HMRC warns over import delays with thousands of firms yet to move to new customs system

Less than two months remain before outgoing CHIEF platform stops accepting import declarations

Credit: Crown Copyright/Open Government Licence v3.0

Firms importing goods into the UK face “significant delays” if they do not act immediately to sign up for government’s new customs IT system, HM Revenue and Customs has warned.

The outgoing Customs Handling Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) platform will no longer accept import declarations from 1 October – from which point traders must instead use the new Customs Declaration Service.

But, with less than two months to go to make the switch, about 3,500 import firms are yet to set themselves up on the new system – a process which can take several weeks, according to HMRC. 

The tax agency is currently emailing and phoning affected businesses to advise them on the steps they must take, which include implementing a compatible software platform to make declarations via CDS. The department has also issued a public statement warning traders that, if they fail to register in time, they could be unable to import goods into the country, or face lengthy delays in doing so.

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Julie Etheridge, HMRC’s director of programme and operational delivery for borders and trade, said: “There are now only two months left until businesses must use Customs Declaration Service for imports. Businesses need to move now or risk being unable to bring their goods into the UK. Registering takes time so businesses should start moving to the Customs Declaration Service to ensure a smooth transition and avoid disruption to their business.”

Once they have completed the CDS registration process, businesses that use a Duty Deferment Account must also ensure they have created a new direct debit to ensure payments are made via the new platform. If they fail to do so, their existing account “will no longer usable, and individual immediate payments will need to be made each time an import declaration is made”, HMRC said.

As revealed by PublicTechnology last month, the Customs Declaration Service has, for several months, been beset by issues with VAT statements provided to business users. Service updates were issued in March, April, and again in July warning traders of similar problems with the service, resulting in monthly VAT statements being unavailable, delayed, or inaccurate.

As of an update published last week, HMRC claimed to once again have “fixed the issue and issued replacement statements” for all those affected. 

Traders who downloaded their June VAT statement before 13 July have been instructed not to use those figures in their VAT return – as HMRC said the information provided “may not have been correct”. Firms should, instead, log in to their online CDS dashboard to access an updated statement. 

After nearly 30 years in operation, the CHIEF system will stop processing export declarations on 31 March 2023, at which point it will close for good, and be replaced entirely by CDS.


Sam Trendall

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