1. HTS codes are a global tool. The World Customs Organization (WCO) maintains the Harmonized Tariff Description and Coding System (HTS). Over 170 countries participate in WCOs HTS system. The first six digits of the HTS code identify all items in international trade and are the same for all countries that use the HTS. The last two or four digits are country specific; in the U.S. these last four digits provide the duty rate and balance of trade statistical reporting suffix for the imported goods.
2. As an importer, you are responsible for establishing the correct HTS classifications used on your import entries and/or ISF security filings. This is why it is important to establish that accurate information about your products is reported to CBP and to not completely rely on third parties to guess about your products to provide HTS classifications on your behalf. It is the importers responsibility to supply sufficient information about the imported goods so that a customs expert may determine the proper classifications of those goods.
3. You could be paying too much by using the wrong HTS code. The HTS is primarily a classification system to uniformly identify products and secondarily a tariff system on imported goods. Using the wrong HTS will result in an incorrect payment of duties whether too little or too much, this creates an issue for CBP in their revenue collection mission and may result in them issuing penalties for failure to provide correct and accurate information to CBP.
4. If you have been using the wrong HTS codes, it is not too late to fix your mistake and avoid costly fines. If you find out you have been using the wrong HTS code and have been paying too much or too little, you can file a Post-Entry Amendment (PEA) to pay any additional owed duties or to request a refund for overpayment. If the entry has already been liquidated (usually 315 days after entry), an administrative protest can be filed up to 180 days after liquidation of the entry.
5. HTS codes are not static. Worldwide the HTS is being updated and changed to allow for new product innovations and technology. In addition, governments are evaluating new revenue sources and seeking to balance their trade with other countries. In the U.S. when an HTS code is created, it has an expiration date to allow for updates. Because of this, it is important to constantly ensure that the codes you are using are valid. The correct classification of imported goods is an ongoing project, and the HTS codes used should be reviewed at minimum, on an annual basis.