Classification of Goods

July 11th, 2012

Classification of goods for Central Excise and Customs


Background of Central Excise Tariff
  • Rate of duty is determined based on Classification of goods read with relevant exemption notification.
  • Classification is done on basis of Central Excise Tariff and Customs Tariff. Both the tariffs are based on HSN (Harmonised System of Nomenclature) developed by WCO.
  • Goods are classified in 20 sections (21 in case of customs). Each section consists of various chapters.
  • Tariff is based on 8 digit classification of goods. First two digits indicate chapter, next two digits indicate heading and next two are sub-classification. Single, double and triple dashes are used to groups and sub-groups.
  • Eight digit classification is termed as ‘tariff item’. Rate of duty is indicated only against ‘tariff item’.
  • Classification is done on basis of GIR (General Interpretative Rules) which are part of Tariff. Titles of sections and chapters are only for reference. Section notes and chapter notes have overriding effect.


Steps in classification of an article (1)   Refer the heading and sub-heading. Read corresponding Section Notes and Chapter Notes. If there is no ambiguity or confusion, the classification is final (Rule 1 of GIR). You do not have to look to classification rules or trade practice or dictionary meaning. If classification is not possible, then only go to GIR. The rules are to be applied sequentially.(2)   If meaning of word is not clear, refer to trade practice. If trade understanding of a product cannot be established, find technical or dictionary meaning of the term used in the tariff. You may also refer to BIS or other standards, but trade parlance is most important.

(3)   If goods are incomplete or un-finished, but classification of finished product is known, find if the un-finished item has essential characteristics of finished goods. If so, classify in same heading – Rule 2(a).

(4)   If ambiguity persists, find out which heading is specific and which heading is more general. Prefer specific heading.- Rule 3(a).

(5)   If problem is not resolved by Rule 3(a), find which material or component is giving ‘essential character’ to the goods in question – Rule 3(b).

(6)   If both are equally specific, find which comes last in the Tariff and take it – Rule 3(c).

(7)   If you are unable to find any entry which matches the goods in question, find goods which are most akin – Rule 4.

(8)   In case of mixtures or sets too, the procedure is more or less same, except that each ingredient of the mixture or set has to be seen in above sequence. As per rule 2(b), any reference to a material or substance includes a reference to mixtures or combinations of that material or substance with other material or substance.

(9)   Packing material is classified along with the goods except when the packing is for repetitive use – Rule 5


General Principles of classification of an Article
  • Words used in Tariff are to be understood in the sense these are understood in the trade. This is ‘trade parlance theory’. The trade parlance is more important than dictionary or technical meaning, unless the word is specifically defined in the Tariff itself.
  • HSN is very important guide in classifying a product and it should be normally followed.
  • End use is generally not relevant for classification, except when the tariff description so requires and classification is relating to function of the product.


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