Classification rules and the Tariff

Using commodity codes, classification terms and the Tariff

To classify your own goods for import and export, or to check that your goods have been properly classified you should be familiar with some important classification terms and how commodity codes are used.

Classification, customs procedures and the Tariff

Commodity codes are important in determining how your goods are treated. Measures such as duty rates, preferences, quotas, suspensions, Common Agricultural Policy, VAT, excise and Intrastat will all affect how much you will be charged and how your goods will be treated when they arrive and leave the UK, the European Union (EU) and third countries.

Access the UK Trade Tariff.

The main customs procedures associated with classification are:

  • Duty rates - commodity codes define how goods are treated and how much duty is payable on goods imported from outside the EU. The rate of duty is shown as a percentage rate calculated on the value of the goods.
  • Preferential rates of duty - specific imports into the UK may have their duty reduced if they meet specific criteria. The details of preferences for each commodity code that is eligible are set out in column 6 of the Tariff.
  • Anti-Dumping Duty (ADD) - your business could also be liable for additional charges imposed on imports from certain countries under ADD. See anti-dumping and countervailing duties.
  • Quotas - Tariff quotas and ceilings are listed at the conclusion of each chapter in the paper Tariff, and in the online UK Trade Tariff. The quota number is listed and can be cross-referenced to the commodity code, a description of the goods, the applicable dates and the documents required to trade. Read an introduction to the Tariff.
  • VAT - the Tariff also associates commodity codes with the rate of VAT and may be subject to alternative rates of tax according to elements of description. All possible rates of VAT per commodity are listed in column 7 of the Tariff.
  • Excise duty applies to excise goods only - excise rates and treatments are listed per volume of commodity and cross referenced to commodity codes. Read more about excise duties.
  • Customs Procedures with Economic Impact (CPEI) - goods on which you are claiming reliefs should be classified CPEI and are discussed in parts 9, 10, 11 and 12 of volume 1 of the Tariff.

Single Administrative Document (SAD or form C88)

Import and export details are collected through the electronic submission of SAD to HMRC. This document, in the same format, is used throughout the EC, each country having it printed in their own language. In the UK SAD is known as Form C88.

When completing Form C88, it is vital that you enter a commodity code in box 33 that accurately matches the description of your goods in box 31. You must also enter the correct customs procedure code (CPC) in box 37.

Commodity codes are also used in export declarations such as Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system - see UK's import and export processing system CHIEF.

Commodity codes are also used in the National Export System (NES) - read more about export declarations and the National Export System.

NES has reduced the use of SAD declarations. If you want to submit a manual SAD, check with the relevant Port Authority that they accept SADs manually - some don't.