How Do You Read the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States?


Quick Answer

The Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States consists of 99 hierarchically structured chapters, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission. All items are classified according to an eight-digit U.S. rate line and a 10-digit statistical reporting category.

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Full Answer

U.S. Customs and Border Protection advises importers to begin by finding the chapter into which their item falls. For example, Section I of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule provided by the U.S. International Trade Commission is for live animals or animal products, and Chapter 1 of that section is for live animals. Those importing live animals use the eight- and 10-digit tariff classifications that begin with "01." If the item doesn't fall into this category, the importer should continue to move through the sections to find the correct chapter for the item.

Every chapter of the tariff schedule begins with chapter notes that provide guidance for classification within the chapter, the Trade Commission indicates. But U.S. Customs warns that classification of items is difficult and nuanced work that specialists often spend years researching. Import specialists are available through the agency by phone or email to provide classifications. The agency can provide binding rulings to classify an item definitively and determine the rate of duty. Importers who incorrectly classify items can be subject to fines and penalties.

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