Customs tariffs for import and export

How to classify your products

The Harmonized System of the World Customs Organization aims to make international goods traffic easier. However, classifying products and the formalities of customs clearance in import and export seem very complex at first sight. The following explanations are meant to familiarise you with the Harmonized System and provide you with an overview of customs tariffs.

What is the Harmonized System?

The Harmonized System (HS) of the World Customs Organization describes and classifies all goods that may be shipped within the framework of international trade. An HS code (sometimes HTS code) determines the customs and tax rate due for the respective goods. For international trade, the goods must therefore be declared with the right code. Find out more about how this works in the FAQ section below.


How does the Harmonized System work?

The HS coding system classifies 5,300 products and articles with 6-digit numbers as well as descriptions structured into headings and subheadings. The numbers and descriptions form the basis for further national classification in the respective countries of exportation. Ideally, all signatories of the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System use the same HS codes, headings and subheadings for specific goods. However, time and again, conflicts occur since not all countries apply the rules in the same way.

Along with the increasing complexity of products, knowledge gaps with regard to technical aspects of certain goods and historical particularities, country-specific variations lead to complicated, inconsistent and sometimes risky differences in classification, making navigation significantly more difficult.

Who is responsible for correct goods classification?

The legal responsibility for correct goods classification lies with the importer or exporter. BARTH+CO reports the data to customs authorities on behalf of the customer.

What happens if HS classification was carried out incorrectly?

Incorrect product classification might incur an incorrect tax rate. If it is too low, subsequent customs and tax payment will fall due. In the worst case, goods could be seized or even destroyed by tax authorities.
If goods are charged with excessive customs tariffs or tax rates due to incorrect goods classification, the customer bears the higher costs to begin with. A subsequent application for reimbursement is possible, yet frequently complicated, since the reasons for the retroactive change and refunding of customs fees and tax must be completely corroborated and clearly sound.

The correct classification of customs tariffs and tax rates requires comprehensive expertise and experience. At BARTH+CO, we have been specialising in global freight transport for more than 60 years. Our customs experts offer extensive consulting in the HS classification of your goods to ensure that they are correctly declared for import and export, crossing borders without a hitch.

How can BARTH+CO support you?

Our customs team is familiar with all regulations and requirements of the Harmonized System and can provide support in classifying your goods. We will be happy to discuss how we can best advise and support you. Give us a call. We look forward to hearing from you.

Frequently asked questions

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