Frequently Asked Questions

Exporting Basics: Trade Terms

What coding systems are used to classify products for export and import?

The most widely used trade classification codes are the Harmonized System (HS) Code, a universal standard; the Schedule B and Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUSA) codes used by the United States; and the Standard International Trade Classification (SITC) used by the United Nations.

The HS Codes were developed in 1989 by more than 60 countries to provide a uniform numbering system. The HS system allows everyone to use a single code for a commodity, which helps with duty calculation and statistical reporting. The first 6 digits of an HS number are the same regardless of country. The HS number can be as long as 10 digits (each country can add up to 4 more digits for internal purposes.

The 10-digit Schedule B and HTSUSA codes start with the first 6 digits of the HS codes and are required entries on U.S. export (Shipper’s Export Declaration) and import documents, respectively.

The SITC system was developed by the United Nations in 1950 and is used solely by international organizations for reporting international trade. The SITC has been revised several times; the current version is Revision 3.

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