HMRC to offer exporters three-month ‘extended migration’ window to make switch to new customs system

With scheduled deadline for moving all activity to CDS just weeks away, traders will have their own switchover window beginning when the new platform becomes available to them, PublicTechnology understands

With the slated deadline for closing down the UK’s outgoing customs IT system fast approaching, HM Revenue and Customs will offer exporters an extended window of three months to ensure they can get up and running on its replacement, PublicTechnology understands.

The current scheduled deadline by which all export declarations should be made via the Customs Declaration Service – and after which the outgoing 30-year-old CHIEF system will be switched off – is 30 March. This date is a year later than originally planned, having already been pushed back twice.

PublicTechnology reported last year that HMRC was preparing contingency measures in case some traders found themselves unable to complete the switch to CDS in time because of technical difficulties.

It is now understood that individual exporters will have their own three-month window – beginning from the point that CDS becomes available to them – to complete the migration process. During this time, a trader will be able to continue to file export declarations via CHIEF, if necessary. The outgoing platform will no longer be available to firms after their individual window has closed.

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Even beyond the three-month timeslot, HMRC is creating a further contingency process in order to be prepared for the possibility that a small number of users may miss the deadline for reasons beyond their control.

While it appears that the dates of the migration window will differ between individual traders, HMRC this week updated its online guidance regarding CDS to advise companies that, in general, “you should start submitting all your export declarations through the Customs Declaration Service from early March 2024”.

Documents previously published by the department have suggested that the aim was to complete all migration by the end of June 2024 – with the final three months after the 30 March deadline dedicated to working through an “exceptions list” of those that have experience difficulties in switching to CDS.

In a statement issued to PublicTechnology, an HMRC spokesperson said: “The migration of exports from CHIEF to the Customs Declarations Service is progressing well and we’ll continue to support traders and the border industry as they move across. CDS is already being used for all import declarations with more than 100 million declarations made successfully through the system since it went live in 2018.”

In the weeks and months leading up to the 30 September 2022 deadline for moving all import declarations to the new customs platform, hundreds of traders encountered difficulty in registering for CDS with issues caused, in many instances, by HMRC’s internal systems failing to correctly update firms’ details.

HMRC’s work to deliver CDS over the past decade has faced numerous major challenges, particularly following the 2016 Brexit referendum. The result of that process mean that, overnight, plans for the project – which was already three years into delivery – needed to account for a fivefold increase in declarations resulting from the UK’s exit from the European Union.

Sam Trendall

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