Classification of goods imported into Germany

Determining the classification of goods (HS code) is a very important step in determining the import tariff on that good. It should be noted that, World Customs Organization (WCO) developed the 6-digit HS code and it is harmonised across most countries in the world.  Countries can further classify goods by adding longer codes to the first 6 digits. Therefore, national HS codes may vary from country to country. Most countries add 2 or 4 numbers (forming an 8-digit, 10-digit HS code).

Vietnam currently uses 8-digit HS code under the ASEAN Harmonized Tariff Nomenclature (AHTN). Meanwhile, Germany applies the EU's combined nomenclature (CN) (8-digit) for the purpose of imposing import tariffs, and the 11-digit code for the purpose of imposing VAT and some other measures.

Therefore, when exporting goods to Germany, Vietnamese exporters need to determine the HS code of the goods according to the German HS system (11 digits) which is different from the Vietnamese HS code (08 digits). Thus, it should be based on the description of the goods to determine the accurate classification. If businesses are unsure of their classification, they can contact German Customs for assistance in pre-determining the HS code of their goods.

Structure of Germany’s HS System

Germany uses the HS System detailed up to 11 digits as follows:

- The first 6 digits: Based on WCO's Harmonized System (HS). The WCO's HS system is used uniformly by 183 countries and territories that are members of this Organization, including Vietnam and the EU.

- The 7th and 8th digits: Based on the EU's HS System, called the Combined Nomenclature (CN), published in the EU's Official Journal in October every year. This is an 8-digit HS system, which is applied uniformly throughout the EU for members to use as a basis for building their national HS System (more detailed up to 10-11 numbers). The EU also uses this CN System in international trade negotiations on tariffs.

- The 9th and 10th digits: These two numbers are prescribed under the Integrated Tariff of the European Communities (TARIC) for the purpose of coding goods for the EU's import management measures such as anti-dumping measures, duty suspensions, tariff quotas, etc.

- The 11th digit: The 11th number is used for classification of goods for national purposes, such as used for determining VAT or German import bans or restrictions.

Example about the structure of Germany’s HS System for Children's books with HS code 4901 9900 00 9:

Code number

Formal structure


Chapter - harmonised system


Heading - harmonised system

4901 99

Subheading - harmonised system

4901 9900

Subheading - combined nomenclature

4901 9900 00

Subheading - TARIC/Community use

4901 9900 00 9

Code number - Electronic customs tariff/national use

Businesses can learn more about the German HS System at the website of German Customs ( by following the link: Businesses/Movement-of-goods/Import/Duties-and-taxes/Normal-customs-clearance/Customs-Tariff/customs-tariff_node.html

It is noted that, although the Germany’s HS System details up to 11 numbers, the determination of tariffs for goods imported into Germany only needs to be based on the first 8 numbers. The reason is that the EU applies a uniform tariff system across the EU and this system is detailed to only 8 numbers (according to CN). Tariff commitments of the EU in the EVFTA are also based on the 8-digit HS code. The detailing of HS to 10 digits according to TARIC or 11 digits is not for tariff classification but for other purposes. Therefore, on import declaration, German importers still have to declare up to 11 digits, but determine the import tariff according to the first 8 numbers.

In addition, for certificates of origin (in case goods are subject to EVFTA tariff preferences), only the first 06 numbers of the HS code of the goods need to be provided because the ROO in the EVFTA are only detailed up to 06 numbers. Currently, because Vietnam has not yet applied the origin self-certification mechanism in the EVFTA, the Vietnamese exporter needs to apply for a Certificate of Origin (EUR.1 form) at a competent authorities of Vietnam for goods exported to Germany and send it to the German importer to enjoy the EVFTA tariff preference.

Source: "Business Handbook: Exploiting the EVFTA  to import and export goods between Vietnam and Germany" - Center for WTO and International Trade