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3.1 Tariff Classification and the HTSUS

All goods that enter the US are categorised according to the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the US (HTSUS). USITC maintains and publishes the HTSUS, but CBP is responsible for interpreting and enforcing it. Embargoes, anti-dumping duties, countervailing duties and other very specific matters administered by the executive branch are not contained in the HTSUS.

The act of placing goods into the correct category is called classification. Classification determines how much duty will be collected. Classification requires the application of the General Rules of Interpretation; the HTSUS section, chapter, and subheading notes; and the HTSUS Explanatory Notes. The US importer is responsible for properly classifying his or her merchandise before entry.

The HTSUS comprises a hierarchical structure for describing all goods in trade for duty, quota, and statistical purposes. This structure is based upon the international Harmonised Commodity Description and Coding System (HS) administered by the World Customs Organisation (WCO). The four- and six-digit HS product categories are subdivided into unique eight-digit US duty rate lines and 10-digit non-legal statistical reporting categories. Classification of goods in this system must be done in accordance with the General and Additional US Rules of Interpretation, starting at the four-digit heading level to find the most specific provision and then moving to the subordinate categories.

The HTSUS is divided into almost 100 chapters, grouped by product type. If you already know the HTSUS subheading, or code number, for your product, go to the chapter number that is the first two digits of the subheading.

  • Example 1: For caviar, which is classified under HTSUS subheading 1604.30.20, go to chapter 16.
  • Example 2: For fresh, unprocessed sturgeon roe, which is classified under HTSUS subheading 0302.70.20, go to chapter 3.

If you do not know the HTSUS subheading, see the alphabetical index at the end of the schedule.

The HTSUS is available from the Government Printing Office (GPO) in hardcopy form (to order, go to http://bookstore.gpo.gov) or on-line at the USITC’s Web site (http://www.usitc.gov/tata/hts/index.htm).

The HTSUS can also be inspected at the USTR Reading Room in Washington, DC; field offices of the Department of Commerce; and US embassies or consulates.

Content provided by Hong Kong Trade Development Council
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