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  • Qing Chen

Move from CHIEF to CDS

Updated: Aug 3, 2023


All imports and exports coming or departing the UK

Move from CHIEF to CDS

All imports and exports coming or departing the UK through land, air, or sea will be handled by CDS starting 30th September 2022 for imports, and 31st March 2023 for exports. Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF), the UK’s legacy customs system, is being replaced by Customs Declaration Service (CDS). 


So what is CDS?

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has been using the CHIEF customs handling of import and export freight system for approximately 30 years. Its primary duty is to process declarations in order to ease international trade between the UK and non-EU nations. Technology has progressed over time, and the CHIEF system is unable to keep up with new demands. As a result, plans to retire CHIEF have been in the works for a long time — a successor project was announced in 2015, and a system supplier was chosen in 2016.

According to the government, the new CDS system will be a “more secure and stable platform with the capacity and capability to grow in line with the government’s ambitious trade ambitions.” It was launched in 2018 and has been operating alongside CHIEF for the past three years. It is already in use for cross-border trade declarations with non-EU markets and for commodities transported between the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland under the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The decision to replace CHIEF with HMRC’s new customer declaration service CDS was made before the EU referendum, but changes since then have been considered into the planning so that CDS can handle the increased volume of declarations caused by Brexit. The CDS, or customer declaration service, was created in collaboration with the border industry and will provide a more secure and dependable platform. CDS has the capacity and capability to expand in accordance with the UK’s trade goals, and the system change is projected to save taxpayers money.

Major Differences between CHIEF and CDS

  1. The information necessary in both import and export customs declarations has changed significantly as a result of the new EU regulations, particularly in terms of the parties involved in the transaction and the valuation of the items.

  2. CHIEF is based on the Community Customs Code (CCC) and Harmonisation Rules for Single Administrative Documents (SAD) (boxes). The Union Customs Code (UCC) and data integration and harmonisation requirements are the foundations of CDS.

This entails a shift from CHIEF’s paper-based rules to CDS’s data processing rules.

  1. You may be familiar with the Harmonised Commodity Description and Coding System, also known as the Harmonised System (HS) or Harmonised System of Nomenclature, if you are in the business of exporting and importing goods (HSN). It is a widely used classification system for traded items. Its principal purpose is to assist customs authorities in identifying products and determining the appropriate charges and taxes. Each product in the Harmonised System is given a unique numerical identifier known as the HS code.

These codes have also changed as a result of the transition from CHIEF to CDS. It is critical to use the suitable tariff. The CHIEF tariff will be rejected in CDS declarations.

  1. CHIEF comes with 68 multi-use paper form boxes. There are 91 single-use data pieces in the CDS.

This means that CHIEF declarations are designed to be completed on paper and have various places where data can be entered in a free text manner. Except for the name and address sections, most data components in the new customs declaration service CDS are restricted to code format. On CDS, three CHIEF boxes can correspond to up to 17 separate data pieces. Users making declarations must fill up all required data components based on the declaration category they choose, and if they do not do so, the declaration will be refused.

  1. Each goods item in CHIEF has a 7-digit fixed Customs Procedure Code (CPC).

For a single goods item, CDS codes are divided into two parts: a single 4-digit Procedure Code and up to 99 3-digit Additional Procedure Codes (APCs).

This means that CHIEF CPCs and CDS Procedure Codes (PCs) do not have a 1:1 relationship (APCs). CDS PCs / APCs are various, interchangeable combinations depending on circumstances, whereas CHIEF CPCs are specific to a particular item. In CDS, regardless of the kind of declaration, the Procedure Code is always the same, i.e. the same code is used for simplified, standard, and supplemental declaration types.

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