HMRC issues urgent call for traders to switch to new customs system as CHIEF enters final weeks

The outgoing CHIEF platform is finally set to be switched off – meaning that billions in pound of trade conducted each day now needs to be migrated to the new system

HM Revenue and Customs has reminded exporters that they have just a few weeks left to get up and running on the UK’s new customs system, as the outgoing platform will finally be switched off after 30 years in operation.

From 4 June onwards, all export declarations must be made using the Customs Declaration Service (CDS) – the new nationwide IT system which, since October 2022, is already used to process import declarations. As of earlier this year, CDS is now fully open and functional for all traders to sign up and begin making all declarations: both import and export.

Using a phased approach, HMRC gave each exporter a window of three months to make the switch from the outgoing CHIEF platform, which began operating in 1994. With the last of these windows having opened by early March, a shutdown date of 4 June was set for CHIEF. This was the third – and seemingly final – time that the ultimate switch-off of the platform has been pushed back, having originally been scheduled for March 2023.

The closure of CHIEF is now little more than three weeks away, and HMRC has issued a public call reminding “businesses with customs agents [that they] should ensure their agent is ready to use CDS, [while] those without a customs agent must prepare to make their own declarations using software that works with the system”. CDS registration can be completed on GOV.UK, according to HMRC.

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As the deadline to complete the process grows ever-nearer, the department said that it is “working closely with the border industry and directly contacting all declarants and traders to urge them to access the available support now and transfer over to CDS”.

Sarah Hartley, HMRC’s director of border change delivery, added: “There are just weeks left for businesses to migrate their export declarations to CDS – those who have yet to move need to do so now. Anyone who needs help migrating to CDS should work with a customs agent who is ready to use the system and can make declarations on their behalf.”

HMRC claims that the new customs system has already been used to process more than 117 million customs declarations and “provides businesses with a more user-friendly, streamlined system with greater functionality”.

For some traders, the weeks and months leading up to the October 2022 deadline for importers to switch to CDS were beset by major registration difficulties caused by issues with HMRC internal systems. If traders experience similar challenges as the cut-off for export declarations nears, there could potentially be major consequences for trade – with UK firms exporting a collective total of more than £840bn annually, equating to £2.3bn of goods and services leaving the country every day of the year.

Sam Trendall

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