up to the six-digit level. If possible, it is recommended that you classify your product to the eight-digit level to ensure proper duty identification.
  • Exporters need to know the HS/Schedule B number for their products for several reasons: The HS number is needed to look up tariff rates; complete the Shipper's Export Declaration; the HS number may be needed on shipping documents, including certificates of origin; and the H.S. number is needed to determine whether a product qualifies for preferential tariff under the North American Free Trade Agreement. HS numbers can also be used for market research purposes, such as identifying foreign markets where your product is currently being exported.

The Census Bureau's Schedule B Search Engine has a number of web-based resources for self-classifying HS numbers for your products. (Use the Census Bureau link above.) After identifying the HS number for your product, visit the Trade Information Center's tariff resource page to begin searching for duty and tax information.

If you have trouble classifying your product and need assistance, call the numbers listed below to speak with a commodity specialist at the U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Division.

  • For durable goods (metals, machinery, computer, electronic and other miscellaneous goods) call: 301-763-3259 (Maryland)
  • For non-durable goods (food, animal, wood, paper, mineral, chemical and textile goods) call: 301-763-3484 (Maryland).
NOTE: From first hand experience, I can state that these specialists will go out of their way to help you find the correct number for your product BUT you need to call while online. The specialists will direct you to various online sites to try and find a code that matches your product.

For other assistance with exporting U.S. products, please contact 1-800-USA-TRADE.


The following example shows how I applied this information on a specific project.

After doing initial research on appropriate sites, I called the Census Bureau division that handles assigning Schedule B (export) and Harmonization Codes (HC) for durable goods to verify my findings.

The Schedule B number for a pre-recorded video, in a cassette, having both sound and video, tape size greater than 6.5 mm but no more than 16 mm. (A half-inch tape is approximately 12.6 mm.): HC 8524.53.1040

The Schedule B number for a CD-ROM with text, sound, and video. (It does not matter if this is an individual CD-ROM or a set.): HC 8524.32.0000

The Schedule B number for a disc for laser reading systems for reproducing data, etc. in a machine readable binary form and capable of being manipulated. (Otherwise known as an educational DVD.): HC 8524.39.4000

The appropriate code number should be printed on all invoices for these products, along with your FEIN and other important business identifiers.


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Friday, August 10, 2007 (Updated Friday, July 17, 2009)