A Simple Guide to Commodity Codes

The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, now in place, means change. It will require adapting to new trading arrangements, rules and regulations. This information for cross-border SMEs in Ireland and Northern Ireland will introduce commodity codes, what you need to know about your product, how many digits they should be, commodity code extensions and how-to videos.

Commodity codes are sequence of numbers which classify products for import and export so you can fill in declarations and other paperwork, check if there’s duty or VAT to pay and find out about duty reliefs.

A commodity code is made up of numbers starting at six-digits and provide a detailed picture of the product being described and even the type of method used for production.

Commodity codes describe the customs duties, any preferential treatments that may apply, the restrictions and prohibitions that may apply to the import, export or transit of the goods.

It might be useful to know that commodity codes can also be referred to as “classification codes”, “tariff codes”, “customs tariff number” or “HS codes”.

Product Information

In order to find the correct commodity code for your product, you’ll need to describe each product accurately.
For example, you must know:

  • What the product is?
  • What it is made of? (Note: If it’s made of more than one material please explain the breakdown of the materials)
  • What it is used for?
  • How the product works/functions?
  • How it is presented/packaged?
  • If it is unassembled or unfinished?
  • Its technical specifications?

How Many Digits Should My Commodity Code Be?

Once you know the required product information, let’s have a look at how the commodity code is broken down. The first six digits of the code are part of the globally recognised harmonised system, meaning that the first six digits of the code are universally recognised and understood. Let’s use the example of a snack made from a mixture of freeze dried fruit, destined for human consumption.

The product is packaged in a cardboard box, containing 7 sachets of 14 grams each. Ingredients: freeze dried bananas, freeze dried pineapples, freeze dried apples, freeze dried strawberries, freeze dried blueberries, antioxidants: ascorbic acid, acidity modulator: citric acid, salt.

Let’s break this down to show to the how the broken down code refers to chapter, heading and subheading:

  • The first two digits designate a chapter. For our example the chapter is 20 which means the “Preparations of vegetables, fruit, nuts or other parts of plants”.
  • The second two digits designate a heading. For our example the heading is 08 which means “Fruit, nuts and other edible parts of plants, otherwise prepared or preserved, whether or not containing added sugar or other sweetening matter or spirit, not elsewhere specified or included”.
  • The final two digits designate a sub-heading. For our example 97 means a sub-heading of “Mixtures”.
  • The corresponding commodity code is 20 08 97.

Step-by-Step Videos on Finding Commodity Codes 

We’ve created these videos to show you the exact process of finding the commodity code using the example of the mixed fruit snack above. The process is different for Ireland and Northern Ireland the two videos are accessible below. 

Ireland Commodity: Code Video 
Northern Ireland : Commodity Code Video

Getting Your Commodity Code

Now that you know how the commodity code is structured and extended, let’s now look at the ways in which you can find commodity code:

Option One: Finding this code online (Trader’s responsibility)

You can choose to self-assess which commodity code you should be using, we recommend using official links:
If you are based in Ireland, 
click here.
If you are based in Northern Ireland,  click here.

Option Two: Seeking further help or support on your code (Trader’s responsibility)

If you are unable to self-assess your products and do not wish to take professional advice, you can request additional support by sending a request by email to the relevant official emails below:

  • If you are based in Ireland, email tarclass@revenue.ie
  • If you are based in Northern Ireland, classification.enquiries@hmrc.gov.uk
Option 3: Binding tariff information ruling (Getting legal certainty)

To get the correct tariff classification of your product you can request a BTI ruling. It’s not a legal requirement to have a BTI ruling, but it has advantages. It is the only option which gives you legal certainty for three years about the correct tariff classification for your product to work out customs duties, export refunds, licensing requirements, quotas or other restrictions in advance. A BTI ruling is free, but you may have to pay the costs of laboratory analysis, expert advice and/or returning samples. For more information, use the links below:
If you are based in Ireland click here.
If you are based in Northern Ireland,  click here.

Commodity Code Extensions

Many countries may choose to extend commodity codes from the six-digits up to a 14-digit level to allow for more targeted tariff policies. This is why you may see commodity codes of different lengths. It’s important to note length of the full code depends if the products are imports or exports.  Imports have a 10-digit commodity codes and exports have an eight-digit commodity codes. 

The EU classification system has two elements which are added to the six-digit commodity code, they are called the Combined Nomenclature (CN) and TARIC (the integrated Tariff of the EU) codes and are explained in more detail below:

  • The Combined Nomenclature (CN) is the EU’s eight-digit coding system, comprising the HS codes with further EU subdivisions. It both serves the EU’s common customs tariff and provides statistics for trade inside the EU and between the EU and the rest of the world.
  • The Integrated Tariff (TARIC) provides information on all trade policy and tariff measures applicable to specific goods in the EU (e.g. temporary suspension of duties, antidumping duties, etc). It comprises the eight-digit code of the combined nomenclature plus two additional digits (TARIC subheadings).
  • Please note CN and TARIC code changes generally happen on 1 January each year. Make sure you are using the most recent codes.

Using the earlier example of the fruit snack. Let’s now see what the import and export commodity codes look like with the added CN and TARIC codes:

  • Fruit snack 10-digit import commodity code: 2008977490.
  • Fruit snack eight-digit export commodity code: 20089774.

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