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HMRC has today (3 August) confirmed the date at which it will complete its much-anticipated migration to a new, more modern system for processing customs entries.

The new Customs Declaration Service (CDS) has been in development since before the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016.

End of an era

It has now been confirmed that the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system, which CDS replaces, will be fully closed on 31 March 2023.

CHIEF has been the UK government’s system for customs entries for nearly 30 years.

Secure and stable

According to the government statement today, the new CDS system will provide a “more secure and stable platform that has the capacity and capability to grow in line with the government’s ambitious trade plans”.

Launched in 2018, it has been running in parallel with CHIEF over the last three years.

It is already used for declarations for cross-border trade with non-EU markets and for goods moved between Great Britain and Northern Ireland under the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Phased closure

CHIEF will finally be closed in two phases:

  • On 30 September 2022, it will no longer be usable for import declarations
  • On 31 March 2023, export declarations will close on the CHIEF and the National Exports System (NES)

Sophie Dean and Katherine Green, the director generals for borders and trade at HMRC, said the government is committed to “making the switch-over as smooth as possible”.

Time to prepare

Organisations supporting the submission of declarations to HMRC and traders who self-file customs declarations have been advised by IOE&IT Academy director Kevin Shakespeare to ensure their customs software interfaces with CDS prior to when CHIEF closes.

“The migration to CDS has been in the works for some time and we are glad a conclusion is coming soon,” he told the IOE&IT Daily Update. “Firms that submit declarations – whether that’s intermediaries or traders themselves – should now ensure their own systems are set up with CDS and their processes updated. Our new training course will support traders and intermediaries in understanding the changes they need to make to migrate to using CDS.”

The IOE&IT’s training course on migrating to CDS was launched in May 2021 and has already proven popular. The course remains open for bookings throughout the summer and autumn.


The government has already written to industry bodies confirming the changes, saying the migration is “critical to the long-term flow of trade, offering flexibility to accommodate future improvements to imports and exports”.

The upgrade to CDS is also a requirement for the UK to be compliant with the Northern Ireland Protocol and to operate a dual UK and EU trade tariff – which CHIEF had not been set up to do.