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If you are importing goods into the UK, then you will need to use the new Customs Declaration Service (CDS). You may have heard about it, but as with any change to an already complex import and export process, you may find what it actually means confusing.

At SSOIF, we’re committed to simplifying the import and export process for UK businesses, enabling them to take greater advantage of the opportunities that it can deliver. In this brief guide, we’ll look at what the CDS is, the difference it will make to the process, and when it will be implemented.

What is the Customs Declaration Service?

Customs Declaration Service (CDS) is the UK government’s new electronic system for handling customs declaration processes. CDS is replacing the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system, which is closing down for imports on the 1st October 2022, and for exports March 31, 2023.

It is being introduced in an attempt to simplify the process, making it easier for importers and exporters to move goods in and out of the country. There are no changes to the regulations regarding import and export nor the amount of the duties that you will be required to pay.

When will the change come into effect?

The change to CDS is being implemented in two phases.

From the 1st of October 2022, importers will no longer be able to make declarations using the CHIEF system.

From 31st March 2023, you will then no longer be able to make export declarations using CHIEF and the National Export System (NES).

The CDS system has already been introduced into Northern Ireland for goods brought into Northern Ireland from outside the UK and the EU. Since October 31, 2021, the Customs Declaration Service has replaced CHIEF for such transactions.

Since January 2021, importers must use CDS or the Trader Support Service (TSS) for all shipments into Northern Ireland from mainland GB.

If you import or export goods to or from the UK, it’s important that you understand how the new system works and what’s required well in advance of the changes being implemented.

How will this affect your business?

If you are currently using CHIEF as part of the import or export process, then many of the elements of CDS will be familiar to you. CDS will hold much of the same functionality as CHIEF. It will enable you to process declarations for goods entering and leaving the UK via port or airport. It will calculate and then enable you to pay the correct duty. As with CHIEF, it will allow you to complete customs information electronically.

Unlike CHIEF, the CDS will be linked to your Government Gateway Account at Gov.UK. It will provide extra information, such as your VAT statements, and management of your duty payments. It will also allow businesses to apply for authorisations and simplifications and check their duty deferment statements.

CDS will also incorporate requirements for declarations in order to align with the World Customs Convention. To ensure that UK customs data is aligned with international standards changes will also be made to a number of different elements such as the warehouse type code, item tax lines, the location of goods identified and the unit of quantity codes.

This means that importers and exporters will be required to submit a range of extra information. This is driven by the data requirement of the CDS and may add additional complexities to the process.

SSOIF will be handling this transition for our customers and helping them through these changes in as seamless a way as possible.

What are the key differences between CHIEF and CDS?

There are a number of key differences between CHIEF and CDS, particularly in relation to customs legislation, tariffs, data entry and procedure codes.

Customs Legislation

CHIEF is based on the Community Customs Code (CCC) and Single Administrative Document (SAD) Harmonisation rules (boxes) whereas CDS is based on the Union Customs Code (UCC) and data integration and harmonisation rules.

In practice, this means that there is a move from the paper-based rules integral to CHIEF and the data processing rules applied to CDS.


There will be changes to the declaration completion requirements in the CDS system. It includes separate sections for declaring imports, declaring exports, inventory imports, and inventory exports. In practice, this means that using the correct section is essential, and any CDS declarations using the CHIEF tariff or codes will be rejected.

Data Entry

CHIEF includes 68 Paper form multi-use boxes. CDS includes 91 single-use data elements.

In practice, this means that most data elements on CDS are restricted to code format except name and address fields. Any user making a declaration will need to populate all of the required data elements, depending on the selected declaration category. Failure to do so will result in the declaration being rejected.

Procedure Codes

CPC codes will declare to customs the type and reason for import/export. CPCs vary from standard imports into free circulation, to customs regimes such as IPR, Bonded Warehousing, OPR and Temporary Import Relief. The different CPCs require different authorization codes and guarantees to be inputted by your broker.

How SSOIF can help

Whenever there are changes to the import/export process the risk of problems occurring increases, at least in the short term as people adjust to the new system.

At SSO International Forwarding, we help our clients negotiate the complexities of the import and export process. Our import service and export service take care of the complete logistics process, enabling you to concentrate on the core aspects of your business.

Contact us today to find out more about our services.

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