Finding commodity codes for imports into or exports out of the UK

Guide

Last updated 2 July 2021

You’ll need to find the right commodity code for any goods you import or export, using the Trade Tariff tool.

This will help you:

  • complete import or export declarations and other paperwork
  • make sure you pay the right Customs Duty and import VAT

It will also help you check if:

  • you need a licence to move your goods
  • you could pay less Customs Duty (for example because your goods are covered by a trade agreement)
  • your goods are covered by:
    • Agricultural Policy
    • anti-dumping duties
    • UK safeguarding measures
    • tariff quotas

Goods that are difficult to classify

Some goods are more difficult to classify than others. You can read more on how to classify these goods correctly:

Using the Trade Tariff tool

You need to know the details about your product. This may include the:

  • type of product
  • purpose of the product
  • materials used to make it
  • production methods used to make it
  • way it’s packaged

If you have an item made of 2 substances (for example, clothing that is 60 per cent cotton and 40 per cent polyester) you would normally classify the item using the higher percentage content. There are exceptions, so check the relevant section and chapter notes for your goods in the tool.

You must accurately describe your item to search the tool. These steps will help you get started:

  1. Enter the search term you want to use – an item may not be listed by name, it may come under what it’s used for or made from.

  2. The tool will suggest a section or number of sections, divided into chapters.

  3. The headings in each chapter describe a product, only select a sub-heading if your item is accurately described.

  4. If your item is not accurately described, check further down the list – if none of the sub-headings match your item use the ‘other’ heading.

UK Global Online Tariff: look up commodity codes, duty and VAT rates

Alternatively, you can search the Trade Tariff tool’s A to Z to find the right sections and chapters for common products.

Goods that cannot be imported in a single consignment
If you have goods (like large machinery) that cannot be transported in a single consignment, you may need to split them up.

Find out if your goods qualify for import in split consignments and what you need to do to import goods in this way.

Items packaged as a set
If your items are packaged in a set to sell and be used together, you should classify them using the most significant item in that set.

If you cannot work out which item is the most significant, use the commodity code that has the largest numerical value.

You must classify the items separately if they’re either:

  • not packaged as a set for retail sale
  • not to be used together

Checking what your goods are made of
For certain types of goods, you may need precise details of what your goods are made up of. For these you may want to get advice from an independent laboratory.

You can find a list of analysts in the directory of consultants for the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Getting help from HMRC

If you cannot find the right commodity code for your goods, you can contact HMRC for advice or for a decision on your goods.

Informal advice
You can use HMRC’s Tariff Classification Service to get non-legally binding classification advice.

HMRC will try to respond to your email within 5 working days.

You should only use this service for quick, basic and informal decisions. You should consider getting a legally binding decision instead, if you want HMRC to do a more in-depth analysis of your goods.

Formal legally binding decision
You can ask HMRC to give you a legally binding decision on your goods. You may want to consider this if your goods are:

  • hard to classify and informal advice is not suitable for you or your business
  • a new type of product (this will be the first time the product will have ever been classified)

A legally binding decision can take up to 120 days to be processed.

Check what you’ll need to get a legally binding decision.

If you want to check if a decision has already been made on goods that are similar to yours you can search for previous:

Commodity code in other countries

Although many countries have signed up to the same classification system, only the first 6 digits are used worldwide and product specific decisions are particular to each country. If you rely on the commodity code from an overseas supplier, you’ll need to check if the treatment is the same and how much of the code applies in the UK.