Date Published: January 20, 2024

In the United States, a tariff code is a specific number used to classify goods for import and export purposes. It’s officially known as the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) code. The code is important for anyone who plans import goods into the United States. Knowing the code is required when applying for an Activity 1 (importer) U.S. Customs Bond. 

Here are the common situations when you’ll need a tariff code:

Importing goods into the US:

  • Customs clearance: To clear goods through customs, you’ll need to provide the correct tariff codes on import documents like the customs declaration. This allows customs officials to assess the applicable duties and taxes.tariff code
  • Determining duty rates: Tariff codes are essential for calculating the correct duty rates that apply to your imported goods.
  • Ensuring compliance with trade regulations: Using the correct codes demonstrates compliance with US trade laws and regulations, helping to avoid potential issues or penalties.

Exporting goods from the U.S.:

  • Statistical tracking: They are used to track and compile US export statistics, which are used for various purposes, including trade negotiations and economic analysis.
  • Compliance with free trade agreements: If you’re exporting to countries with which the US has free trade agreements, the tariff code might be necessary to claim preferential tariff treatment and reduce or eliminate duties.

Other specific scenarios:

  • Applying for trade licenses or permits: Some goods may require specific licenses or permits for import or export. They are often needed for these applications.
  • Filing trade-related claims or disputes: If you need to file a claim or dispute related to a trade transaction, tariff codes can be used to identify the goods involved accurately.
  • Even if not strictly mandatory for every international shipment, using tariff codes is highly recommended due to the following benefits:
    • Streamlined customs clearance: Providing the codes can help expedite the customs clearance process, leading to faster processing of your shipments.
    • Accurate duty and tax assessment: Ensures that you pay the correct amount of duties and taxes, avoiding potential underpayment or overpayment issues.
    • Compliance with trade regulations: Helps demonstrate your adherence to trade rules and regulations, reducing the risk of penalties or delays.
    • Improved trade statistics: Contributes to accurate trade data collection, which is essential for various purposes, including economic analysis and policy decisions

Here’s a breakdown of key points about tariff codes:

  • Purpose:
    • Identifying goods accurately for customs duties and taxes
    • Gathering trade statistics
    • Enforcing trade regulations
    • Complying with free trade agreements
    • Conducting market research
  • Basis:
    • Harmonized System (HS), a global standardized system managed by the World Customs Organization
  • Structure of the Tariff Code in the US:
    • 10-digit code
    • First 6 digits: HS code, consistent internationally
    • Last 4 digits: specific to US trade
  • Importance of the tariff code
    • Determining correct tariff rates
    • Ensuring compliance with trade laws
    • Avoiding delays and penalties
  • How to find the correct tariff code:
  • Key points to remember:
    • Accurate tariff codes are essential for smooth import and export processes.
    • Using incorrect codes can lead to delays, penalties, and additional costs.
    • Seek professional guidance if unsure about the appropriate code for your goods. is a service of AssuredPartners one of the largest and fastest growing insurance agencies in the nation. Representing over a dozen surety bond companies, is the premier online provider of surety bonds nationwide since 2003.

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