Customs Handling Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) replacement plans

Published 1 April 2014

Why CHIEF needs to be replaced

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is responsible for providing an end-to-end declaration processing service, allowing the efficient passage of legitimate imports and exports to and from countries outside of the EU, known as third countries.

The current CHIEF service is based on ageing technology and within the next 7 to 10 years, there will be many EU legislative changes to international trade processes. Integrating these changes within the current CHIEF technology would be expensive and difficult to do. HMRC also wants to ensure it has the right service platforms in place to ensure future changes are made at the right time, in the right way. This will ensure the UK’s international trade community has the best possible operating conditions going forward.

HMRC has therefore established the Customs Declaration Services programme (CDS) to look at replacing the current CHIEF service. International trade supply chain process changes needed by the Union Customs Code (UCC) and the EU Multi Annual Strategic Plan (MASP) are also included within the CDS programme.

The scope of the CDS programme has recently been extended to include transformation of postal declaration processes. The current proposal is to use core IT components common to both freight and postal movements.

Find more information about the UCC changes in Customs Information Paper (14)03.

When the UCC changes are likely to take place

HMRC expect the UCC legislation and changes to apply from May 2016 when the old customs legislation will cease to apply. However, there will be a period of transition from 2016 to 2020 during which the changes will be put in place.

Some UCC changes will happen before the current CHIEF service is replaced, so HMRC will need to consider how best to handle these services so that users can meet the new EU requirements. In 2017 the replacement service will reflect all of the UCC changes currently expected and will also be flexible enough to reflect any future EU changes. The MASP sets out the key milestones and timetable.

What the new CHIEF service might look like

HMRC will review the current service with customers and key stakeholders, to look for ways to improve the services on offer. Where possible, HMRC will insert new functions (for example, better validation rules to improve data quality or automation of repayments). HMRC will also make sure that the replacement service keeps the extremely high service levels and reliability of the current CHIEF system. HMRC expects that the vast majority of the services available now will continue and it will still be free to use. For example, users of the service will still be able to subscribe to monthly Management Support System reports.

HMRC hasn’t yet made a decision on how users will access the new service, and there may be a need for a new channel for export declarations. This is currently handled through the National Export System web channel. Further information will be published as soon as any decisions are made.

HMRC will take into account the existing requirements that allows developers and those involved in the import/export trade to test software or familiarise themselves with CHIEF when designing the replacement service. See CHIEF HMUT service.

The current CHIEF service has moved in-house (to HMRC) and will continue to be fully supported until replaced by the new service.

Process and timetable for the new service

HMRC plans to develop a CHIEF replacement service using primarily internal in-house development in the initial stages. Once the user needs have been assessed, HMRC will evaluate options for the full service to achieve the best combination of a user-friendly, effective system and value for money.

The new service will be constructed using the Government Service Design Manual. This means that there will be extensive upfront and ongoing consultation to understand the needs of service users (whether internal, external or other government departments) to ensure that the new service and linked processes are built in accordance with, and meet, users’ needs.

HMRC has held successful meetings with other EU countries, and the EU Commission, about whether common core requirements and components for a declaration processing service could apply across most or all EU member states. If it’s feasible these requirements and components will be reflected in the new declaration management service. The UK is playing a major role in these ongoing discussions, and will share any new service architecture with all EU member states.

More information

Further information will be added to the Customs Declaration Services programme as the details become clear.

HMRC is committed to open consultation with traders, IT suppliers and other government departments during the review process and planning stages of replacing CHIEF. If you have any questions about the Customs Declaration Services programme, you can send an email to HMRC at

All publicity, invitations to market and supplier events for IT and software suppliers, is managed by and made available to those suppliers registered with Sourcing@HMRC.

In addition Prior Information Notices will be published on the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) website.