Navigating Customs Duties: The Importance of HTS Codes

When importing goods into the United States, understanding the HTS code system is crucial for a smooth customs clearance process. This article aims to guide you through the intricacies of HTS codes and how to correctly identify them to avoid complications.

What Are HTS Codes?

HTS codes, or Harmonized Tariff Schedule codes, are ten-digit identifiers used by U.S. Customs and the International Trade Commission to classify imported products. These codes offer insights into applicable taxes and customs duties, as well as any restrictions on the product.

Why Correct HTS Codes Are Crucial

Choosing the right HTS code is vital for several reasons:

  1. Customs Charges: The HTS code determines the customs duties applicable to the product. For instance, the HTS code 9506.62.80 is for inflatable balls and specifies a 4.8% import duty.
  2. Country-Specific: HTS codes are exclusive to the United States. Using them for imports to other countries can lead to errors.
  3. Legal Obligations: Incorrectly classifying goods can result in penalties and delays.

Steps to Determine Your HTS Code

  1. Know Your Product: Familiarize yourself with the product’s characteristics.
  2. Go Chapter by Chapter: Start by identifying the relevant chapter for your product in the HS classification codes.
  3. Consult Chapter Notes: These provide additional guidance.
  4. Use HTS Search Tools: Available on the International Trade Commission’s website.
  5. Compare and Choose: Select the most accurate code.
  6. Follow General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs): These are available on the ITC website.

HTS Code Structure

The HTS code is a 10-digit number broken down into five parts, each providing specific information. The first six digits are universal and part of the HS code system, while the remaining four are specific to the U.S.

HTS Code vs. HS Code vs. Schedule B

  • HTS Code: Specific to the U.S., 10-digit format.
  • HS Code: Used internationally, 6-digit format.
  • Schedule B: Used for exports from the U.S., 10-digit format.

Avoiding HTS Code Issues

  1. Know Who Provides the HTS Code: Either the eCommerce company or the freight forwarder usually provides it.
  2. Choose the Correct Code: Always verify the code to avoid penalties.


  • What do HTS Codes Do?: They help in classifying imported goods for tax and customs purposes.
  • Can HTS Codes Classify Exports?: No, Schedule B codes are used for exports.
  • Where to Find HTS Codes?: They can be found on the World Customs Organization website.


Understanding HTS codes is essential for anyone importing goods into the United States. Incorrect classification can lead to penalties and other issues. If you’re unsure, consult experts like Ningqu for guidance.

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