HomeBusinessNavigating the US HTS Code Lookup: A Guide for New Importers

Navigating the US HTS Code Lookup: A Guide for New Importers

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Importing goods into the United States involves a crucial step – determining the correct Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) code for your products. The HTS code is a numerical classification system used to identify and categorize goods for customs and trade purposes. For new importers, this process can be daunting, but with the right approach, it becomes more manageable. Here are some essential tips to streamline the US HTS code lookup process.

Understanding the Basics

Before delving into the lookup process, it’s crucial to understand the basics of the HTS code system. The code consists of numerical values that range from 2 to 10 digits, with each digit carrying specific information about the product. The first six digits are globally standardized, while the last four digits are country-specific, providing a detailed classification at the national level. Entry codes are very important when it comes to importing goods.

Use the US International Trade Commission (USITC) Resources

The USITC is a valuable resource for importers, offering various tools and publications to assist in the HTS code lookup process. The USITC’s online database provides access to the full HTS schedule, enabling importers to search for specific codes based on keywords or product descriptions. Additionally, the USITC’s “Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated for Statistical Reporting Purposes” is a comprehensive guide that can aid importers in code determination.

Consult with Customs Brokers and Trade Professionals

Navigating the complexities of HTS codes can be challenging, especially for those new to importing. Engaging with customs brokers or trade professionals can provide invaluable assistance. These experts have a wealth of experience in classifying goods and can offer insights into specific industry nuances. While there may be associated costs, the time and potential tariff savings make this investment worthwhile.

Thoroughly Review Product Descriptions

A critical aspect of the HTS code lookup process is ensuring accurate product descriptions. Small variations in the description can lead to the selection of an incorrect code, potentially resulting in customs delays or additional duties. Take the time to carefully review product specifications and consult any available industry standards to enhance the accuracy of your code selection.

Consider Tariff Engineering

Tariff engineering involves modifying a product to achieve a more favorable tariff classification. While this strategy requires a deep understanding of both the product and the HTS system, it can lead to significant cost savings. Importers should assess whether adjustments to a product’s composition or design could result in a more advantageous tariff classification. Be aware, though, that falsifying a code is a crime and can lead to fines, so make sure to consult a professional before attempting this.

Stay Informed about Updates and Changes

The world of international trade is dynamic, with tariff codes subject to periodic updates and changes. It’s crucial for importers to stay informed about these modifications to ensure ongoing compliance. Regularly check for updates from relevant authorities and industry publications to stay ahead of any adjustments that may impact your product classification.

Document Your Classification Process

Maintain detailed records of your HTS code determination process. This documentation serves as a crucial resource in case of audits or disputes with customs authorities. Clearly outline the reasoning behind your code selections and keep a record of any consultations with customs professionals to demonstrate your commitment to compliance.


The US HTS code lookup process can be intricate, but with a systematic approach and the utilization of available resources, new importers can navigate it successfully. By understanding the basics, leveraging tools, seeking expert advice, and staying informed, importers can streamline the classification process and ensure compliance with customs regulations.

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