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1233.0 - Australian Harmonized Export Commodity Classification (AHECC), Jan 2006  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 17/12/2004   
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Contents >> Introduction and explanatory notes >> 1.1 Purpose of the AHECC

The Australian Harmonized Export Commodity Classification (AHECC) is designed:

  • for use by exporters and agents to classify goods when providing export declarations to Australian Customs Service (Customs); and
  • to assist users in the interpretation of export statistics published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The AHECC is based on the 6-digit items of the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (Harmonized System or HS). The HS is a broad classification system of approximately 5,000 6-digit headings which are used to classify internationally traded goods as they enter or leave a country. It was developed and is maintained by the World Customs Organization (WCO). First introduced on 1 January 1988, it has been adopted by most trading nations, including Australia. It enables information on traded goods to be compared internationally.

Australia expands the international HS to produce two different classifications for imports and exports. These classifications are the Combined Australian Customs Tariff Nomenclature and Statistical Classification (referred to as the Customs Tariff or simply the Tariff) and the Australian Harmonized Export Commodity Classification (referred to as the AHECC).

The extensions to the HS exist:
  • for customs purposes, to differentiate between imported goods grouped under a single 6-digit HS code. Such differentiation is generally driven by the need to impose varying import duty rates on similar goods. This is achieved by adding two digits to the HS code, making an 8-digit code. This extension to the HS is maintained by Customs; and
  • for statistical purposes, to provide a finer level of detail. This is achieved by adding two digits to the combination of HS and Customs 8-digit codes for imports and to the 6-digit HS codes for exports. The statistical codes are maintained by the ABS.

The international HS is subject to ongoing review by the WCO to ensure it:
  • reflects newly developed commodities and changes in the types of commodities traded;
  • meets administrative requirements (for example for the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)); and
  • minimises the burden on data providers by requesting only the level of detail that is administratively and statistically relevant.

Major changes to the international HS are implemented every four or five years. The first set of major changes was made on 1 January 1992 and impacted almost exclusively on the Explanatory Notes used to interpret the HS. The next rounds of major changes to the HS were implemented on 1 July 1996 and on 1 January 2002. The fourth set of major changes are planned for implementation on 1 January 2007.

In addition to incorporating amendments to the Harmonized System, changes to the statistical items are introduced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) for a variety of reasons. These reasons may include the rationalisation of units of quantity; the creation of more meaningful descriptors for existing statistical items; the creation of additional codes to accommodate changes in technology and user requests; or the amalgamation of codes which are recording minimal volumes of trade.

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