What is the HS Coding System?

HS is a system used to describe your goods using numbers.

The HS system has been developed by the World Customs Organization (WCO) and is used by most countries. Countries use the HS as the base for their own numerical code and expand the system further.

HS codes can be between 6-10 digits. The first 6 digits are the same for all countries. The last 4 digits can vary from country to country.

Let’s see what this look like for Stainless Steel Spoons: 8215:91:10:00


Certain goods are only classified up to 6 digits.

In such cases, the number zero can be used as a placeholder.

Canada’s HS coding system is called the Customs Tariff.

Canada’s Customs Tariff is based on the HS system developed by the WCO. Your broker will be using the Customs Tariff to classify your goods with an HS code.

What is the HS Coding System?

Your broker will build the HS code 2-digits at a time.

Here is a simplified example to help you visualise how this works.

To arrive at a HS code for stainless steel spoons, your broker will look up the chapter on Metals in the Customs Tariff. Think of this as the first 2-digits. From there your broker will add another set of 2-digits based on the specific type of metal (stainless steel). The next 2-digits may describe the use of the metal (spoon). This process continues until we have fully described our good.

Disclaimer: Please note that this is a crude example to help illustrate the process of HS classification. This process is highly complex and requires a trained professional as there can be severe penalties for false classification.

To learn more about this process, please see the links below.