Biologists classify living things in an ever-more-precise system of groups so that these organisms are easier to study. This classification system starts with domains and kingdoms and narrows down to specific genus and species. This system of classification is recognized and used by biologists around the world.
Likewise, countries classify products by a standardized series of numbers in order to assess duties and taxes on goods that are imported into their countries and to collect importing and exporting statistics. This classification system starts with the six-digit Harmonized System (HS) codes that are used by almost every country when classifying products and then narrows to longer and more specific classification codes that may be unique to each country.
In the United States, exporters must classify their products using the proper 10-digit Schedule B code. An exporter who uses the wrong code may face significant fines or other penalties. In this article, we’ll explain more about Schedule B numbers and how to use the Census Bureau’s Schedule B search engine tool to identify the proper codes for your exports.
What is a Schedule B Code?
The Schedule B code (also called a Schedule B number) is a 10-digit international export code for exporting goods out of the United States.
The Schedule B code is a U.S.-specific coding system administered by the Foreign Trade Division of the U.S. Census Bureau to track the amount of trade goods that are being exported from the U.S. The Census Bureau tracks the destination country, quantity and dollar amount of exports. Search criteria may consist of words or chapter numbers.
Schedule B codes are based on the Harmonized System (HS) codes administered by the World Customs Organization. The six-digit HS codes are the backbone of international trade and are the same in almost every country. However, countries can add additional numbers to more precisely identify and classify products, which is what the U.S. has done for the Schedule B codes.
Schedule B numbers have four components, which are identified by the green numerals beneath the digits:
- Chapter: In this example, 66 is the chapter.
- Heading: In this example, 6603 is the heading. The heading dictates the specific category within any particular chapter.
- Subheading: 6603.20 is the subheading. These are the last two digits of the international HS codes, defining subcategories of products.
- Extra digits: 6603.20.3000 includes the four additional digits the United States adds to complete the Schedule B number.
The Schedule B codes for goods are unique to the United States. If you are an exporter, you should probably be more concerned with Schedule B than HTS codes. You need to include the 10-digit Schedule B code on documents or filings that are used exclusively for the export process.
The Schedule B number should be part of your Electronic Export Information (EEI) that you submit to AESDirect in the following instances:
- When the value of your goods per Schedule B number exceeds $2,500.
- If your product requires an export license.
- If you are exporting a used vehicle.
- When exporting any items that appear on the Commerce Control List (CCL) to China, Russia, or Venezuela regardless of the value.
- Most exports to Canada don’t require an EEI filing.
So, in summary:
- There are 10 digits in a Schedule B code.
- Schedule B codes are used exclusively in the United States and exclusively for exports.
- The Schedule B code for a particular product may differ from the HTS codes used for imports.
Schedule B Code Use Cases
Companies that export typically use Schedule B codes for their products rather than HTS codes on their export paperwork, and when filing their EEI through the Automated Export System (AES). Since Schedule B codes are a subset of HTS codes, it's usually quicker and easier to classify products under Schedule B.
Companies that are already classifying their products using the HTS codes for their imports may want to use HTS classification for all their products to eliminate the need to classify products twice—once under HTS and again under Schedule B. That is perfectly acceptable, but do keep in mind that there are certain HTS codes that can't be used for exporting. Also, the reverse is not true: You cannot use Schedule B codes in place of HTS codes for import classifications.
How To Use the Schedule B Search Engine
You can look up Schedule B numbers easily using the Census Bureau's search tool:
It’s as simple as typing in the description of your product. The more detail you provide, the better. Once keywords are entered, the tool will ask questions to narrow down the Schedule B options.
For example, if you enter the key word “chair,” it will provide options to select cane/bamboo, wood, metal or other. Based on the selection, it might then ask if the chair is upholstered and so on, until it determines the likely Schedule B number.
The Census Bureau provides the following tips:
- For best results, describe your item first, then add a comma and add additional attributes. For example: “Peas, Frozen”
- You can search by HS code by entering the number (or part of the number) directly into the search tool. For example: “6201.11”
- Chemical substances can be searched by both proper name and by CAS Registration Number. To search by CAS number, type "CAS" followed by the number in the product description field. For example: “CAS 1347-36-6”
A More Sophisticated Look-Up Tool
While it works well for finding Schedule B numbers, the Schedule B Search Engine might not always be the best tool for your needs. Enter the Shipping Solutions Product Classification Wizard.
Like the Schedule B Search Engine, the Product Classification Wizard allows you to search for a specific Schedule B number either based on a partial code of at least the first two digits or by entering a text description of the product. You can also use either method to search for the correct HTS number for your imports. But that's not all.
This Trade Wizard also allows you to use the 10-digit Schedule B code (or the 10-digit HTS code) to find the correct code in another country. For example, if you want to map the Schedule B code used in the example above—6603.20.3000—to find the corresponding code to import the umbrellas into Germany, the Product Classification Wizard's mapping tool tells you the correct code is 66032000000. It also tells you that the default duty rate in Germany is 5.2% and the GSP duty rate is 1.7%. And it lets you know there's a Value Added Tax (VAT) of 19%.
In addition, the Product Classification Wizard also helps identify Export Control Classification Numbers (ECCN) and U.S. Munitions List (USML) codes used for export control purposes. You can then use the ECCN or USML classification with the Export Controls Wizard to determine if you need an export license before you ship your product.
Here’s a look at how the Product Classification Wizard works:
If you’re looking for a more advanced product classification tool, request a free trial subscription to the Product Classification Wizard. There is no obligation.
- What's the Difference between a Schedule B Code and an HS Number?
- HS Codes, HTS Codes and Schedule B Codes: What's the Difference?
- An Exporter's Guide to Product Classification
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