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HMRC CHIEF out . . . Customs Declarations Service in

The HMRC is moving its customs handling system CHIEF (Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight) to a new customs declaration service, named CDS. In this article will talk to you about the new compliance, legislation, functionality and what it means to your businesses.

CHIEF is HMRC’s IT system and is based on the original paper form. It uses Community Customs Code (CCC) and Single Administrative Document (SAD) harmonisation rules.

Future proofing change of customs requirements

The main aim of updating their systems is future proofing. With Brexit and (ever) changing EU requirements, it was not practical to update the ‘old’ CHIEF system. CDS (Customs Declarations Service) is modern, more flexible and a better fit for purpose.

The all new CDS is a fully electronic system where all data is exchanged digitally and uses Union Customs Code (UCC) and Data Integration and Harmonisation rules. It also has environmental benefits. With less paper and processing there will be a lower carbon impact.

CDS should also decrease the number of errors due to the single use data elements that have been built out for every type of declaration rather than the open text fields. Entries are restricted to code format (except for name and address and goods description fields).  And finally documents will be submitted via a secure upload service rather than the custom trader service.

Importing goods into the UK – What does this mean for businesses?

Four main CDS benefits that HMRC state all focus on saving businesses time by:

  • Allowing businesses to submit customs documents digitally
  • Providing businesses a single financial dashboard access to all their financial information
  • Providing real time notifications and alerts on all customs declarations and movements
  • Allowing businesses to manage their payments to enable goods to clear without delay

There are of course downsides – with CDS, businesses looking to make a declaration will have to input the required information in separate data elements.  It will therefore be very important to ensure clients are educated on these new data elements.  However, once familiarised with the new processes, it will be more streamlined and there will be less margin for error.

Key transition dates

  • From 31st October 2021 all imports from Rest of World to Northern Ireland had to be declared using CDS.
  • From 30th Sept 2022 it will no longer be possible to make import declarations through CHIEF
  • Then from 31st March 2023 it will no longer be possible to make export declarations through CHIEF

As Hakan Henningsson from The Times wrote:

“The key thing to remember about the HMRC customs declaration service (CDS) is that if you’ve not registered by October 1, you may not be able to import any goods into the UK. At the start of last month HM Revenue & Customs said about 3,500 businesses had yet to make the move, which can take several weeks to set up.”

Your HMRC Customs Declaration Service checklist

Here is a quick checklist to ensure that you are on top of the changes that are coming with the move to CDS.

  • You have an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number
  • You have your Unique Taxpayer Reference number
  • You have your Government Gateway account details

If you have any concerns in relation to the changes and managing your imported goods, please do not hesitate to get in contact with your local diamond service provider who can guide you through the process.


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