HS Code or Harmonised System code uses the Harmonised System. In Singapore, the HS code of goods is an 8-digit code. Also widely known as the ASEAN Harmonised Tariff Nomenclature (AHTN) code, it is harmonised at the 8-digit level across all ASEAN member countries.
HS codes are required in the permit declarations of goods. Customs department around the region use HS codes to determine the tariffs, controls and rule of origin applicable to the goods. With these information, collection of data for trade statistics is then easier, more accurate and efficient.
What is Harmonised System?
The Harmonised Commodity Description and Coding System, or simply the Harmonised System, is an international nomenclature (at 6-digit level). Developed by the World Customs Organisation to help in the classification of goods.
What if the wrong HS Code is used?
Internationally, the first 6 digits are similar. In many jurisdictions, the correct classification of the goods is the responsibility of the trader. When the wrong HS Code is used, it could lead to non-compliance penalties, border delays, seizure of goods, denial of import privileges and more. This also depends on how stringent the country’s import or export customs department is.
The various controlling agencies for the control of certain items or strategic goods use HS Code to determine the imports into or exports out of a country. This acts as a guideline on which shipment needs more attention than others. With globalisation, the movement volume of shipment around the world is increasingly tremendously.
For example, any food related products would be in the purview of the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (known as Singapore Food Agency [SFA] from April 2019). If declared wrongly, revoking the company’s license to import or export is not the only issue. Future import or export shipments may face difficulties and more stringent questioning or checks. The company could face punishments like fines and seizure of shipments too.
A recent case was the declaration of food items which do not contain meat and seafood on the import documents. This was a outright false declaration as the instant hotpot food product contained meat. The authorities punished the importer accordingly and seized all related products.
SFA conducts inspections and surveillance, including sampling for testing, on imported food products. This is to ensure they comply with the necessary requirements and standards. Importing food products containing meat can only be from approved sources that comply with SFA food-safety standards and requirements, as these products could carry animal and food-borne diseases of public health and trade importance. Licensed food importers are required to ensure that the food products comply with the SFA’s food-safety requirements and standards, regardless of the channel of sale.