Search blog post

{{ noResultText }} "{{ keyword }}"

{{ backToText }}

{{ filtered_Items.length }} {{ resultsForText }} "{{ keyword }}"

  • {{ item.authorFullName }} | {{ item.publishedDate|toDate }} | {{ next }},
  • Blog
  • Customs tariff classification made easy for e-commerce traders

Customs clearance

Customs tariff classification made easy for e-commerce traders


Share with friends now

Switzerland is very interesting for e-commerce retailers. This is because the Swiss have a high purchasing power and are open to foreign products due to the locally limited product variety. If only it weren't for the complicated import customs clearance procedure. But don't worry: you're not alone! 

Here is an overview of what you can expect in this blog: 

Small but mighty - that's one way to describe Switzerland. It may be a small country, but its population is particularly affluent. That's why it's super attractive for you as an e-commerce retailer. We provide you with a few facts: 

  • Strong franc = high purchasing power: The Swiss franc is the strongest currency in the world. This is the reason why the Swiss have particularly high purchasing power abroad. And that makes them extremely attractive customers for foreign e-commerce retailers. So for you!
  • Limited local availability of goods: Compared to larger markets such as Germany or France, the selection of locally available goods is limited. This is why the Swiss like to shop abroad so much and so often.  
  • Little competition in the e-commerce business: Foreign goods have to be cleared through customs for Switzerland, which is time-consuming and expensive. Many e-commerce retailers shy away from this effort. Use this fact for yourself. As an e-commerce merchant that delivers to Switzerland at favourable conditions, you have a decisive competitive advantage! 
  • What makes Switzerland an e-commerce pearl? Read our blog to find out. 


Customs tariff classification 
Customs tariff classification: What is it anyway?

Customs tariff classification is the process by which goods are assigned a customs tariff number. This number is also known as the HS code (Harmonised System Code) and is an internationally recognised classification method used by customs authorities worldwide to identify the type of goods being imported or exported. This system was developed by the World Customs Organisation (WCO) and is used by over 200 countries and economic areas. In other words, more than 98% of international trade is classified according to this system. 

This means that every product, from smartphones and designer handbags to apples, has its own HS code. This determines how much customs duty is due on the goods and whether certain import or export restrictions apply. 

Customs tariff classification: Why is it important for e-commerce retailers?  

  • Customs clearance: HS codes determine how much tax you have to pay and whether additional requirements and restrictions apply to your products. Incorrect HS codes can lead to unnecessarily high customs duties and VAT charges. For example, the standard rate of 8.1% instead of the reduced rate of 2.6% for Swiss VAT could be incorrectly applied. Additional incentive taxes are also possible. For example, whisky with the tariff number 2208.3020 is subject to an additional CHF 29 spirits tax per litre of pure alcohol!
  • Authorisation requirement: The customs tariff number is not only essential for the calculation of customs duties, it is also linked to the authorisation requirement for goods and non-customs remissions. Therefore, make sure that you classify your goods correctly in the customs tariff.
  • International trade agreements: Many international trade agreements - including free trade agreements - refer to HS codes. If you know which HS code applies to your goods, you can also find out whether your goods benefit from such an agreement.
  • Market research: HS codes can help you understand market trends and identify new business opportunities. You can use them to search trade statistics and find out which goods are in demand in which countries.
  • Compliance: Classifying your goods correctly is a legal obligation. Incorrect HS codes can lead to delays in customs clearance, penalties and even confiscation of your goods. 

Are you unsure whether your selected customs tariff number is correct? The customs tariff information will help you! 


  • Pro tip: 

    The correct customs tariff classification is crucial for you as an e-commerce retailer: it ensures that your products cross the border quickly and reliably. This saves costs and helps you gain a top reputation with your Swiss customers. After all, Swiss customers are not only attractive to you as an online retailer, they are also demanding when it comes to the shopper journey.


Understanding customs duties in Swiss e-commerce 

Here is an overview of the potential customs costs. A distinction is made between the following types and subtypes: 



  • Since 2024 there are no more customs duties for most products. Read our blog about this.


  • Pro tip:

    It is important that you carry out the customs tariff classification accurately. This is because incorrect customs classification leads to delays and penalties. With consequences: 

  • - Your customers have to wait longer for their order. 
    - This leads to dissatisfaction or even order cancellations. 
    - A penalty results in additional financial costs that you have not factored in.

The customs tariff number  

The Swiss customs tariff is based on the internationally valid Harmonised System (HS). This is used by most countries and consists of codes with six digits. In Switzerland, eight digits are used to classify goods even more precisely for specific Swiss requirements. With the so-called statistical key, there are even eleven digits. Products can thus be categorised even more granularly. 


