Export Classification and Tariff Code

The export classification and the tariff code are two completely separate systems for identifying exports. 

Tariff code

The Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) of the United States assigns a ten-digit classification code to each of about 17,000 descriptions of goods.  This number is used to determine an item's tariff schedule, as well as providing a basis for reporting trade statistics.  The HTS is based on the World Customs Organization's six-digit Harmonized Commodity Coding and Classification System, as are the tariff schedules for other countries.  The HTS is always used for import into the U.S.  It can also usually be used for exports from the U.S., supplanting the earlier Schedule B.  HTS and Schedule B are similar but not always the same -- the Census Bureau has a list of HTS numbers than cannot be used for exportMore information on Schedule B and Harmonized System.

Export classification (ITAR)

The State Department's International Trafficking in Arms Regulations (ITAR) control the export of items, technical data, and services that are either on the US Munitions List or were "specifically designed, developed, configured, adapted, or modified for a military application".  All ITAR-controlled exports require a license for the State Department, unless they qualify for one of several exemptions.

Export classification (EAR)

If an item is not subject to the ITAR, then it's probably subject to the Commerce Department's Export Administration Regulations (EAR).  If an item subject to the EAR is on the Commerce Control List (CCL, an Index is also available), it will have a five-digit Export Control Classification Number (ECCN).  If it's subject to the EAR and not on the CCL, its ECCN is EAR99.  All EAR items are subject restrictions based on the end use, end user, and country.  In addition, all EAR items except EAR99 are subject to list-based controls, specified in the CCL, which consider the item and destination country.

Determining whether an item is subject to ITAR or EAR is critical. and determining the correct ECCN for EAR items is very important.  Mistakes here can have serious consequences to MIT and to individual shippers. 

  • The best source of export classification for a purchased item is the vendor or manufacturer.
  • If it cannot be gotten from the vendor or manufacturer, then it will be necessary in all but the most obvious cases to consult the Export Control Officer.  

For more information see the OSP export controls website.