The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), the keepers of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), is developing a new HTS Online Reference Tool. You can see it yourself at http://hts.usitc.gov, or in the screen shot below:
Note that this is still in Beta. It is not yet fully functional, and probably won’t be until 2013, so it would probably be a good idea to defer the current version of the HTSUS we’ve come to know and love at http://www.usitc.gov/tata/hts/bychapter/index.htm.
However, in its infinite wisdom, or more likely due to budgetary constraints, the 2011 version of the current HTSUS is missing its alphabetical index. Instead, you see this:
And clicking on that link just takes you to the new online tool.
Actually, that little search box in the first screen shot is as good as or better than the old PDF version of the index. But as classification geeks all know, the index is (quoting General Rule of Interpretation 1):
…provided for ease of reference only; classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes and, provided such headings or notes do not otherwise require…
Unfortunately, for up and coming classification geeks, once you’re in the new online tool, it is very tempting to stay in the new online tool. And because it’s still in Beta, connections to things like the the General Rules of Interpretation, Section Notes, Chapter Notes do not exactly exist yet. A simple key word search is fine for a dictionary, but HTSUS classification requires a more human-like reasoning process. And the new online tool just isn’t there yet.
I have faith that it will improve over time. But for now, once you’ve used the online tool to narrow your search down to potential headings, I recommend that you return to the current PDF version to complete the process.
Latest word form the ITC is that, perhaps due to pressure from the trade, they will be at least putting a copy of the 2010 PDF index in the 2011 PDF HTSUS.
By the way, this has thrown a big wrench into finishing up Import Export Geeks’ new course, Classic Classification: HTSUS and Schedule B. But we hope to have it out by the end of the month.