How is the customs tariff number structured? 

The customs tariff number consists of the chapter number, the serial number and the sub-number. The statistical key is attached. It looks like this: 

HS Code Infographic (quer) (1)


Instructions for HS code classification in Switzerland   

Is the general information on the customs tariff number clear? Great! Then let's take a detailed look at the correct tariff classification. Admittedly, it can be a challenge because there are thousands of numbers. But there are a few tools that can help you with this. One of these is Switzerland's electronic customs tariff system (Tares). On Tares, you can find the correct customs tariff number for your products and at the same time obtain important information about the associated customs duties and taxes. 

Concrete example 

Now it's getting concrete - we'll show you how to solve the correct customs tariff number. Let's assume you want to export a jumper to Switzerland. In the following illustration, you can see how to determine the correct customs tariff number for this. 


Step 1: 

Go to the Swiss Customs website and enter the Tares portal.


Step 2: 

Enter your data:

  1. Enter your item in the search slot and press ‘Search’.
    Note: You can also search using the customs tariff number - this makes sense if you want to check whether you have the right number.
  2. Your article is not found? Try using synonyms and see if the results match.
  3. The search options ‘Search in the decisions’, ‘Search in the explanations’ and ‘Search with chemical elements and compounds’ are not relevant for typical e-commerce products.


Step 3:

A product usually has several characteristics that define the correct customs tariff number. In our jumper example, the production types (knitted, woven, etc.) are also decisive. 

So choose the product variant that corresponds to your product:



Step 4: 

As soon as you have entered the product, you will be taken to a Tares screen, which has two variants. 


Variant 1 (search result): 

This screen shows you the granular search results for your product in two colours: Green the top category, yellow the subcategories. You can select the correct sub-category here. 

Let's stay with our jumper example: The material is very important for the correct sub-category - it has a significant influence on the amount of customs duty.



Variant 2 (whole chapter): 

This screen gives you a more detailed view of the different product types and subcategories.  

As an e-commerce retailer, you usually have to price not just one product, but several. This screen therefore shows you the origin - i.e. the top characteristic - of your product. In our example: Textiles and goods made from them. Scroll down to find the granular subcategories.  

If you repeat this process for several of your goods, you will quickly get a feel for the correct determination of customs tariff numbers. 



Step 5: 

Now it depends on what you have selected for the jumper: ‘Made of cotton’ or ‘Made of synthetic and artificial fibres’? Depending on this, you will be taken to the next screen ‘Display details’

Let's summarise briefly: 

  • Customs tariff number: 6110.3000 or 6110.2000
  • Key: In our example, there is no key that would be necessary to assign further duties or import restrictions
  • Value added tax: 8.1%  
  • Pro tip:
  • Exporters can benefit massively from the 2024 customs revision. Since 1 January 2024, the majority of e-commerce-related goods can be imported into Switzerland duty-free due to the abolition of industrial tariffs. You can find more information in our special blog: Abolition of industrial tariffs from 2024 boosts cross-border e-commerce to Switzerland. 

A word about the tare surcharge: This is irrelevant for you as an e-commerce retailer. Shipments are cleared through customs based on the gross weight of the individual products. Details can be found here. Folie6


Stumbling blocks in the tariff system

Admittedly: Customs tariff classification is complex. There are stumbling blocks lurking here and there. We tell you where they are hidden and how you can avoid them: 

  • Incomplete or incorrect product descriptions: Inaccurate product descriptions can lead to your products being incorrectly priced.
    • Make sure that the description of your products is accurate. This includes materials, intended use and other relevant details.
  • Use incorrect tariff numbers: Incorrect customs tariff numbers will result in incorrect customs duties - and in the worst case, penalties.
    • Make sure that you use the correct customs tariff number. Use tools such as the electronic customs tariff Tares.
  • Failure to take additional duties into account: In addition to customs duties, there may also be additional charges such as VAT or special fees for certain goods. 
    • Make sure that you include all possible costs when you set the price for your products.
  • Failure to comply with changes to customs regulations: Customs regulations can change. If you miss this, it will have major consequences for your business. 
    • Make sure you are always up to date. Use all the resources available to you to stay up to date.
  • Manage everything on your own: No master has ever fallen from the sky! Ignorance often leads to additional costs and hassle
    • Make sure you have experienced partners at your side. For example, Swiss Post - we support you with customs tariff classification. 

How to simplify customs tariff classification 

We have already mentioned this above: There are various offers to simplify customs tariff classification.

