Taxation and customs union

The Combined Nomenclature

When declared to customs in the European Union (EU), goods must generally be classified according to the Combined nomenclature (CN). The CN is a tool for designating goods and merchandise which was established to meet, simultaneously, the requirements both of the Common Customs Tariff and of the external trade statistics of the EU. The CN is also used in intra-EU trade statistics. Imported and exported goods therefore have to be declared stating under which subheading of the nomenclature they fall. This determines which rate of customs duty applies and how the goods are treated for statistical purposes or for other European Union policies.

The basic regulation is Council Regulation (EEC) No 2658/87 on the tariff and statistical nomenclature and on the Common Customs Tariff. An updated version of the Annex I to the Combined Nomenclature Regulation is published as a Commission Regulation every year in the L-series of the Official Journal of the EU. Such updates take into account any changes that have been agreed at international level, either at the World Customs Organization (WCO) with regard to the Harmonized System (HS) nomenclature or within the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO) with regard to conventional duty rates. Other changes may be required to reflect the evolution of, for example, commercial policy, technological or statistical requirements.

Quick links:

Latest Combined Nomenclature edition
Latest consolidated version of the Explanatory Notes to Combined Nomenclature
Council Regulation (EEC) No 2658/87 (basic regulation)
Code of Conduct for the management of the Combined Nomenclature

A Code of Conduct has been established to ensure a better discipline of the management of the CN. Its main objective is to eliminate unwarranted growth of the CN and to keep a balance between the interests of all involved stakeholders. It also sets guidelines for stakeholders on how to present requests for amending the CN.
The CN is comprised of the HS nomenclature with further EU subdivisions. The Harmonized System is managed by the WCO. This systematic list of commodities forms the basis for international trade negotiations, and is applied by most trading nations.


The Explanatory Notes (CNEN)
The Explanatory Notes to the CN are considered to be an important aid for interpreting the scope of the various tariff headings but do not have legally binding force. The Explanatory Notes were established by Council Regulation (EEC) No 2658/87 on the tariff and statistical nomenclature and on the Common Customs Tariff. The latest version is available in EU Official Journal, C - series (see the Quick links above).

The CN includes:

  1. Preliminary Provisions (general rules for classification; rules related to duties or to nomenclatures, etc.);
  2. Descriptions of Goods;
  3. Additional Section or Chapter Notes and footnotes relating to CN subdivisions;
  4. Conventional duty rates, reflecting the EU tariff commitments in the WTO, as well as some EU autonomous duties;
  5. Supplementary units;
  6. A set of Tariff related annexes (Agriculture, Chemistry,...) or for a special coding system (Chapters 98 and 99).

Each CN subdivision, so called ‘CN code’, has an eight digit code number followed by a description and a duty rate.

HS chapter

2 digits

e.g."Chapter 18        Cocoa and Cocoa Preparations"

HS heading

4 digits

e.g. "1806                  Chocolate and other food preparations containing cocoa"

HS subheading

6 digits

e.g. "1806 10          - Cocoa powder, containing added sugar or sweetening matter"

CN subheading

8 digits

e.g. "1806 10 15  - - Containing no sucrose or containing less than 5 % by weight of sucrose (including invert sugar expressed as sucrose) or isoglucose expressed as sucrose"



HS level (WCO-International)


EU level