Business tax – guidance

How to classify imports and exports using the UK Trade Tariff

How to find out the commodity code you should use to classify goods and commodities that you import or export to or from the UK.

Introduction

It’s important you classify all goods so any import VAT, duty, excise or levies due on them under UK and European law are collected. Use the UK Trade Tariff to find the commodity code to classify your goods.

Find out more about why you must classify imports and exports.

The Single Administrative Document (SAD) is used to declare goods that are moved from one part of the EU to another and must accompany your goods throughout the EU.

Classify your goods

To find the correct commodity code for your goods you’ll need to describe them accurately.

Many manufactured items are made up of several parts. For example, if you’re trading in foodstuffs or domestic products you need to know what they contain before you can start classifying them.

The page for each code has:

  • the Duty and VAT rates, tabs for import, export and footnotes that give further information that may be applicable to your chosen code such as:
    • any measures
    • EU regulations
    • conditions
    • notes
  • notes on the bottom of each overall section page to help you classify your goods

The number of digits of the commodity code you should use depends on what level you need:

Level Number of digits to use
Harmonised system 6
Combined nomenclature 8
EU TARIC (TARiff Integre Communautaire) 10

In some cases (such as Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) imports) another 4 digits are needed, they can be found in the online Trade Tariff tool.

General rules for classification using the UK Trade Tariff

To find the correct commodity code for your goods use the 6 general rules for the interpretation of the combined nomenclature, they should be applied in order and cover:

  1. The main headings which goods are classed under.
  2. Incomplete or unfinished articles and articles of mixed materials or substances.
  3. Goods which can be classified under more than one description, composite goods of different materials and sets for retail.
  4. Goods which can’t be classified using the first 3 rules.
  5. Packaging items that come with the goods.
  6. Subheadings which goods are classed under.

Classifying your goods correctly may also depend on:

Classification codes issued by other countries

Although many countries have signed up to the same classification system their classifications are specific to their own country. If you rely on the classification code from an overseas supplier, you’ll need to check it also applies to the UK.

Classifying goods if you’re trading with a country outside the EU

If you’re trading with a country outside the EU you can access their Tariffs using the European Commission Market Access Database. You can search for a product code based on your product description. The database also gives important tariff information and how it’s applied in other countries.

Help to classify your goods

The UK Trade Tariff

The UK Trade Tariff is based on the EU TARIC which holds commodity codes for all EU member states. The information in the EU TARIC is consistent across the EU.

Commodity codes and other regulations in the EU TARIC and UK Trade Tariff are updated daily so importers and exporters get the same standards and treatment across the EU.

Other updates to the Trade Tariff are added monthly and a new version of the Trade Tariff is published annually.

The UK Trade Tariff is in 3 parts:

  • Volume 1 contains essential background information for importers and exporters, it covers:
    • an explanation of excise duty, tariff quotas and similar topics
    • a list of other publications to help with classification of duty relief schemes
    • contact addresses for other government organisations
  • Volume 2 is the online Trade Tariff tool which is linked to the EU TARIC, use it to search for import and export commodity codes and to get information about:
    • tax
    • duty
    • that apply to goods
    • schedule of duty rates
    • trade statistical descriptions of commodity codes
  • Volume 3 contains:
    • a box by box completion guide for import and export using the Single Administrative Document (SAD) form C88
    • the complete list of Customs Procedure Codes for importing and exporting
    • the country codes for the world
    • lists of UK docks and airports - in alphabetical and Entry Processing Unit order
    • general information about importing and exporting

You can buy a printed version of the Trade Tariff.

Tips to help you classify your goods

If you have items packaged in a set that can be used separately classify each item individually. If they can’t be used separately classify the set under the most significant item in the set.

As a general rule, if you have an item made of 2 substances (for example, clothing that is 60% cotton and 40% polyester) you would usually classify the item as being made from the higher percentage content. There are exceptions so check the appropriate section and chapter notes for your goods.

An item may not be listed by name, it may be shown under what it’s used for or made from. The headings in each chapter describe a particular product, only select a sub-heading if your item is accurately described. If it isn’t check further down the list for your item. If none of the sub-headings match your item use the “other” heading.

