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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  describes 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, thesee are expected to move to 10 digits in the future.
  • Imported goods into the UK use a 10 digit HS Code.

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
  • Material used to make it
  • Production method and what it will be used for

Some examples of acceptable and unacceptable product descriptions 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

Why should your client provide a 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
  • 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. 

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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