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Traders are being advised to consider training staff to prepare for when HMRC completes its switch to a new system for handling customs entries on goods leaving and entering the UK.

The transition from the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system to the Customs Declaration Service (CDS) will be completed by 31 March 2023.

The government says CDS 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”.

CHIEF, which has been in place for 30 years, is being closed in two phases:

  • From 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)

Training available

In May, the IOE&IT launched a new training course on how traders can prepare to use CDS.

It explains how to ensure customs compliance on both the CHIEF and CDS systems, comparing how declarations are entered into both.

Aimee Maltman, deputy director of the IOE&IT Academy, said: “The important thing for companies to be aware of is that the data declared into CDS varies from the data declared in CHIEF”.

“This ultimately means that companies and their customs brokers need to ensure they understand the data elements for submission and prepare for this,” she said.


Paul Woodward, trade and customs specialist at the IOE&IT, said CDS standardises data elements and data sets, introducing new elements that do not currently exist in CHIEF.

This update to how HMRC handles declaration entries has been designed to allow the UK to comply with requirements for trade with the EU, under the bloc’s Customs Data Model and Union Custom Code. It will also future proof the UK’s trade with other countries for the foreseeable future.

“The goal here is that CDS will provide a unified process for over 80% of countries within the next 10 years,” said Woodward. “It is crucial to understand that CHIEF data will not be the same in CDS. Traders need to understand these differences to ensure the correct data is submitted and to ensure customs declarations don’t fail, resulting in delays to goods movements.”

Not like for like

Lloyds Loading List reports that British International Freight Association (BIFA) is concerned about the transition from CHIEF to CDS, and the body has called for active engagement with the government.

Its director general Robert Keen welcomed the chancellor’s announcement of £180m to build a UK Single Trade Window to reduce trade costs, but he said BIFA members had issues around the timetable for implementation.

“The promise to consult businesses on customs processes, the intermediaries market and transit facilitation to ensure that government and industry can work in partnership together to deliver a world class customs regime is also welcome,” Keen said. “We hope that promise is not just spin and look forward to active engagement.”

Dress rehearsal

CDS 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.

Traders and declarants, community software providers and fast parcel operators can also register for the trader dress rehearsal service.

This free service allows businesses to prepare for the live CDS, allowing submission of different declaration scenarios.