How to prepare for the Customs Declaration Service

What you need to do to get ready for the Customs Declaration Service (CDS) will depend on how you currently make declarations using CHIEF.

Get ready to submit CDS declarations

CDS is being introduced gradually and the timing of your move to this system from the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) will depend on your or your agent’s software developer or Community System Provider.

It is expected that the majority of importers will start using CDS early in 2019. Exporters will migrate to CDS when export functionality becomes available in March 2019. Meanwhile they should continue to use CHIEF. This means that CDS and CHIEF will run in parallel for a short period of time.

To make declarations using CDS you’ll need to:

  • have an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number and a Government Gateway user ID and password
  • understand the different information needed for CDS so you’re compliant with the Union Customs Code and the CDS Trade Tariff
  • provide any training or information needed by your staff, for example on the tariff changes and new data requirements
  • understand any financial or process implications the changes may have including to your Direct Debit payments if you use a duty deferment account, HMRC will write to you if you’re affected by this

Importers using third party software

If you use third party software, in addition to the steps outlined for all users, you should:

  • register for CDS using your Government Gateway user ID and password, and authorise your software provider to make declarations on your behalf - you do not need to do this until HMRC or your software provider or agent tells you
  • make sure your provider is working with HMRC to understand the technical requirements for the new system
  • make sure they’re providing you with any software specific updates that may affect your internal processes or policies, or the information you request from customers

Importers using agents

If you use an agent to make declarations, you should familiarise yourself with the changes outlined for all users.

Your agent may need additional information from you, which you in turn may need to request from your customers.


If you’re an agent, depending on how you make declarations on behalf of your customers, you should refer to one of the examples above. If you act on behalf of multiple clients, depending on the software you use, you might need to authorise the software for each client. Your software developer will be able to help you with this and you should contact them for more information.

Forms C88

If you currently make declarations by sending a C88 form to the National Clearance Hub you will not be able to do this once you’re on CDS. If you only make small numbers of import declarations you’ll be able to do these by a new online system. This will be limited to 10 per year and can only be used where the goods are being imported through non-inventory linked locations.

HMRC will also continue to provide a service to those who cannot access digital services and will publish a replacement to the current C88 form.

National Export System

If you use the National Export System (NES) to make export declarations, you’ll still be able to do this once CDS is introduced. This will look different and factor in any changes required by the Union Customs Code.

HMRC will publish more information about making export declarations once it is available.

Further information and updates

If you would like to receive email updates on CDS, register for the HMRC Business help and education email service. Updates will be under the education topic ‘trading with other countries.’

Published 11 July 2018
Last updated 31 October 2018 + show all updates
  1. Page updated to indicate when CDS will be available for both importers and exporters. There will be a period of dual running of CHIEF and CDS.
  2. The page has been updated to reflect the current status of the Customs Declaration Service.
  3. First published.