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.

Introduction to Commodity Codes

Commodity codes are unique codes 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 these numbers include multiple pieces of information to provide a detailed picture of the product being described and even the type of method used for production.

It’s important to note that the UK will remain a participating country in how to structure commodity codes, so all of this information applies after the transition period (31st December 2020).

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”.

Getting it Right V Getting it Wrong 

Getting the right commodity code is fundamental and it is the legal obligation of the trader. Invest the time needed to obtain the correct commodity code as getting the code wrong can result in penalties. If you rely on the commodity code from a supplier, you’ll need to check it is accurate. This task can be complex, but we’ve help at hand to make sure you get the right code for your business needs.

If, for example you had been incorrectly using a commodity code given to you by a supplier which attracts a 0% duty rate upon import into the EU and instead should have been using a commodity code which attracts duty rate at 6.5%, could result in a post clearance customs audit and a potential significant unbudgeted expense. Regardless of how the error occurred , it is the importer who will be assessed for this duty.

Bottom line: Invest the time needed to obtain the correct commodity code. We will now discuss the various options on how you can do this.

What Do I Need To Know About My Product?

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’s used for
  • How the product works/functions
  • How it’s presented/packaged
  • If it unassembled or unfinished
  • Its technical specifications

How Many Digits Should My Commodity Code Be?

Let’s firstly look at the first six digits of a commodity code. These first six digits are part of the globally recognised harmonised system, meaning that the first six digits of the code are universally recognised and understood. As you have already seen, a lot of detail is needed to accurately assign your product with an accurate commodity code. Let’s use the example below:

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.  The corresponding commodity code is 200897.

Let’s break this down to show to the digits refer to chapter, heading and subheading:

  • The first two digits 20 designate a chapter. For our example the chapter is “Preparations of vegetables, fruit, nuts or other parts of plants”
  • The second two 08 digits designate a heading. For our example the heading is “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 97 digits designate a sub-heading. For our example the sub-heading is “Mixtures”

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.  The process is different for Ireland and Northern Ireland the two videos are accessible below. 

Ireland Commodity
Code Video 

Northern Ireland
Commodity Code Video

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.

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,  click here.
If you are based in Northern Ireland, 
click here.

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.

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