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HS Code

HS codes are developed by the World Customs Organization (WCO). HS stands for Harmonized System and identifies product categories and products with a standardized two- to six-digit nomenclature.

The first two digits of the code indicate the product category. The next four to six digits indicate the subcategories the product fits into. These codes can be changed every five years by the WCO.

Countries can add digits to identify products even more specifically, taking the code up to 10 digits. These additional country-specific codes can be changed at any time by the country using them. The eight- or 10-digit HS Code used by a country is called a “tariff line.”

Entrepreneurs preparing to export goods need to fill out Canadian exporting forms using the Canadian HS code for the export products. The country importing the goods might have a different classification (HS Code) for that same product in its tariff schedule.

When a product is new and has not been assigned an HS code—or fits into multiple HS categories—exporters should contact the customs agency of the country they’re exporting to and find out what code to use and what tariff applies.

More about HS codes

The following example shows how HS codes are applied to livestock—in this case, horses:

Standard WCO nomenclature is as follows:

  • 01 Live animals
  • 01.01 Live horses, asses, mules and hinnies
  • 0101.21 Horses – Purebred breeding animals
  • 0101.29 Horses – Other
  • 0101.30 Asses
  • 0101.90 Other

On its tariff schedule, Canada subdivides category 010129 into three as follows:

  • 0101.29.10 Horses – For slaughter
  • 0101.29.20 Horses – For racing
  • 0101.29.90 Horses – Other

Korea subdivides category 010129 differently:

  • 0101.29.10 Horses – For racing
  • 0101.29.90 Horses – Other

Check out the Canada Tariff Finder, a free tool that allows Canadian exporters to find the tariffs applicable to a specific good in a foreign market.

Related definitions

Find out more in our glossary