What are customs commodity codes and why do I need them?

What are customs commodity codes and why do I need them?


6 minute read | By Denholm Good Logistics

Last updated: March 25, 2024 | Published: February 23, 2018


For all UK imports and exports, commodity codes are used to classify goods to ensure the right amounts of tax, VAT and duty are paid. Here we explain why commodity codes are important and how you can make sure you get the correct code.

For all UK imports and exports, commodity codes are used to classify goods to ensure the right amounts of tax, VAT and duty are paid. Here, we explain why commodity codes are important and how to ensure you get the correct one.

What is a commodity code used for?

When importing and when exporting goods, you are responsible for providing the correct commodity codes for your goods. You’ll need your UK commodity codes to:

  •     Complete declarations and other paperwork.
  •     Find out if there is any duty or VAT to pay.
  •     Check if there are any duty reliefs.


Also known as tariff or HS codes, commodity codes are standardised throughout the EU and usually comprise ten numbers, with occasional exceptions. For example, for UK exports, you often only need the first eight digits. Nevertheless, some products have HS codes with up to 14 numbers. To find the correct code for your goods, visit the UK Online Trade Tariff, where you can look up commodity codes, duty and VAT rates.

Once you have the correct commodity code, it will be used to identify your products. Also, securing the appropriate UK commodity codes can help you determine if you have any other obligations relating to your goods, such as requiring an import or export licence.

Using the correct commodity codes in the UK is essential. If your goods are inspected at customs, and the contents don’t match the right commodity code name, they could be seized or delayed, and you’ll be liable for these costs.

Benefits of Commodity Codes

If you plan to transport goods to and from the UK, here’s how obtaining the correct UK commodity codes can help.

  •     Streamline the customs processes.
  •     Facilitate accurate classification of goods.
  •     Ensure compliance with trade regulations.
  •     Enhance supply chain visibility and efficiency.


If you need help determining what commodity code is suitable for your goods, you can email HMRC, who will advise you on how to classify your items. Simply send an email to classification.enquiries@hmrc.gov.uk and include a complete description of your product – what it is made from, its use and function, and how it’s presented or packaged.

What is a classification ruling?

If you’re still unsure if you have the correct commodity code, you can apply for an Advanced Tariff Ruling. This will give certainty about the correct tariff code classification and how much duty you’ll need to pay when importing or exporting goods from the UK.

To apply for an Advanced Tariff Ruling, you must secure the following:


You must also provide brochures, manuals, samples, and photographs of the goods where appropriate. For more information, you may visit HMRC’s Advanced Tariff Ruling page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a classification ruling?

A classification ruling is an official determination by UK customs authorities assigning a specific commodity code to a specific product name. It helps determine the correct customs duties, taxes, and regulations applicable to your goods.

What is the UK Trade Tariff, and how can I access it?

The UK Trade Tariff is a comprehensive list of commodity codes and their corresponding duty rates, regulations, and restrictions for goods imported or for travel goods exported from the UK. You can access it online through the official UK Online Trade Tariff page.

How do I find the correct commodity code for my product in the UK?

Use the government’s online Trade Tariff tool to find the correct commodity codes in the UK. Then, the search tool will identify your product’s characteristics, such as materials, intended use, and features, and match them with the appropriate HS code.

Can I use the same commodity codes for my product in both imports and exports?

In most cases, yes. UK commodity codes typically remain the same for an item regardless of whether it’s imported or exported. However, it helps to verify with customs authorities and experts, such as our team at Good Logistics, and review any specific export regulations to ensure you’re using the correct HS code.

Are there any specific rules or regulations for commodity codes in the UK?

Yes, there are. Commodity codes in the UK determine customs duties, trade agreements, customs declarations, and regulations. Ensuring accurate classification is vital to comply with customs requirements and benefit from preferential trade agreements. We encourage you to stay updated with any changes in UK commodity codes and seek expert advice if needed.

Get in Touch

At Denholm Good Logistics, we’re experts in Customs Clearance, and our Documentation and Customs team are on hand to provide advice and guidance whenever you need it. Please contact us if you have any questions.

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