  1. Use digital tools: There are various platforms that can help you to make customs tariff classification a breeze. For example, there is the electronic customs tariff Tares from the Swiss Customs Administration. It helps you to find the right tariff numbers for your products. However, there are also other software solutions on the market or HS code finders. These are based on the international HS code database and are a good basis for your customs tariff classification.
  2. Learn: Customs tariff classification is constantly changing. It is therefore important that you are always up to date. This is the only way to ensure that you use the correct tariff numbers and comply with all customs regulations. Take advantage of training courses, webinars, specialist literature and more and become a customs professional!
  3. APIs and shop plug-ins: If you run an online shop, there are APIs and plug-ins that help you integrate customs tariff classification into your checkout process. These tools automatically determine the correct tariff numbers for your products and calculate the customs costs immediately. 
  4. Find an expert: If you need support, get it! Customs consultants, freight forwarders or even the customs administration can provide you with valuable input to ensure your customs tariff classification is successful. There are also customs tariff consultancies that can help you.
  5. Plan ahead: Customs tariff classification is an important part of your export and import process and must be taken into account from the outset. This is the only way to avoid delays and additional costs
  6. Be organised: File all relevant information systematically and neatly. This will help you to ensure that the customs process runs smoothly - and you will be perfectly prepared in the event of a customs inspection.

    Would you like personalised support? Click on the button below for your consultation appointment.

Still having some questions? Let's answer them!


How Swiss Post can help you export to Switzerland  

Swiss Post has a wide range of logistics products that are specially designed for exporting and importing goods to Switzerland. In addition to the customs clearance process, it can help e-commerce merchants to handle their shipments efficiently and smoothly from the warehouse to the Swiss shopper. 

Want to know how? Here are the arguments: 

  1. Freight transport: Swiss Post offers efficient and reliable freight transport services. So that your goods arrive safely in Switzerland from your warehouse.
  2. Customs clearance: Swiss Post has extensive experience in customs clearance. It can help you to simplify the export and import customs clearance process.
  3. Customs tariff classification: Swiss Post supports you with tariff classification and helps to ensure that all customs regulations are complied with.
  4. Handling and delivery: Swiss Post covers the entire logistics chain - from handling your goods to delivery to the Swiss end customer. Your advantage: a significantly simpler process. The advantage for your customers: They are much more satisfied.
  5. Returns management: Swiss Post is also an expert in returns management. Manage returns, including export customs clearance for returns from Switzerland and import customs clearance for returns to the EU.
  6. APIs and plug-ins for shops: Swiss Post also provides you with APIs and plug-ins for your online shop. They help to automate the customs clearance process and calculate customs costs in real time.


  • Get in touch with us - we know how to do it! 



Is your head spinning? Then get yourself a coffee and make yourself comfortable. Ready? Read our checklist - it summarises all the points once again.

  • The Swiss market is very attractive for you as an e-commerce to Switzerland retailer. 
  • If you export goods to Switzerland, you need a customs tariff number. 
  • The customs tariff classification is also called HS code because the Swiss customs tariff is based on the internationally valid Harmonised System. 
  • The customs tariff number consists of 8 digits plus the statistical key. 
  • The customs tariff classification determines the amount of your customs duties and taxes. 
  • Take your time to check the customs tariff classification! If it is incorrect, this will have an impact on your profit - and on customer satisfaction. 
  • Incorrect customs tariff classification can lead to higher costs, penalties and delays in delivery. 
  • Customs tariff classification also plays a role in free trade agreements. 
  • The product and the product variants are decisive for the registration of the customs tariff number. 
  • The tariff surcharge is not relevant for you as an e-commerce retailer. 
  • You can use digital tools for customs tariff classification. 
  • Make sure that you are always up to date with customs tariffs. 
  • If you run an online shop, you can use APIs and plug-ins. They automatically determine the correct tariff numbers for your products and calculate the customs costs straight away. 
  • Be careful with customs tariff classification and ensure that you are well prepared for any customs inspection. 
  • Swiss Post can support you in exporting goods. Get in touch with us


Further links 

We have compiled some helpful links for you here - click on them and get additional information: 

Custom tariff – Tares 

Customs tariff information

Free data delivery

Abolition of industrial tariffs as of 1 January 2024


Finesolutions – Tares

Finesolutions – Customs tariff information



Switzerland is very interesting for e-commerce retailers. This is because the Swiss have a high purchasing power and are open to foreign products due to the locally limited product variety. If only it weren't for the complicated import customs clearance procedure. But don't worry: you're not alone!