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A Quick Look at the Canadian-US Harmonized Tariff Schedule

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The United States and Canada share one of the longest borders between two countries, so it makes sense that there is a great deal of travel and commerce between them.  This border is easy to cross, especially for travel, but even for business, the process is pretty simple when compared with other borders.

At the same time, the process of crossing the border can be a little complicated if you are not aware of the way international border crossings work.  For example, every time you cross an international border—and you want plan to Import to Canada with—you have to deal with certain things like taxes and tariffs.

Tariffs and international taxes—known as duties—are assigned to various groupings of goods—known as classes—and are assessed at the border as a deterrent for improper or illegal trade. It is also intended to encourage domestic industry.

The Harmonized Tariff Schedule

In the process of moving from the United States to Canada, you will soon find that you have to pay certain fees. These fees are established according to the Harmonized Tariff Schedule. Also known as the Harmonized System, the World Customs Organization describes it as a way to classify and to define consumer goods that are commonly traded between countries.  Each of these goods classes has its own code and each of these codes is attached to a particular fee as described in the Harmonized System.

The Harmonized Tariff Schedule Codes

Every time you bring goods—even simple possessions—across the Canadian border it is, essentially, an act of import.  That means you might have to pay Harmonized Tariff Schedule code fees.

A code in the Harmonized System has six digits. A code in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule has up to 10 digits. In every US HTS code, the first two digits describe the product type, or “chapter”.  The second two digits describe the product classification, or “heading”.  The third pair of numbers describes any type of subheading.

For example, in the code 0901.21.0010:

  • The first pair of digits is 09, which is the chapter for coffee or tea
  • The second pair of digits is 01, which is a heading that describes how the product is processed (“roasted”)
  • The third pair of digits is 21, the “decaffeinated” coffee subheading
  • The fourth pair of digits is 00, the “certified organic” subheading