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The way we handle your imports & exports is changing…

Do you import or export goods outside of the EU? If so are you ready for CDS?

Driven by HM Revenue & Customs; the new Customs Declaration Service is set to ‘rock the boat’ for traders and freight forwarders throughout the UK. Peters & May’s in-house Customs & VAT Manager Simon Beck is at the forefront of ongoing change. As such, it is the aim of the team at Peters & May to keep customers informed, to make the transitional process as smooth as possible.

What is changing?

Customs Declaration Service (CDS) will be replacing the existing Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight system (otherwise known as CHIEF).

Why is there need for change?

CHIEF is one of the world’s most sophisticated electronic services for managing customs and declarations processes. It is however now 25 years old and as a result not easily adaptable to new requirements. HMRC have made the decision to replace CHIEF with CDS meaning all forwarders including Peters & May will be required to handle their imports and exports differently going forwards. Although the decision to migrate to CDS was made prior to the Brexit decision, the scalability of the Customs Declaration Service will mean that the expected increase in declarations with the potential exit from the EU will be easily managed going forwards.

Who does it apply to?

All traders, agents or freight forwarders that imports or exports goods outside the EU.

When will it start?

The phased launch of the Customs & Declaration Service began in August 2018, with all declarations taking place on CDS from 2019. The Customs Declaration Service is currently being built by HMRC before undergoing testing with industry, software and Community System Providers (CPS). Introduction will be phased, with CHIEF continuing to run during transition, helping ensure a smooth shift.

How will importers & exporters be affected?

Any trader or freight forwarder involved in the import or export of goods outside the EU will currently be using CHIEF to:

  • Process declarations for goods entering and leaving the UK or EU via a port of airport.
  • Calculate and pay the correct duty taxes.
  • Electronically complete customs information.


CDS will still hold the same required functionality as CHIEF, however there will be significant differences:

  • The Customs & Declaration Service will be accessed on via a Government Gateway account.
  • CDS will offer multifunctionality in one place – for example; traders will be able to view previous import and export data on pre-defined reports, check tariffs, apply for authorisations and simplifications, and check their duty deferment statements.


Additional information will be required for declarations in order to align with the World Customs Organisation Kyoto Convention, currently being implemented in the UK through the Union Customs Code (UCC). Extra information required includes:

  • An audit trail of previous document IDs.
  • Additional party types, such as buyer and seller.
  • Possible additional commercial references or tracking numbers.
  • Levelling – change between ‘Header’ and ‘Item’ for some data items.


To ensure that UK Customs data is aligned to international standards, there will also be changes to the following:

  • Location of goods identified (based on UNLOCODE).
  • The warehouse type code.
  • Item tax lines, including method of payment codes.
  • Unit of quantity codes.
  • The way customs procedures are quoted.
  • The number of items on a declaration – CDS will allow a maximum of 999 items on a customs declaration instead of the current 99 items in CHIEF.

What does this all mean for Peters & May’s customers?

When processing your customs documentation, our teams will be asking customers for a little more information than normal, this is driven by the new data requirements associated with CSD. Once all testing is complete, importers, exporters, agents and freight forwarders such as Peters & May will be informed by software providers when they need to supply the additional information required to begin making declarations on CDS. When Peters & May are notified of this they will communicate it to customers. In the meantime, Peters & May’s Customs & VAT Manager Simon Beck, will be on hand to assist all our customers with queries during the transition.

To stay informed with updates from Simon, customs developments and general business updates sign up to Peters & May’s E-news here.



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