Abstract A hydride generation system combined with high-resolution inductively coulped plasma mass spectrometry was used to determine tin in marine materials. The optimization conditions for determination of tin in this system are 0.015 M of sulfuric acid solution as medium, 0.2% (w/v) of sodium tetrahydroborate(III) in 0.015 M of sodium hydroxide solution as a reductant and argon as the carrier gas at a flow rate of 1.1 l min −1. In order to remove the interferences from transition element ions, a strongly basic anion exchanger was used in this method. Tin was converted to its chlorostannate with 2 M hydrochloric acid followed by passing to an anion exchanger. The tin absorbed on the column was then eluted with 1 M nitric acid. Under the optimized conditions, the detection limit of the method was 12 ng l −1 without using the anion column as preconcentration method. The results obtained using this method were in good agreement with the certified values of marine standard reference materials. The recoveries for the method when applied to determine trace tin in river water were 95–115%.