We frequently get requests to source products for import into the US. A question frequently asked by our customers is ‘How much is the duty for my product?’ It took a lot of time and effort on our part to understand US duty rates and apply them accurately. Here are some important lessons we’ve learned.
The Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) contains 10-digits codes for the import and export of products into the US. The HTS Code system is quite complex, so to be 100% certain of the duty on your item we recommend hiring a professional. Remember, there are people who have spent their entire careers studying how to classify goods for the HTS.
However, for most of the items our company deals with (consumer goods), an online search does the trick. I’ve found that by investing some time and effort I can be reasonably certain that my search has given me the duty rate I’m looking for.
This is the first part of a three part series on finding the right HTS Code. The first two installments deal with two ways to search for your HTS Code. In the final installment we will look at how to decipher what you find on that page.
There are 2 ways to find your HTS Code:
- an online search of the database
- looking up the chapter most likely to contain your product.
We mainly deal in clothing, so I’ll use a Knitted Polyester Scarf as an example as we go through the search methodology.
About the structure of the HTS Code number.
The HTS code is a 10 digit number.
AB – chapter number
CD – sections in the chapter
EF – sections of CD
GH – sections of EF
And so on….each of the 2 numbers is a subset of the section above it.
Finding the HTS Code – Method 1: Searching by Chapter
If you are new to the HTS, I would recommend first looking up the item by chapter and section of the HTS code, rather than searching for the product through the online search. Many of the items in the HTS are not described the way that people in the industry or common consumers describe them. Begin searching by chapter and you start to become familiar with the terms used in the HTS Code. Later you can use this knowledge to search for the right terms, which will yield accurate results more quickly.
This page lists all 99 chapters of the HTS, divided into 22 sections. Section 11 deals with “Textiles and Textile Articles” so we’ll start there. Looking through the chapters in this section we come to Chapter 61 – ‘articles of apparel and clothing accessories, knitted or crocheted’. Our Knitted Polyester Scarf falls under this category, so now we know the chapter that will include the HTS Code we need. Next we will open the page for Chapter 61 and look for the appropriate subsection.
Now you are looking at a pdf document that is 76 pages long. Scroll down to page 4, where the chart begins. Now we look at subheadings to find the right subcategory for our product.
The first heading is for 6101 – our product is not men’s coats/jackets, so we can skip all of the HTS Codes that start with 6101 (all of page 4). Keep reading subheadings until you find one that applies. In this case, we finally make our way to page 73, where we find 6117: “Other made up clothing accessories, knitted or crocheted; knitted or crocheted parts of garments or of clothing accessories”.
In the same way, keep moving through each subheading looking for the part that applies.
6117.10 (“Shawls, scarves, mufflers, mantillas, veils and the like” ) applies since we are looking for scarves
6117.10.10 (Of wool or fine animal hair) does not apply since we are looking for ‘man-made fibers’
Eventually we come to 6117.10.20 – of man-made fibers.
- 61: Articles of apparel and clothing accessories, knitted or crocheted.
- 17: Other made up clothing accessories, knitted or crocheted; knitted or crocheted parts of garments or of clothing accessories.
- 10: Shawls, scarves, mufflers, mantillas, veils and the like.
- 20: Of man-made fibers
Here we find that the duty rate is 11.3%. Note the difference between the duty of Silk Scarves and Polyester Scarves (1.5% compared to 11.3% – a 9.8% difference). This is important to note; a slight error in looking up your product can make a big difference in the duty rate. (We will cover more about this information and what it all means in the final part of our series.)
Once you have found the correct code, it can be entered into the HTS website’s search function (omit all periods) to get further details. If the number is typed correctly you should find one search result. Hit the detail button to see a full page of information (part 3 of this series will explain more about this information and what it means).
Over time you will becomes more familiar with the terminology used in the HTS, making the whole process a lot faster.
In part 2 of this series we will look at another way to look up HTS Codes – by searching for the terms directly. This can be a very quick solution if you know what to search for.