This article was published before we became the Chartered Institute of Export & International Trade on 10 July 2024, and this is reflected in references to our old brand and name. For more information about us becoming Chartered, visit our dedicated webpage on the change here.


Importers have only two weeks left to get ready to use the new IT system for submitting customs declarations, trade experts have warned.

The Customs Declaration Service (CDS) will replace the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system which has been used for British customs entries for nearly 30 years.

CHIEF will close for imports on 30 September, at which point firms will need to use CDS to submit import declarations.

Exporters will be able to continue using CHIEF for export declarations until 31 March 2023.

Start using it now

Importers have been advised to start preparing to use the CDS now and to make use of the Trader Rehearsal Service, on which they can practice using the new system ahead of the switchover at the end of the month.

Matt Vick, a customs and trade specialist at the Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT), also told the Daily Update that the new system is an improvement on CHIEF.

“There isn’t much time left to get ready, but in the long-term the new CDS system will be more accessible and will play a central role in the government’s ambitious plans to further digitalise its borders,” he said.

“Businesses should definitely look to use the rehearsal service to make sure they’re ready for the switchover. If you’re using a third party software for your declarations, you should ensure this integrates properly with CDS before 30 September,” he added.

‘Straight forward’

HMRC has written to businesses on multiple occasions to remind them to prepare for the switchover.

Carol Bristow, the department’s director general for borders and trade, said that it is “straight forward” for firms to register to the new platform.

Like Vick, she said that CDS will play a key role in the UK’s border plans, saying it will “become the UK’s single customs platform allowing for all businesses to submit their customs documents digitally and safely”.

Business concerns

On a poll at a recent IOE&IT webinar about the switchover, only around two fifths (39%) of the delegates said they felt “very prepared” or “quite prepared” to start using CDS.

During the webinar, which took place on 23 August – just under six weeks before the 30 September deadline – businesses were told of the support being provided by the IOE&IT to help firms to prepare.

The IOE&IT CDS support package includes a new CDS helpdesk, expert-led one-day training courses, CDS trade surgeries and consultancies, as well as answers to traders’ frequently asked questions.

The IOE&IT is also hosting a free Q&A webinar about using the new CDS system on Wednesday (21 September) which businesses can sign up to here.