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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/customs-declaration-service-communication-pack/customs-declaration-service-toolkit
This guide aims to help traders and intermediaries find out what they need to do to prepare for making declarations on the Customs Declaration Service.
It gives an overview of:
- the Customs Declaration Service
- the CHIEF closure timescales
- steps you need to follow to prepare for the Customs Declaration Service
- changes to payment methods
- available HMRC resources to support your move to the Customs Declaration Service
Customs Declaration Service - the UK’s single customs platform
International trade in goods is worth over £800 billion to the UK economy each year.
Currently, we identify goods for checks at the border using two platforms - the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system and the Customs Declaration Service.
Both platforms allow importers, exporters and intermediaries to complete customs declarations, but from 31 March 2023, we will formally close the CHIEF system. The Customs Declaration Service will serve as the UK’s single customs platform - all businesses will need to declare goods through the Customs Declaration Service from this date.
Ahead of the closure, HMRC will withdraw CHIEF services in two stages:
- 30 September 2022: new import declarations close on CHIEF
- 31 March 2023: new export declarations close on CHIEF / National Exports System
Why CHIEF is closing
We want our border IT systems to be fit for the future, creating an environment where businesses can thrive and take advantage of free trade agreements. CHIEF has served the UK well, but it is nearly 30 years old and cannot match the technology that the Customs Declaration Service offers.
Founded on world-leading innovation, the Customs Declaration Service has been developed over several years in consultation with the border industry. It is a secure, flexible platform that is already performing well. It is currently used for both Northern Ireland declarations and Rest of World movements and has processed more than one million import declarations since August 2018.
It is fully compliant with Northern Ireland Protocol obligations and can handle all declaration types – ultimately, making it easier for businesses to trade and grow. It operates the full UK Trade Tariff, which CHIEF cannot do. These advantages make the Customs Declaration Service critical to the long-term flow of trade, with the flexibility to accommodate future improvements to imports and exports.
Ultimately, moving to one system is more efficient than running two platforms, as we are currently doing. Operating one, single system will clarify processes for traders, free-up money for vital public services, and save money for the taxpayer.
With further functionality enhancements scheduled and live customer support services available, now is the time to start your Customs Declaration Service preparations for all goods movements.
The Customs Declaration Service offers several new services, alongside existing services, all in one place. If you currently use CHIEF for your declarations, you’ll find that the Customs Declaration Service captures some information differently and the way you input data is different. Primarily, this affects how you use the Trade Tariff and make finance payments.
Tariff changes and impacts
The Trade Tariff helps you find out which forms, codes and procedures to use when importing or exporting goods.
Your Customs Declaration Service submissions will include information from eight data element groups. You may need to complete additional information required by certain data elements and understand that the data can be different to that required by CHIEF.
The eight data element groups
- Message information
- Shipping details
- Goods identification
- Transport information
Trade Tariff information
The Trade Tariff for customs declarations using the Customs Declaration Service is the UK Trade Tariff: Volume 3 for the Customs Declaration Service (now known as the ‘Declaration, Completion, Instructions and Rules’ document).
You can also use the UK Trade Tariff tool to search for import and export commodity codes as well as the tax, duty and licenses that apply to your goods.
Changes to payment methods
The way you process your declaration payments will change with the Customs Declaration Service. How you’ll be affected depends on which of these payment methods you use. You’ll be affected if you use:
- Cash accounts
- Duty deferment accounts
- Immediate payments
- Guarantee accounts
- Individual guarantees
The Customs Declaration Service uses cash accounts. These replace the Flexible Accounting System (FAS) used in CHIEF.
All traders who register for the Customs Declaration Service are automatically given a cash account. A trader can pay funds into their cash account and use those available funds to pay for declarations. A trader can also authorise an agent to use their cash account to pay for declarations on their behalf.
Find out more about using a cash account for Customs Declaration Service declarations.
Duty deferment accounts
To help you manage your cashflow, a duty deferment account allows you to make one payment each month for any imports, rather than paying every time you import goods.
If you use a third party to do declarations on your behalf, such as a freight forwarder, customs agent or express operator, you should check with them about whether you require your own duty deferment account or if you can use their duty deferment account. Your intermediary will be able to advise you on the approach for this.
