An HS or HTS code stands for Harmonized System or Harmonized Tariff Schedule. Customs officers use HS codes (also called commodity codes) to clear every commodity that enters or crosses any international borders. In the European Union, they are defined by the Customs Tariff, also called Combined Nomenclature.
Customs Tariff 2021: what’s new?
Just as it does every year, the 8-digit Combined Nomenclature which defines customs tariffs within the European Union evolves to meet the reality of international trade. The latest edition which came into force on 1st January 2021 demonstrates that Covid-19 has had an effect: there are many nomenclature changes around sanitary equipment (Personal Protective Equipment or medical devices) and also vaccines.
In particular, there are changes and innovations in the following chapters:
- Chapter 5: Other products of animal origin, not elsewhere specified or included.
★Changes are for red railroads.
- Chapter 28: Inorganic Chemicals; Inorganic or organic compounds of precious metals, of radioactive elements, of rare earth metals or of isotopes
★ Changes concern phosphors.
- Chapter 30: Pharmaceuticals
★ Changes concern vaccines.
- Chapter 39: Plastics and articles thereof, rubber and articles thereof.
★Concerns face shields and protective visors.
- Chapter 44: Wood and Articles of Wood, Wood Charcoal
★ Changes concern eucalyptus wood and others.
- Chapter 63: Other made-up textile articles, sets, worn textile articles and rags.
★ This is for protective masks FFP and others.
- Chapter 85: Electrical machinery and equipment and parts thereof; sound recorders and reproducers, television image and sound recorders and reproducers, and parts and accessories of such articles.
★ Changes concern laminated sheets and cores, and others.
- Chapter 90: Optical, photographic, cinematographic, measuring, checking, precision, medical and surgical instruments and apparatus; parts and accessories thereof.
★ Changes specifically relate to ventilation equipment, gas masks and breathing apparatus.
How can you secure your customs codes in 2021?
Check for changes in the 2021 Customs Tariff
Easily identify what’s new in the 2021 Customs Tariff :
Search (ctrl + f) for the ★ or ■ symbol in the 2021 Customs Tariff PDF :
★ designates the new customs code numbers
■ designates code numbers that were used in the previous year but with different content.
You can also use the XLSX version, and search for
Work out the customs code for your goods on RITA
The RITA (Integrated Automated Tariff Reference System) is the reference catalogue of the Community and National Customs Tariff. It brings together the regulations concerning the tariff classification of goods, the applicable duties and taxes, the necessary supporting documents etc. Automatically updated by French Customs, the RITA Encyclopedia offers a dematerialised version of the Customs Tariff with a search function that’s infinitely superior to the official text available on EUR-lex!
> Use RITA to work out your customs codes on customs.gouv.fr, RITA Encyclopedia.
Use the TARIC correlation table
To help you check whether the customs codes used by your company in 2019 or 2020 have changed in 2021, the European Commission has the TARIC (European Union Integrated Tariff) correlation table.
> Download the 2021 TARIC correlation table (in excel format) . See also the 2020 TARIC.
> Check the TARIC europa online database, updated daily (on the EC Europa website).
Customs codes: what you need to know
What is the purpose of the Customs Tariff?
The Customs Tariff is one of the most important customs documents because it allows you to:
- classify your products using the 8-digit (CN) European Combined Nomenclature .
- to understand the customs duties that apply to your goods imported into the European Union (EU) – excluding tariff preferences.
It is also very impressive in terms of both size and content, 1048 pages, and more than 15,500 references.
Why it’s important to update your customs codes
Updating your customs nomenclatures is extremely important as it will allow you to:
- maintain reliable customs databases intended for use by all company departments (Sales, Purchasing, logistics, customs, accounting, etc.).
- avoid delays in customs clearance, when your customs representative comes back to you to tell you that your customs nomenclature no longer exists and that they need the new 2021 nomenclature.
- Avoid customs disputes and make sure you pay the right customs duties.
Taking things further: validate your customs classification with a BTI
Classifying your products alone, in particular technical products, from among the 15,500 references in the goods classification tariff can quickly become a high-risk headache!
A nomenclature error on the Single Administrative Document (SAD) used by customs when goos enter or exit the Union Customs Territory can lead to heavy litigation with the customs administration.
The Binding Tariff Information (BTI) is not mandatory, but it guarantees the customs nomenclature and the customs duties applicable to your product within the European Union. Valid throughout the European Union for a duration of 3 years, it allows you to benefit from Customs expertise for complex classifications and can avoid costly adjustments. Download the correlation table