Export Codes: ECCN vs. HS and HTS Classifications

David Noah | July 25, 2018 | Export Compliance, Export Basics
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Export Codes: ECCN vs. HS & HTS Codes | Shipping SolutionsAs an exporter, you must be concerned with the proper classification of your goods and products. I hear from many exporters who are confused about the Export Control Classification Number (ECCN) classification for their product and the Harmonized System (HS), Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS), and Schedule B numbers of their products.

First, it’s critical to understand that these classification systems have different purposes:

The ECCN is for export control purposes.

It is used to determine whether or not an item requires special controls before export. You may need to apply for an export license or use a license exception before you can export certain products to other countries.

HS, HTS and Schedule B numbers allow customs to assess proper duty and taxes on imported goods or to collect export statistics.

  • HS codes, also called HS numbers, is a six-digit classification used by customs authorities around the world to identify the duty and tax rates for specific types of products. You’ll use an HS number when you reference the classification with your customers, vendors, and anyone outside the U.S.

    Many countries, including the United States, add additional digits to the HS number to further distinguish products in certain categories. These additional digits are typically different in every country.
  • The Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States is the 10-digit import classification system specific to the United States. HTS codes, also called HTS numbers, are administered by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC). Commodity duties are assessed based on this classification. An HTS code takes the same form as an HS code for the first six digits, then has four differing last digits. If you are a U.S. importer, this is the code you must use.
  • The Schedule B code is a 10-digit subset of HTS codes for U.S. exporters. Schedule B codes are used for statistical purposes by the U.S. government to monitor U.S. exports. Companies that export typically use the appropriate Schedule B codes for their products rather than HTS codes on their export paperwork, and when filing their electronic export information (EEI) through the Automated Export System (AES). Since the Schedule B codes are a subset of HTS codes, it's usually quicker and easier for exporters to classify products under Schedule B than HTS.

Because these three codes are often confused, we’ve written about them extensively. You can learn more about these codes in our comprehensive resource for all exporters, Export Procedures and Documentation: An In-Depth Guide and in our article, What's the Difference between HS, HTS and Schedule B Codes?

Determining Jurisdiction of Your Export Products

There are multiple U.S. agencies that regulate exporting, and different agencies' regulations apply to different products. That means that the first step for classifying your goods for export control purposes is determining who has jurisdiction over your goods.

While most items are controlled by the U.S. Department of Commerce under the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), your items may not be, especially if they have a direct military application. In that case, they may fall under the jurisdiction of the State Department's Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC).

You can learn more about this in our articles, 3 Ways to Classify Your Products for Export Controls and USML vs. ECCN: What's the Difference?

Export Control Classification Numbers

Export Control Classification Numbers fall under the jurisdiction of the Commerce Department. The Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) sums it up nicely:

If you ship a commercial item from the United States to a foreign destination, your transaction is likely to be subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) within the U.S. Department of Commerce has jurisdiction over the export and reexport of “dual-use” items (i.e., commodities, technology and software that have both civilian and military or proliferation applications).

These controls are implemented through the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). If your item is subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Commerce, you should first determine if your item is designated by an Export Control Classification Number (ECCN) on the Commerce Control List (CCL).

The ECCN is a key factor in determining whether you need a license to export dual-use items outside of the U.S.

BIS defines an ECCN as a five-digit alphanumeric designation (i.e., 1A984 or 4A001) used in the CCL to identify items for export control purposes. An ECCN categorizes items based on the nature of the product, i.e. type of commodity, technology or software and its respective technical parameters.

Once the ECCN has been identified, you can determine the reasons for control of the item, which transactions may require an export license based on the country of destination, and which license exceptions, if any, may apply.

Download the free white paper: How to Determine If You Need an Export License

All ECCNs are listed in the Commerce Control List (Supplement No. 1 to Part 774 of the EAR), which is divided into 10 broad categories, and each category is further subdivided into five product groups. The first character of the ECCN identifies the broader category to which it belongs and the second character identifies the product group (see example and boxes below).

ECCN vs. HS

BIS conducts an excellent two-day seminar, Complying with U.S. Export Controls, that explains the export control requirements in more detail and walks you through the process of determining the correct ECCN classifications for your products. You'll find a complete list of seminar dates and locations on the BIS website.

Identifying the Correct Classifications

Every export item has an HS/Schedule B code, but not every item has an ECCN. It’s important to check if your item has both an ECCN classification and an Schedule B/HS number. Shipping Solutions Product Classification Wizard can help you identify both. The Wizard allows you to enter a brief description of your product and then it displays potential matches along with notes about each option.

If you’re lucky enough to be exporting an item that doesn’t have an ECCN classification, it doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for export control. End use and end user are other reasons controls exist; we talk about them in the following articles:

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