The HS code or Geharmoniseerd Systeem Code
If you are an entrepreneur who imports and / or exports goods into and from the EU, you will need to know everything about HS codes. So, what is an HS code exactly and why do you need it? Read on to find out.
What is an HS code (Geharmoniseerd Systeem Code)?
Simply put, an HS code is a commodity code created by the World Customs Organisation in Brussels. When you send a shipment from or to a country outside the EU, your shipment is imported through customs. The HS code (Harmonised System code) is used to let customs know what kind of goods are being imported and to calculate the amount of import tax. In addition, it indicates whether other non-financial measures apply to the import or export of the product, such as import permits and health certificates.
In Dutch, the HS code is known as the GS-code (Geharmoniseerd Systeem Code).
When you export goods from the EU to a country outside the EU, you will need an 8-digit HS code. This 8-digit code is also called a GN-code (Gecombineerde Nomenclatuur) in the Netherlands (CN code or Combined Nomenclature in English).
When you import goods into the EU from a country outside the EU, you will need a 10-digit HS code. This 10-digit code is also called a Taric code in the EU. This code can be extended to a maximum of 18 digits.
When would you need an HS code (Geharmoniseerd Systeem Code) in the Netherlands?
If you send parcels to a country outside of the EU, you will need to put the HS code on the customs invoice. The same applies if you import goods from outside the EU.
How do you find the correct HS code?
There are various ways to find the correct HS code of the product you want to import / export:
Asking your supplier
If you import goods from outside the EU, you can ask your supplier for the commodity code of the product. With this code, it’s easier to find the HS code as the first 6 digits of commodity codes are almost always the same worldwide.
CIRCABC European Commission
This open-source platform from the European Commission allows you to download excel files with commodity codes and import duties. You can find the commodity codes via the folder “Nomenclature” and the import duties via the folder “Duties & related files”.
Tariff system Dutch customs
You can find an overview of the commodity codes in the Dutch custom’s online tariff system. Simply click on the tab “nomenclature” (nomenclatuur) and then “consult via nomenclature” (raadplegen via nomenclatuur). You can get to the HS code of a product by clicking on the desired folders.
Commodity code list CBS
Statistics Netherlands (CBS) also offers an overview of commodity codes in excel and pdf. However, this list only shows the 8-digit export numbers (GN codes).
What do you do if you can’t find the HS code?
Sometimes, it can be a bit tricky to find the HS code of a product. A lot of products can’t be found “literally”. For instance, a laptop falls under the category “portable automatic data-processing machines, weighing not more than 10 kg, consisting of at least a central processing unit, a keyboard and a display”. The European bureau of statistics, Eurostat, offers a commodity code search engine that allows you to search for specific products instead.
What happens when you use the wrong HS code?
When you export products, you are responsible for the HS code classification of your products. If you use the wrong code, you may get a non-compliance penalty, import privileges may be denied, and your products could get delayed at the border or they may even be seized.
What happens if you do not use an HS code in the Netherlands?
Without the HS code, customs will not be able to tell which products are imported into the country. This means that they will contact the sender or recipient to find out what type of goods are involved, which will delay the shipment.
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