A tariff number is the six-digit code assigned to an import or to an export from the United States. These codes are based the general category that describes the item being shipped. Assigning a tariff number is an important part of the responsibilities of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTS). A tariff number may also be known as the Harmonized System number.
Trade is almost as old as human civilization itself, and international trade is a crucial part of nearly every country’s economy. As technology progressively makes our world smaller, international trade has become increasingly more a part of each nation’s economic revenue. Often, a country’s international trade comes with an extensive set of regulations based on the political and economic relations between the two countries making the trade.
The United States International Trade Commission (ITC) is an independent federal agency that advises the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. Federal Government on all aspects of international economic intercourse. Congress created the ITC in 1916, and gave it extensive investigative power on all matters of trade. In 1989, the ITC created the Harmonized Tariff Schedule, basing it on the World Customs Organization’s international Harmonized Commodity Coding and Classification System. In fact, nearly all countries have a tariff schedule based on the Harmonized System. This has made international trade much more efficient.
The Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States is a two-volume government publication that is also available in several electronic formats. It is divided into 99 chapters, each with a number of headings and subheadings. Although there are no hard and fast rules, in general, raw or very basic materials appear in the early chapters, while highly processed or manufactured goods can be found later. The Harmonized Schedule assigns each good a tariff number based on its classification of use as well as the material it is made of. For example, agricultural products can be found in chapters one through twenty-four.
As long as there has been trade, there have been tariffs, which is a tax that is put on a good when it moves from one country to another. The tariff number of an import classifies the goods based on several characteristics, including the use of the item or the materials it is made from. In fact, over 17,000 tariff numbers may be assigned to an import. These codes are then used to classify goods for duty, quota or statistical purposes.