If you have a duty deferment account for the Customs Declaration Service and you reach your monthly deferment limit, you can make a payment to increase your available balance.
Your payment reference for making a duty deferment top-up payment will be ‘CDSD’ followed by your duty deferment number.
A trader can choose to pay at the point of making an import declaration. To make a payment on the same day or the next day, a trader can use:
- online or telephone banking (Faster Payment)
- CHAPS (Clearing House Automated Payment System)
- paying with debit card or corporate credit card using the online payment service
A trader can also pay by BACs (Bankers Automated Clearing Services), which will be paid in 3 working days, or by cheque.
Your payment reference for making an immediate payment will be ‘CDSI’ followed by the specific number generated for you by Customs Declaration Service.
Find more information on how to pay for imports declared using the Customs Declaration Service.
Guarantee accounts (including individual guarantees)
A customs guarantee is an agreement to cover debts arising from customs duty, import VAT and excise. It is often required when duty is not paid at the time of import or export. A guarantee may also be needed when the value of import duties is unknown or disputed. Guarantees must be backed by a financial institution.
A general guarantee account allows you to provide multiple individual guarantees from the same account, rather than issuing separate individual guarantees. It also allows you to continue importing goods into the UK and pay the amount due later, once the amount is agreed.
Find more information on making a payment.
Benefits to traders
Using the latest technology, the Customs Declaration Service delivers an enhanced service and user experience.
The Customs Declaration Service has the capacity and capability to grow in line with the government’s growth agenda, alongside plans to increase the volume of international trade.
The Customs Declaration Service offers a host of specialist functions and interfaces. Underpinned by modern, cloud-based architecture, it is fully agile and adjustable.
You and your business can declare all goods on one platform simultaneously, regardless of customer journey. This reduces operational costs and lessens your administrative burden of running two separate customs systems.
Declaration data is transparent and available free of charge – you and your business can easily access real-time import and export data, check tariffs and financial statements online, using dedicated digital dashboards.
What businesses need to do to prepare
There are four key actions you must take to prepare for using the Customs Declaration Service. You must:
register your Government Gateway account details, and once notified by your software developer, register for the Customs Declaration Service and authorise your software provider
understand the changes to the Import and Export Tariff
You should also consider:
- any training or information your business needs to provide to your staff, for example on the new data elements necessitated by Northern Ireland Protocol legislation
- any changes to finance processes, for example setting up a new Direct Debit for a duty deferment account, or how to pay into your cash account
- whether your business details (email and business address) match our records, or if they need updating
- whether your business would benefit from using the free, Trader Dress Rehearsal service to help you prepare for the live Customs Declaration Service
Other things to consider when preparing for the Customs Declaration Service
If you make import and export declarations
If your business makes import and export declarations, you have two options to consider, ahead of the formal CHIEF closure in March 2023. You can either:
- move all your imports and exports onto the Customs Declaration Service by September 2022
- declare your imports on the Customs Declaration Service by September 2022 and continue declaring your export declarations on CHIEF until March 2023
If you use third party or in-house developed software
Your software developer should be working closely with HMRC to prepare for the Customs Declaration Service - this includes updating their applications and letting you know when your business is ready to start using the platform.
Should your supplier not have a product ready for market, or if you intend to submit customs declarations yourself, you can buy the specialist software needed. Find a list of software developers providing customs declaration software.
If your business moves goods into, out of or through Northern Ireland
If you make import movements between the rest of the world and Northern Ireland, you’ll need to use the Customs Declaration Service for these declarations from 31 October 2021.
You can consider using the free Trader Support Service to help you move goods. It can complete customs and safety and security declarations for you, where these are required for movements between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Our online tool can also be used to check if you need to pay a tariff on goods brought into Northern Ireland.
Find the latest information
The most up-to-date information about what you need to do to prepare is on GOV.UK at gov.uk/customsdeclarationservice.
This toolkit is part of a wider Customs Declaration Service communication pack.
Videos and webinars
There are a range of webinars that declarants can register for, alongside helpful videos about trading with the EU, all available on GOV.UK.
Stay up-to-date - businesses can sign up to receive regular email updates that provide useful hints and tips about trading with the EU.