You can use the ‘Search’ facility in the Trade Tariff tool to help find the right sections and chapters for your goods or you can get further help to classify your goods:

If you still can’t classify your products you can:

You can also contact your trade association or chamber of commerce for advice.

Example: using the online Trade Tariff Tool to classify goods

To classify a pair of trousers using the online Trade Tariff tool you need to know:

  • what they are made of (for example, 70% cotton and 30% polyester)
  • how they are constructed (for example, a knitted or crocheted material)
  • if they’re for a man or a woman

For a pair of trousers made for a man, from a knitted material, made of 70% cotton and 30% polyester the classification can be found by selecting:

  1. Section 11 chapters 50 to 63: ‘Textiles and Textile articles’.
  2. Chapter 61: ‘Articles of apparel and clothing accessories, knitted or crocheted’.
  3. Sub-section 03: Men’s or boys’ suits, ensembles, jackets, blazers, trousers, bib and brace overalls, breeches and shorts (other than swimwear), knitted or crocheted.
  4. Sub-section: Trousers, bib and brace overalls, breeches and shorts.
  5. Sub-section: ‘Of cotton’ (the item is classified to cotton as this is the main material).

The export commodity code is 61 03 4200 and the import commodity code is 61 03 420000.

When you’ve finished classifying your goods the page will list information specific to the commodity code.

The Tariff Classification Service

You can use the Tariff Classification Service to get non-legally binding classification advice. Send a separate email for each item you need help with, make sure your email includes the following information:

  • what the product is
  • what it’s made of (if made of more than one material provide the breakdown of the materials)
  • what it’s used for
  • how the product works or functions
  • how it’s presented or packaged

You’ll also need to give more information for:

  • footwear, include:
    • the type (for example shoe, boot, slipper)
    • upper material details
    • outer sole material details
    • the heel height
    • the purpose for men or woman
  • food, include:
    • precise composition details by percentage weight of all the ingredients to 100%
    • the method of manufacture or process it has undergone (for example fresh, frozen, dried)
  • chemicals, include:
    • the Chemical Abstracts Service Registry Number
    • if the product is a liquid, powder or solid
    • the percentage ingredients
  • textiles, include:
    • the material composition
    • how it’s constructed (for example knitted, woven)
    • the name of the fabric
  • vehicles, include:
    • the age of the vehicle
    • the engine type (petrol or diesel)
    • the engine size
    • if the vehicle is new or used
    • if the vehicle is over 30 years old
    • if the vehicle is in its original condition
    • if the vehicle will be for everyday use

A classification officer will reply to your email based on the information you have supplied.

BTI decisions

A BTI is a written classification decision you can request for your goods. It’s legally binding on all customs administrations within the EU for:

  • up to 6 years if its date of issue is before 30 April 2016
  • 3 years if it’s issued after 1 May 2016

If you hold a legally binding BTI from 1 May 2016 you must use it.

A BTI can only be given before any customs procedures take place, it gives:

  • the correct commodity code for your goods
  • a detailed description of your goods, enabling any customs regime to identify them
  • legal justification for the decision that’s been reached
  • a unique reference number

Your request may be refused if you:

  • don’t plan to import or export the goods in question
  • have made a similar application in another EU member state
  • can’t provide complete information about your goods

A BTI is usually free but you will have to pay costs for laboratory analysis, obtaining expert advice and returning your samples.

To apply for a binding decision on correct classification of your goods read Notice 600 then request a BTI decision by submitting an electronic Binding Tariff (eBTI) form on the Government Gateway.

You should complete a separate application form for each type of item you want classified.

When you have the BTI reference number enter it in Box 44 of the SAD form.

BTI appeals

If you’re unhappy with a BTI decision you can lodge an appeal with HMRC. You have 45 days to request an independent review of the decision. If you’re unhappy with the review you have 30 days to apply for a tribunal hearing.

Find out how to apply for a review of a BTI decision in section 3 of Notice 600.