Harmonised Tariff Codes Explained

Go back 19 Jan 2022
packets and parcels post delivery

Tariff codes are very complicated and the categories of the coding system are broken into some very specific classes. These categories are set by the World Customs Organisation (WCO) and are designed to narrow down commodity types and make the process of importing and exporting more efficient.

The tariff codes are also known as HS codes work like so:

  • Digits 1 and 2 relate to the broad categories used to classify your goods
  • Digits 3 and 4 are there to classify your products into subcategories
  • Digits 5 and 6 illustrate the most specific product classifications

As it is an international trade system to help facilitate the import or export of goods there are other commodity codes that individual countries add to import items into their particular jurisdiction. This can make sending mail internationally difficult for many businesses.

As leading experts in the mail handling and international delivery space for small, medium and large businesses across the UK we are well-placed to explain the nuances of HS tariff codes. You will see how our services can help your company when you get in touch with us. We will now drill down the various categories.

HS Tariff Codes and Customs Tariff Categories

The following are the main categories for different types of tariff codes:

  • Aircraft, spacecraft and aircraft or spacecraft parts
  • Albuminoidal substances, which includes caseins and whey protein products
  • Aluminium products
  • Animal or vegetable fats, oils and waxes
  • Arms and ammunition, including weapons and weapon parts
  • Carpets
  • Ceramics
  • Cereals
  • Clocks, watches and related items
  • Cocoa and cocoa products
  • Coffee, tea and spices
  • Copper products
  • Cork products
  • Cotton
  • Dairy products
  • Drinks, spirits and vinegar
  • Electrical machinery and equipment – including TV’s, speakers and accessories
  • Essential oils and resins – such as those in cosmetic products
  • Explosives, pyrotechnics, matches and combustibles
  • Feathers and down products
  • Fertiliser
  • Fish and crustaceans
  • Footwear
  • Fruit and nuts
  • Furniture – broad category that also includes things like mattresses and lamps
  • Furs and artificial fur
  • Glass products
  • Gums and resins – such as vegetable saps
  • Headgear
  • Industrial textiles
  • Inorganic chemicals – from precious metals to radioactive isotopes
  • Iron and steel
  • Iron or steel products
  • Items made of stone, plaster, cement, and similar materials
  • Knitted or crocheted accessories
  • Knitted or crocheted clothes
  • Knitted or crocheted fabric
  • Lead products
  • Leather products, such as saddles, handbags and similar items
  • Live animals
  • Meat
  • Metal ores, slag and ash
  • Milling products, such as wheat
  • Mineral fuel, mineral oil and waxes
  • Miscellaneous animal products
  • Miscellaneous base metal products
  • Miscellaneous chemical products
  • Miscellaneous manufactured products
  • Miscellaneous pre-prepared foods
  • Miscellaneous textile articles, such as rags
  • Musical instruments, including accessories and parts such as strings
  • Nickel products
  • Nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances
  • Oil, seeds and oily fruits
  • Optical, photographic, cinematographic, measuring, checking, precision, medical or surgical instruments – such as a microscope or stethoscope
  • Organic chemicals
  • Other base metals products
  • Paper and paperboard
  • Pearls, precious or semi-precious stones, precious metals, non-precious metals clad with precious metal on them (such as jewellery) and coins
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Photographic or cinematographic items
  • Plastic products
  • Pre-prepared cereals, flour, starch or milk products
  • Pre-prepared meat, fish or crustaceans
  • Pre-prepared vegetables, fruit, nuts or other plant items
  • Printed media including books, manuscripts and magazines
  • Railway or tramway locomotives, rolling-stock and traffic signalling equipment
  • Raw hides, skins and leather
  • Rubber products 
  • Salt, sulphur, gypsum and other materials – such as lime and cement
  • Sewing thread of synthetic origin
  • Ships, boats and floating vehicles
  • Silk
  • Soap, lubricants, waxes, polishes, candles and similar products
  • Straw, basket ware and wickerwork
  • Sugars
  • Synthetic staple fibres
  • Tanning or dyeing product, including varnish, ink and putty
  • Tapestries and embroidery
  • Tin products
  • Tobacco and tobacco-related products
  • Tools, implements, cutlery, spoons and forks made from base metal
  • Toys, games and sports equipment
  • Trees and plants
  • Umbrellas, walking sticks, whips, riding-crops and other items
  • Vegetable plaiting materials, like bamboo
  • Vegetable textile fibres
  • Vegetables and roots
  • Vehicles – not railway-related
  • Wadding, felt, twine, cords, ropes and cable
  • Waste residues from the food industry, such as animal fodder
  • Wood pulp, paper and paperboard-derived products
  • Wooden items, including things like charcoal
  • Wool, animal hair, yarn and woven fabric
  • Works of art, antiques, collectors’ pieces
  • Zinc products

It is a comprehensive list! And when you add on the extra product-specific tariff classifications, and country-specific customs duty numbers they can become very convoluted and confusing.

How Do You Lookup Trade Tariff Codes?

A man holding a phone

You can look up the different tariff codes by using the code lookup tool provided by the UK government. Check out the official tool provided to businesses on their ‘Trade Tariff’ page, which will help you to do the following:

  1. Fill in paperwork for imports and exports
  2. Determine if there are any fees and taxes (sometimes called duties) for your items
  3. See if you qualify for exemptions from duties, there is a relief for some products

The implications of leaving the European Union has meant that many UK companies face challenges from tariff codes and other issues. Please take a look at our ‘Helpful information on Brexit’ page for more details.

Get Help With Tariff Codes for Your Mail

Classifying goods for international distribution is a legal duty and must be done correctly to avoid shipment delays, fines and reputational damage to your company. Whether you sell hundreds or millions of products, tariff codes are vital to global shipping.

There is no need to spend your time worrying about HS tariff codes, we can lookup the codes on your behalf. We can handle the tariff codes for your eCommerce or other business if you use our mail handling service, please get in touch with us to learn more.