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What is a HS Code and why are they used for International Deliveries?

Harmonization System Codes or HS Codes

Developed by the World Customs Organization as a multipurpose International product nomenclature, to describe the type of goods that is shipped.

Customs officers in countries around the world must use HS Code information to clear every commodity, that enters or crosses any international borders

  • Exported goods outside of the UK currently consist of 8 digits, these are expected to move to 10 digits in the future.
  • Imported goods into the UK use a 10 digit HS Code.
  • New HS codes came into effect in January 2022, if your business imports or exports goods or are involved in cross border transactions, it might be worth a review to ensure the right HS codes are being used.  

Product Descriptions for HS Codes

Product description should be as detailed as possible to avoid the parcel being held by customs:

  • The type of product
  • The material used to make it
  • Production method and what it will be used for

Some examples of acceptable and unacceptable product descriptions are below:

Bad Product Descriptions

Good Product Descriptions


Men's knitted jumper, 70% cotton, 30% polyester


HP Pavilion 14-ce1509sa 14" Intel Core i3 Laptop


Ladies leather shoe

What has changed with the 2022 update to the HS Codes?

Every 5 years the WCO review the codes to ensure the codes stay relevant to the current technology changes and products and production levels. HS codes are then categorised to remove codes that have become obsolete and add new codes for newer or higher-interest items. Review the new HS2022 codes.

Why should your client provide their HS Code?

Provision of the Trade Tariff Code (HS Code) is requested for commercial items to help in the customs clearance process.

This is because the Trade Tariff Code lets the destination country know electronically what is in the item, enabling accurate Customs charging and simplified Customs clearance.

If the Trade Tariff Code is not completed or completed incorrectly then the wrong charges could be applied, or in some cases, Customs authorities may take the following actions

  • Stop the parcel and examine it delaying its journey
  • The item may be completely rejected by Customs
  • Customs send the items back
  • Customs could destroy the goods
  • Your client may Incur additional return and handling costs

It is the responsibility of the sending customer to ensure HS Codes are supplied in the data, this is not the responsibility of your parcel carrier. Businesses should review their customs classification policy and identify if any changes are needed based on HS 2022.

HS Code Help & Support

Trade Tariff: look up commodity codes, duty and VAT rates


HMRC classification of goods



How to ask HMRC for advice

  1. Please send one email for each of the goods they are asking advice on, failure to do this could cause rejection.
  2. Email the Tariff Classification Service: classification.enquiries@hmrc.gov.uk for non-legally binding advice on classifying your goods.
  3. HMRC aim to reply to emails within 5 working days. This could take longer if they have a high number of requests.​​​​​

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