An H.S. Tariff Classification Number is a 10 digit number that
must be provided on import documentation in order to communicate
what is the good that is being imported. Theoretically, every type
of good is covered by the H.S. Tariff Classification Numbers and
each good can be matched with a number. The Canada Border Services
Agency ("CBSA") requires that an H.S. Tariff
Classification Number be provided in Box 27 on B3 Customs Coding Form as a way to identify
the goods that are being imported. The H.S. Tariff Classification
Number is also required on many other ("CBSA") forms.
H.S. Tariff Classification Numbers are based on the World
Customs Organization's ("WCO") International
Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding
System, Can. T.S. 1988 No. 38. Canada is a signatory to this
Convention. The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding
System (the "Harmonized System") is the system by
which approximately 5,000 commodity groups of imported goods are
classified. CBSA officials meet in Brussels with their counterparts
to discuss the H.S. Coding System and make adjustments and
amendments that are agreed by WCO members. As a result, the H.S.
Tariff Classification Numbers can and do change and evolve.
The H.S. Tariff Classification Number for use in Canada for the
classification of goods is contained in the Customs
Tariff, S.C. 1997, c. 36 , which implements
Canada's obligations as a party to the Convention.
The Harmonized System uses an eight-digit classification system
for tariff classifications, which is incorporated into the Schedule
to the Customs Tariff. The Harmonized System proceeds, within
sections of the Schedule, from general to specific classifications
via chapters, headings, subheadings and tariff items. The digits of
an H.S. Tariff Classification Number may be broken down as
Numbers 1 & 2 : Applicable Chapter
Numbers 3 & 4: Applicable Heading
Numbers 5 & 6: Applicable Subheading
Numbers 7 – 10 are usually specific to individual
countries – Canada uses these digits for Statistics Canada
Numbers 7 & 8: These subdivisions have been created to
provide further product detail for domestic tariff purposes. As
with headings and subheadings, not all tariff items have been
subdivided, in which case the seventh and eighth digits are zeros.
The dash structure is similar to the subheading level, but with
three or four dashes before the description.
Numbers 9 & 10: These last two digits are also referred to
as statistical suffixes. Again, not all have been subdivided, in
which case the ninth and tenth digits are zeros. At this level the
description is preceded by five or six dashes.
In other words, the first 6 digits (that is digits 1-6) should
be the same regardless of the importing country. These are the
internationally recognized numbers for the classification of
In reality, there can be differences between importing countries
due to government policy statements, interpretations, advance
rulings, court cases, etc.
Determining what is the appropriate H.S. Tariff Classification
for a particular good is a complicated process. There are customs
lawyers, consultants and customs brokers who are familiar with the
Customs Tariff, the Chapter Notes, Explanatory Notes, the General
Rules, interpretations, case law, etc.
If you would like to test whether your goods are properly
classified, there are tools which are not perfect – but are a
starting point. The following resources may be used to look up an
H.S. Tariff Classification Number:
However, as noted by the Supreme Court of Canada in Attorney General of Canada v. Igloo Vikski
Inc., tariff classification is very complicated. Using the
tools is helpful, but may not result is the correct H.S. Tariff
Classification Number being identified. The CBSA may not accept an
H.S. Tariff Classification Number determined using the tools.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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While that agreement mandated export measures on Canadian softwood lumber exports destined for the United States, it also protected those lumber exports from the potential imposition of onerous import measures by the U.S.
On September 29, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada issued its first tariff classification decision since Canada signed the International Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System in 1998.
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