Facilitating trade

Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HS) forms the basis of the Customs Tariff. The HS was developed and is maintained by the World Customs Organization (WCO), an independent intergovernmental organization with over 179 members and is based in Brussels, Belgium. The HS is the standard coding structure and related product descriptions used in international trade.

What is HS compliance?

HS compliance is the mandatory classification and declaration of goods coming into or leaving Canada. As an importer or exporter, you are responsible for the correct use of HS when declaring your goods.

Non-compliance can result in delays at the time of rele aase of goods, the suspension of privileges, and fines according to the Administrative Monetary Penalty System.

HS data is assembled from declarations of imports and exports. Then it is used to:

  • Determine appropriate duty rates;
  • Negotiate trade agreements;
  • Maintain trade statistics; and
  • Identify goods and shipments that pose a risk to the health, safety and security of Canada.

The Canada Border Services Agency has a multitude of programs, services and legislation to educate the trade community and support voluntary compliance with the HS.

Canada and the World Customs Organization

Canada has been a member of the WCO since 1971. Canada is a member of the Harmonized System Committee and the Harmonized System Review Sub-Committee .

Harmonized System Committee

The WCO's Harmonized System Committee (HSC) is the international authority on classification. HSC sessions are usually held in mid-September/early October and mid-March. The HSC's main roles include the following:

  • Resolve classification disputes between member administrations;
  • Issue classification decisions for goods presented by member administrations;
  • Work to ensure the uniform interpretation of the HS (e.g., the explanatory notes to the HS); and
  • Update the HS to include changes in technology and patterns of international trade.

Harmonized System Review Sub-Committee

The Harmonized System Review Sub-Committee (RSC) generally meets in late November and mid-May. It is responsible for the systematic examination and refinement of proposals to amend the HS nomenclature and the preparation of any consequential changes to the explanatory notes.

For more information on the committees, e-mail hsc.rsc@cbsa-asfc.gc.ca.