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  • Sneha Gosavi

Commodity Code Check and HS Code Differentiation: Key Takeaways from 2024


Ever dreamt of being an international trade whiz? Well, buckle up because understanding commodity codes is your first step to import/export mastery!


These aren't some secret codes for spies (although that would be cool), but rather universally recognized product ID numbers. Think of them like a special passport for your goods, allowing them to travel seamlessly across borders.

Commodity Code

What are Commodity Codes?

Commodity codes are internationally recognized reference numbers assigned to specific products for customs purposes. The most widely used system is the Harmonized System (HS), a six-digit code developed by the World Customs Organization (WCO). The UK, like most countries, builds upon the HS code with additional digits to create a more detailed classification system.

Why are Commodity Codes Important?

Imagine you're sending a box of handcrafted leather wallets overseas. A commodity code tells customs exactly what that box holds. This is crucial because it determines:

  • Customs Duties & Taxes:  Think of it as a tollbooth for your goods. The code dictates the fee you pay.

  • Special Deals:  Certain trade agreements offer sweet discounts on import/export taxes. The code unlocks these perks!

  • Legal Stuff:  Are there any restrictions on your product? The code gives customs a heads up for any necessary licenses or checks.

Benefits of Knowing Your Commodity Code:

  • Save Time & Money: No delays at customs thanks to a clear product ID. Plus, you won't get hit with unexpected fees.

  • Trade Like a Boss: Knowing the code empowers you to find opportunities for reduced taxes and special trade agreements.

  • Peace of Mind:  Avoid any confusion or hold-ups at the border. A clear code ensures a smooth journey for your goods.

What is the UK Tariff?

The UK Tariff is a comprehensive guide that outlines import duty rates, Value Added Tax (VAT), and Excise rates for a wide range of goods. It also serves as a valuable resource for businesses and individuals involved in international trade by providing crucial import/export information.

  • Import Duty and Excise Rates:  Find out the exact amount of duty you need to pay for your imported goods. The UK Tariff provides clear and concise information on duty rates for various product categories.

  • VAT Rates:  Stay informed about VAT applicability and rates for imported goods. Not all products are subject to VAT, and the UK Tariff helps you determine the VAT status of your imports.

  • Import and Export Controls:   Ensure compliance with import and export regulations. The UK Tariff details any restrictions or controls that may apply to specific products.

  • Rules of Origin:   Understand the preferential and non-preferential rules of origin to determine if your goods qualify for reduced duty rates under any trade agreements the UK has with other countries.

How to find or check a commodity code in the UK Tariff


To find or check a commodity code in the UK Tariff, follow these steps:


1. Access the UK Trade Tariff: Go to the UK government's official website for the UK Trade Tariff. The website is managed by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

2. Navigate to the Trade Tariff: Locate the search bar on the UK Trade Tariff website. You can find this at the top of the page.

3. Enter Your Product Description: Type in a description of the product you want to find the commodity code for. Be as specific as possible to get accurate results.

4.  Search for the Commodity Code: Click on the search icon or press Enter on your keyboard to search for the commodity code related to your product description.

5. Review the Search Results: Browse through the search results to find the most relevant match for your product. The results will include a list of commodity codes along with descriptions that match your search query.

6. Select the Correct Commodity Code: Identify the commodity code that best matches your product description. Click on the code to view more details.

7.Check the Description and Duty Rate: Verify that the description of the product and the associated duty rate match your product. This information will help you determine if you have selected the correct commodity code.

8.Note the Commodity Code: Once you have confirmed the correct commodity code for your product, make a note of it for future reference. You may need this code when completing import or export documentation.

9. Review the Guidance Notes: Before finalizing the commodity code, review the guidance notes provided on the UK Trade Tariff website. These notes provide additional information and guidance on how to use the tariff.

10. Contact HMRC for Assistance: If you are unsure about the commodity code or need further assistance, you can contact HMRC directly for help. They will be able to provide you with guidance on finding the correct code for your product.

By following these steps, you can find or check a commodity code in the UK Tariff for your product.


Finding commodity codes for imports into or exports out of the UK


In the realm of international trade, the correct classification of goods is paramount. It ensures smooth operations, compliance with regulations, and accurate assessment of duties and taxes. One crucial aspect of this classification is the commodity code, a standardized system used to categorize goods for import and export purposes. In the United Kingdom, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) plays a pivotal role in providing guidance and support for this process.


Material-Based Search: A practical approach to finding the right commodity code is to search for products based on the material they are made from. For example, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) gloves can be in the 'Rubber' section. This method helps streamline your search and guides you to the correct classification more efficiently.


HMRC Guidance: HMRC helps through its Tariff Classification Service. By seeking informal advice, you can contact this service for a quick and non-binding decision on the classification of your goods. They aim to respond within 5 working days, providing valuable insights to help you correctly classify your products.


Formal Decision: For those seeking a formal, legally binding decision, HMRC offers the option to request an Advance Tariff ruling. While this process may take between 30 and 60 days and could require specialist advice, it provides certainty and clarity regarding the correct classification of your goods.


External Advice: In cases where further assistance is needed, the Import Export Hub can provide support. They can assist you in obtaining a quote for external advice, which may be necessary for goods that are complex or unique in nature.


Correct classification of goods not only ensures compliance with regulations but also helps prevent delays or issues with customs. By following these steps and seeking the right advice, you can navigate commodity codes with confidence and ensure smooth international trade operations.


Accurate classification of goods using the correct commodity code is crucial for smooth customs clearance, accurate duty calculation, and regulatory compliance. By understanding the classification process and utilizing the available resources, businesses can navigate the complexities of international trade more effectively.

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