Harmonized System (HS) classification numbers & Schedule B numbers

What are they & why do I need them?

By Karen Hanlan

In the years since I began working here at Fulfillment Express, I have prepared thousands of International shipments for our various clients, and many times  I’ve had to ask a client what the Schedule B number is for their product, only to hear “What’s a Schedule B number?”.  So I thought I’d explain briefly just what these numbers are, and why they are necessary.

The Harmonized System (HS) is a 6 digit international product classification protocol that is used by customs officials worldwide to identify products for the application of duties & taxes.  Additional digits may be added by some governments to further distinguish products in certain categories.  This is based on the international Harmonized Commodity Coding and Classification System, which was established by the World Customs Organization.  Virtually all countries base their tariff schedules on the Harmonized System, making it easier to conduct international trade.

In the United States, however, the numbers used to classify exported products are called “Schedule B” numbers.  They are 10-digit numbers, built upon the first 6 digits of the HS Code.  The Schedule B code is a U.S. specific coding system used by the U.S. Government to monitor U.S. exports, and is administered by the U.S. Census Bureau to calculate U.S. export statistics.

Why do we need these numbers?  Well, all shipping documents for products entering or leaving the U.S. have to have these numbers.  The HS number for product entering the U.S. and the Schedule B number for product leaving the U.S.  In our business, we use the Schedule B number.  This number determines the applicable import tariff rates & whether a product qualifies for a preferential tariff under a Free Trade Agreement.  It is required to complete the Electronic Export Information (EEI, formerly known as Shippers Export Declaration (SED)) for any shipments leaving the U.S. that have a value of $2,500.00 or more, Certificates of Origin, and other shipping documents.

How do we determine what the Schedule B number is?  There is a website where you can access the U.S. Census Bureau’s Schedule B Search Engine and type in a description of the product.  The search will look for whatever phrase is entered in the search field.  However, if a phrase is entered in the search field that does not exist in the search files, the search will yield no results.  For example, if the word COMPUTERS is entered, the search will yield nothing when searching the Schedule B files.  However, when searching the 6-digit alpha index, it shows that computers are officially known as AUTOMATIC DATA PROCESSING MACHINES.  This can make it difficult to determine what exactly your product’s Schedule B number is.  In addition, not all items in the same general category have the same Schedule B number.  As an example, you would think Shampoo and Conditioner would have the same number, but this is not the case.  Shampoo is listed as Schedule B number 3305.10.0000 (Preparations for use on the hair; shampoos) and Conditioner is listed as Schedule B number 3305.90.0000 (Preparations for use on the hair; other).  And Hairspray is still another number, 3305.30.0000 (Preparations for use on the hair; Hair lacquers).  All in all, finding the correct Schedule B number can be difficult.  Here at Fulfillment Express, with our many years of experience, we have become quite proficient in determining the correct Schedule B number to use for items being exported.  So, if you have customers outside the U.S. to whom you sell your product, we can help.  We’re just a phone call or email away.  And of course, once we’ve determined the correct Schedule B number for your product, we enter it into our fulfillment software (www.drips.biz) so we never have to look it up again.  So go for it, don’t be afraid, and happy exporting!