HMRC is replacing CHIEF with CDS

Please be aware of the impending important changes that HMRC are making. They will be closing their Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system in two stages:

    On 30 September 2022: the ability to make import declarations will end

    On 31 March 2023: the ability to make export declarations will end

Replacing CHIEF is the Customs Declaration Service (CDS) which will serve as the UK’s single customs platform, with all businesses needing to declare goods through CDS after 31 March 2023.

If your business is VAT registered, you may already be using the Customs Declaration Service for VAT purposes. Before you take action, please check with your organisation to find out if you’re already registered and make sure HMRC has the correct contact details for your business.

If you submit a CDS declaration using the CHIEF tariff it will be rejected as the completion rules are different. Similarly, if you submit a declaration using CHIEF codes in CDS, it will be rejected as the code does not exist on CDS. So it is essential that you use the correct tariff

Key differences between CHIEF and the Customs Declaration Service (CDS)

There are some distinct differences between how you make declarations on the Customs Declaration Service (CDS) compared to how it is currently done on Customs Handling of Imports and Exports Freight (CHIEF).

CHIEF is based on the Community Customs Code (CCC) and Single Administrative Document (SAD) Harmonisation rules (boxes) CDS is based on the Union Customs Code (UCC) and Data Integration and Harmonisation rules.

What is the difference in the systems?

Essentially, this is a move from using paper-based rules on CHIEF to data processing rules on CDS.

Data entry

What you’ll find on CHIEF are 68 Paper form multi-use boxes.

What you’ll find on CDS is 91 Single use data elements.

What’s the difference? Completing a CHIEF declaration is geared towards paper completion and has several boxes that accept data in a free text format. In CDS most data elements are restricted to code format other than name and address fields.

Procedure Codes

CHIEF has 7-digit fixed Customs Procedure Codes (CPCs) for each goods item.

On CDS, codes split into two parts; a single 4-digit Procedure Code combined with up to 99 3-digit Additional Procedure Codes (APCs) for a single goods item.

There is no 1-2-1 correlation between CHIEF CPCs and CDS Procedure Codes (PCs) / (APCs). CHIEF CPCs are unique to a goods item whereas CDS PCs / APCs are multiple, interchangeable combinations depending on circumstances.

At a glance the differences

What you’ll find on CHIEFWhat you’ll find on CDSWhat’s the difference?
Community Customs CodeUnion Customs CodePaper based rules versus data processing
Paper form multi-use boxesSingle use data elementCompletion requirements for a CHIEF declaration are geared towards paper completion (layout and format are different)
Business rules driven by unique Custom Procedure Codes (CPCs) for each type of declaration, for example simplified declarations have different CPCs to a supplementary declarationBusiness rules driven by data set not Procedure Codes. The same Procedure Codes are used across all declaration types in CDSProcedure Code is always the same in CDS regardless of the type of declaration being made. Same code used on simplified, standard and supplementary declaration types
Single mainframe systemMultiple components to do a specific taskCHIEF is a single platform, but CDS is built up of a number of components that exchange messages between each module to process from end to end
EDIFACT messaging languageXML messaging languageSoftware providers are required to change their software language as well as data changes
7-digit fixed Customs Procedure Codes (CPCs) for each goods itemSingle 4-digit Procedure Code combined with up to 99 3-digit Additional Procedure Code. Can have multiple 3-digits codes for a single goods item, it is important that you select all the APCs that apply to the goods item and do not stop at the first APC you identify.There is no 1-2-1 correlation between CHIEF CPCs and CDS Procedure Code (PC) / Additional Procedure Codes (APCs). Multiple, interchangeable combinations depending on circumstances
68 Boxes on a Single Administrative Document (SAD) form, subsets used for imports and exportsNew data elements introduced into CDS under UCC data sets: 91 data elements used across imports and exports. Instead of a single set of boxes for all declaration types, there are different data sets for every type of declaration. A subset of the 76 Data Elements for imports and 65 Data Elements for exports depending on what use the goods are being put too.CDS declarants need to populate all required data elements, depending on the selected declaration category
Single box used for multiple pieces of information in CHIEFBoxes split into multiple data elements in CDS. Used for a single piece of data3 boxes on CHIEF may equate up to 17 different data elements on CDS
Single SAD (C88) form used for multiple purposes17 different data setsIf declarants do not select the appropriate data set, the declaration will reject
Several boxes provided in free text formatMost data elements restricted to code format other than Name and Address fieldsCode lists are not the same for CHIEF and CDS. Declarant must select correct code or declaration will fail
Source HMRC website

Trader Checklist – Moving to the Customs Declaration Service

For your customs broker or agent to use the Customs Declaration Service for you, then you need to follow these five steps:

1 If you don’t have one, register for a Government Gateway account

2  If you don’t have it, apply for an Economic Operator Registration and Identification ( EORI) number. Go to

3 If you haven’t done so, register for the Customs Declaration Service To do this you’ll need your Government Gateway user ID and password for yourself or your business. Also you will need:

• your GB EORI number

• your 10-digit Unique Tax Reference (UTR) number – you can find this on any HMRC payment reminders, or in your personal tax account

• the address for your business that is held on your customs record –tell them if your address has changed and isn’t the same as the one listed as they need to be the same

• your National Insurance number (if you’re an individual or sole trader)

• the date business started

4 Choose which payment method to use

You can choose the payment method which is best for your declaration. You can view your balances and payments in the Customs Declaration Service Financial Dashboard, as well as grant and amend standing authorities for your payment accounts.

The main payment methods you can choose from are:

• duty deferment account – the Customs Declaration Service uses a separate HMRC bank account to CHIEF, so you’ll need to set up a new direct debit. Go to

• postponed VAT accounting – if you’re making declarations for yourself and your business is registered for VAT in the UK, find out when you can, or need to, account for import VAT on your VAT return. Go to

You can also choose:

• cash account – these replace the Flexible Accounting System (FAS), and you’ll be set up with one once you’ve registered for the Customs Declaration Service. Find out more at

• immediate payment by Bacs, CHAPS, online or by telephone banking – you can pay by debit, corporate credit card or cheque. Find out more at

• individual guarantee – you can use these to cover customs duties for one-off or high value imports. Find out more at

• general guarantee account – this allows you to provide multiple guarantees from the same account and continue importing goods into the UK and pay a disputed amount later once agreed. Find out more at

5 Instruct your customs broker or agent

You need to give your broker or agent customs clearance instructions, which are compliant with the Customs Declaration Service. You may need to:

• use the Customs Declaration Service Finance Dashboard to set up, check or update which customs agents can use your accounts

• let them know about any changes to your preferred method of payment

• let them know about the incoterms, awareness for all values, the location information, and nature of transaction information.

If you have any questions or need any help Kukla’s Customs division will be able to help you, contact @