Examples of the HS categories include:

  • 72.06.10 – Ingots of Iron and Non-alloy Steel
  • 72.06.90 – Iron and Non-alloy Steel in Other Primary Forms

In each of these examples, the chapter heading is 72 which represents Iron and Steel. The next level of detail is the 06, which represents “iron and non-alloy steel in ingots, etc. nesoi” (“nesoi” stands for “not elsewhere specified or included”). Finally, the “10” and “90” provide an even more detailed level of description of the goods in question.

Although this example includes only six digits, some countries (South Africa included) have categories with 8 or even 10 digits in total, suggesting two further levels of detail. For example: 72.121010 – Flat-rolled products of iron or non-alloy steel, width <600mm, plated or coated with tin: of a thickness of 0.5mm or more.

You should be aware that the HS codes may be represented slightly differently in different countries. Some include a dot between each two digits, while others may only show a dot after the first two digits representing the chapter number, while others may show a dot just before the last set of two digits, or even no dots at all (e.g. 72.06.10 or 72.0610 or 7206.10 or 720610). In addition, the exact categories and category descriptions may differ from country to country, especially at the higher levels of detail. The first six digits are fairly universal, however (although this does not necessarily mean that the same good will be given the same classification in every country using the system). It is only as one moves to eight or ten digits, where the differences between countries become more pronounced. Additional digits that appear in the tariff of a country using the HS are for statistical purposes.