Importance of the HTSUS in the Import/Export Industry

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The Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States, aka the HTSUS or HTS, is an important manual used in just about every import or export transaction that occurs. Sometimes known as the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSA), this government-issued document is created by the Office of Trade Affairs and Trade Agreements of the USITC and is regulated by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency.

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The History of the HTSUS

The primary responsibility of the HTS is to dictate the tariffs, duties, and statistical categories for merchandise being imported into the United States. The national system that is used in this country is modeled off the International Harmonized System, which is used to categorize most of the world’s trade. The HS was introduced in 1988 by the World Customs Organization (WCO) and has since been adopted by most countries. From there, individual countries, such as the United States, have created their own versions to keep track of domestic imports.

Congress enacted the HTSUS in 1989, replacing the former Tariff Schedules to this uniform version. Companies can refer to the most recent version of this document to double check the current amount or classification of the goods they are importing. This can help them be aware of any tariffs that may be imposed or duties that will be required to successfully import their merchandise. To make things easier for domestic and international importers, the HS and the HTS classifications typically match up to the 6-digit level.

The HTSUS Explained

While it may seem confusing at first, the Harmonized Tariff Schedule can actually be quite easy to understand. The system is designed so that all traded goods are classified by their material composition, intended function, and/or the product name. Each article falls into only one category, and the document is thoroughly divided into chapters designated with a 2-digit number. The corresponding product categories are then identified with a specific digit number. Chapters designated by 4-digits are known as headings; chapters designated by 6, 8-, and 10-digits are known as subheadings.

While this guide is stylized and distributed by the United States International Trade Commission (USITC), only the CBP is authorized to offer legally binding advice or rulings on the classification of imports. Our Customs Brokers’ always take the time to read the newest edition of the HTS to ensure their advice is relevant and accurate.

The CBP uses the system developed by the USITC to classify imported merchandise. Since just about every single good you can think of has been classified. Over 10,000 subheadings can be referred to in order to confirm the duty of that product. Ultimately, the goal is for importers to find the product’s corresponding classification code in order to determine the up-to-date duty rate that will need to be paid in order to successfully import that item.

Updates to the HTS

You may have heard plenty of buzz about the HTS or may be in the process of updating your own copy, as the newest version of the HTSUS was released late April 2018. This copy, which is the third revision of the version, released January 1st, 2018, details some modifications that may be relevant to some importers.

When going through the change record, you will note that the products are listed using their classification numbers, so it is important to familiarize yourself with the codes relevant to your merchandise. If you find yourself confused or unsure how to read the new changes, one of our licensed Customs Brokers can help!

Navigate Duties and Taxes Like a Pro

We understand that not all companies with import/export needs have the time or background to fully understand relevant Customs laws. Documents like the Harmonized Tariff Schedule can be difficult to navigate without prior knowledge or a basic understanding of the CBP’s system. Promptus LLC is dedicated to providing expert assistance to companies large and small with a variety of global logistics needs. Contact us today to receive your free quote for our services.