In this article we look at how many trade compliance professionals approach HS classification. We will not cover the general rules of interpretation of the harmonized system in this article, instead we will look at a typical workflow used by someone who is trying to quickly make a decision of what HS code to use for a product. This is not a complaint solution by any measure, but very often gets the job done!

A search on Google can give a lot of insight regarding the HS classification of a product. However, using search modifiers will yield better results. Including some specific terms can also give more relevant results. Let’s use an example as a case study.

If you were trying to assign a HS code to a product like a 3D printer, could start by searching – “3d printer HS code”. 

  1. Looking at the first few results on Google, you can see that Headings 8477 and 8443 should be considered.
  2. Next, search Google with a modifying term – “3d printer cross ruling”, this would focus the search for any rulings available from the US. You could also search the CROSS database directly if you wish.
  3. This search does throw up a few results. It is worthwhile to click into the links and read the contents of the ruling, as it may give you an idea of how similar the product is to the one you are trying to classify. It seems like 8479 is also a possible Heading to look into.
  4. Sometimes, due to product differences you may find yourself looking are multiple options.
  5. Now study the shipping documents of the product. You may find a HS code mentioned somewhere!
  6. Now that you have a list of possible HS codes, you can narrow down the classification process significantly.
  7. Read the chapter descriptions for these Headings and look carefully for inclusions, exclusions and definitions that relate to your product.
  8. Now apply the classification rules – keep in mind that you must classify something in a more specific Heading or Sub-Heading instead of a generic one. You must also consider the essential character of the product, In this case, the essential character of the product is the printing capability and not the accessories it may come with.
  9. You should be in a reasonably good position to decide on the HS code by now.

A final note

This “short cut” method only really works if the trader is already competent in HS classification and very familiar with the process of how HS codes are assigned to products. It must be kept in mind that since the GRIs are not applied in a common-sensical way, it is risky to decide on a HS code using rationalization or logic. For example, it would be unsafe to decide to classify a 3d printer as manufacturing equipment since it can be used to product products. It is also important to check for local rulings on products especially if the import volume of the product is high. You may even need to apply for a ruling to be safe. This is done to ensure that the company does not run into more complicated problems in future that involve duty drawback and penalties.

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