If you are involved with importing and exporting to and from the UK, or are looking to start, you should be aware of the CHIEF system being replaced by the CDS systems. But what does that entail for you?

In today’s blog, we will show you what you need to know about UK customs systems changing from CHIEF to CDS.

Radius Warehouse and Logistics is here to provide you with all the information you need when it comes to the multiple areas of logistics that we provide, from sea, to air, to road freight solutions. Operating from the South West of England for over 20 years, or experience, and service is here for anyone who requires it.

The importance of customs declarations

Customs declarations are critical for multiple reasons that benefit governments and businesses involved in international trade. Although we will be discussing the systems that facilitated and are currently facilitating this, we feel it is important to establish the role that customs declarations play in the first place.

Government control and revenue collection:

  • Data tracking is possible because of declarations. They provide data on the type, quantity, and value of goods that enter and leave the country. This allows customs authorities to monitor trade volumes, in addition to trends.
  • Declaration submissions also allow for governments to ensure the correct amount of customs duties and import taxes are collected accurately.
  • Prohibited or restricted goods can be identified easily, declarations help to flag these items for further inspection for relevant permissions such as permits etc.

Safety and security

  • Declarations help to prevent the spread of dangerous goods. They allow customs to identify hazardous materials or items that can pose a security risk. This allows for proper handling and the relevant inspections to be made.
  • Public health can be protected through customs declarations. Certain goods such as food or plants may require inspections to prevent the spread of invasive species or diseases, a declaration can target these items.
  • Decorations can help against piracy and counterfeiting by identifying some goods that can infringe on intellectual property rights. 

Efficiency and trade facilitation

  • By providing a customs declaration, insights can be provided into upcoming import and export volumes. This allows authorities to plan staffing and resources efficiently. This allows for proper planning and resource allocation.
  • A declaration can help to identify products that are under trade agreements that offer a reduced duty on them.
  • When it comes to businesses, they can also use the data they provide in declarations for various purposes including shipment tracking, inventory management, cost calculation and more.

Essentially, customs declarations are used as a cornerstone of any well-functioning international trade system. They help to provide transparency, which ensures compliance with regulations, and helps to facilitate a smooth flow of goods across borders.

What is CHIEF, and why is it changing?

The CHIEF system, (Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight) presented a significant development in UK customs management when it was introduced in 1994. Here is a brief breakdown of its history, and why it needed to be changed.

The CHIEF system was established in 1994, at a time when customs declarations heavily relied on paper forms. It brought a degree of standardization to customs procedures for government officials and businesses alike. It did this by electronically capturing submissions that would have previously been submitted by paper.

However, as technology has developed, the core technology behind the CHIEF system became outdated. It lacked a user-friendliness, not to mention the processing power of modern platforms.

Additionally, the structure of CHIEF made it difficult to adapt to internation trade regulations and technological advancements. The system also posed data sharing challenges, integrating with newer systems and sharing data became difficult through the CHIEF system.

What you need to know about UK customs systems changing from CHIEF to CDS

The UK customs system is undergoing a major shift. It is moving from the CHIEF system to the Customs Declaration Service or CDS. But why exactly is this happening now?

The CHIEF system was introduced in the 1990s, as time has progressed it has become apparent that a need for a more user-friendly, modern platform is needed. The CDS offers this.

Furthermore, there was a greater need for efficiency and adaptability, the CDS system aims to achieve this via fasting processing times and reduced administrative burdens for businesses.

Regarding adaptability, CHIEF’s rigid structure made it difficult to adapt to ever-changing trade regulations and technologies. CDS is designed to be flexible and scalable, this allows for future updates and integrations to be seamless.

Additionally, even though the CDS system was planned before Brexit, it seems that the CDS system will be able to help in the wake of increased customs declarations and new trade agreements because of Brexit.

As of the time of writing, the CDS system is now the mandatory platform for all customs declarations. Imports were declared through CDS since the 30th of September 2022. Whereas, exports began in November 2023 for selected high-volume exporters, and most businesses having moved to the CDS system by the 30th of March 2024 deadline.

How do I get on to the CDS system?

  1. Ensure You Have an EORI Number: An Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number, starting with GB, is required for customs declarations.
  2. Subscribe to CDS: You’ll need to subscribe to the CDS online portal.
  3. Choose a Payment Method: Decide on your preferred method for duty payments (e.g., duty deferment account, postponed VAT accounting).
  4. Update Your Processes: If you use a customs broker, confirm they are set up for CDS submissions. Businesses may also need to adjust internal procedures for using the new system.

What happens if I try to import/export without being on the CDS?

If you try to import/export goods from the UK without being registered for the Customs Declaration Service (CDS) as of the time of writing, you’ll likely encounter some hurdles:

  • Rejected Shipment: Your goods will most likely be refused clearance by UK customs officials. They cannot process your declaration without it being submitted through CDS
  • Delays and Disruptions: This can lead to significant delays in your shipment reaching its destination, potentially impacting your business and your customer.
  • Potential Fines: You might face penalties for non-compliance with customs regulations.

If you are intending to import and export, it would be a waste of your own time to not register onto the CDS system. By neglecting this, the delays can be significant, and in most cases, the delivery would not be able to be carried out.

That being said, being on the CDS system is only one aspect of importing/exporting with little hassle, you must ensure the products also have the correct commodity codes too.