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Canada Logistics 101: HS Codes

If you are a small business owner transporting and shipping goods and products between countries, you might want to learn everything you can about shipping before you get started, including everything there is to know about tariffs and HS codes. While learning about the shipping process can be challenging, we are here to answer all your questions. 

You may be wondering what HS codes are and what they mean for your business. We created this guide to HS Codes Canada 101 to explain what HS codes in Canada are and what they mean for your business. 

What is an HS code?

HS stands for Harmonized System, which is a system that was created to regulate international trade and create universal codes to be used when shipping goods and products. The HS codes explain what the product is. One of the most common ways to reference and look up HS codes is the Canada Post tariff finder

There is also a master tariffs document created by the CBSA (Canadian Border Services Agency) in 2021, which you can find here. The master document helps keep track of these HS codes, which are not only used within Canada, but nearly worldwide by 199 other countries. 

How do you decipher HS codes?

An HS code in Canada is a series of ten numbers which mean different things for different products. All of these numbers point to classification systems on the tariff resource. We’ll walk you through the basics of an HS code and what each number means:

The first 2 letters of the code represent a chapter, which classifies the material that the product is made of. The 2rd and 4th digit represent the header, or explains what the product is. The next 2 numbers, the 5th and 6th, represent the subheader, giving more details to the header. 

The 7th and 8th digits in the HS code represent the intended use of the product. Finally, the last two digits will give you a broad description or category for the product. 

How do you classify HS codes?

Different parts of the HS code mean different things. These codes are used to classify different types of goods so that border service agents can easily determine what a good is and how to process it. The series of numbers in the HS code can be interpreted as each number stands for something different. 

The Canadian Importers Database is used to classify HS codes. This database provides a list of major Canadian importers by product, city, and country of origin. You can use this list to find Canadian importers. 

If you are planning on shipping goods and products between Canada and other countries in the near future, you will want to familiarize yourself with the HS code system of Canada. We hope that this guide to HS codes in Canada will help you get started. Hopefully now you understand that HS codes are more than just random, confusing numbers, and you know how to decode them if you ever need to. 

Hopefully this will even help you classify your own goods when you’re ready to ship! If you still have questions about HS codes, don’t worry. Welke is here to help. Get a quote today.