UK customs declaration service: Move from CHIEF to CDS with AEB
UK system change

UK customs declaration service: Move from CHIEF to CDS with AEB

The UK customs declaration service CDS is replacing the CHIEF system. Get an overview of latest deadlines and meet requirements with AEB’s customs software.

CDS replaces CHIEF: Latest facts and dates at a glance

The UK customs authority HMRC is closing its Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system. It is being replaced by the Customs Declaration Service (CDS) as the new UK’s single customs platform. All businesses managing UK customs declarations will need to declare goods using the Customs Declaration Service. 

CDS has been running since 2018 and HMRC is managing the system replacement in phases:


As of September 30, 2022, import declarations are no longer managed in CHIEF and have moved to the new CDS system. Go to the next chapter to learn about your options for using CHIEF beyond this deadline as announced by HMRC in August 2022.


After November 30, 2023, export declarations are no longer possible in CHIEF and businesses will need to use CDS. The original deadline for this was March 31, 2023, however, HMRC announced on December 15, 2022 that it will grant exporters 8 months longer to move across from CHIEF to CDS. 

Northern Ireland

The use of CHIEF to submit import declarations for goods brought into Northern Ireland from outside the UK and the EU has been phased out earlier. Since October 31, 2021, the Customs Declaration Service has replaced CHIEF for such transactions. Since January 2021, importers must use CDS or, for all shipments into Northern Ireland from mainland GB, the Trader Support Service (TSS). To date, more than 47,000 businesses have registered for TSS since it's launch in 2020.  In the most recent update from October 3, 2022, the UK government has announced the extension of the Trade Support Service and it will now operate until the end of December 2023. 

Option for permission to use CHIEF temporarily for imports

In their news story from August 1, 2022, HMRC emphasized the urgency to register for and start the implementation of the import transition to the new Customs Declaration Service (CDS) without further delays. At the time, more than 3,500 businesses had yet to move. HMRC launched a campaign to contact these traders by phone and email to inform about the steps they need to take. 

While the original deadlines as listed in the first chapter of this article remain valid, HMRC published new guidance on September 20, 2022. It explains that traders who are not ready for their import declarations on CDS will need to ask permission from HMRC to temporarily continue using the CHIEF system beyond its official closing date (i.e. as of October 1, 2022) to avoid disruptions to their import operation. To request permission for an extension, traders can use the new online form on the HMRC website

Need a solution for managing declarations with CDS?

Peace of mind for the UK customs declaration service with AEB software

If you do not have a software solution in place yet or you would like to optimize how you currently manage your UK import and export declarations, you have come to the right place. There are different ways of managing customs declarations and whatever strategy you chose, AEB offers the ideal solution.

This includes managing export and import declarations yourself – in the cloud or integrated directly in your ERP system. And if you are working with customs brokers, you can optimize your collaboration with software from AEB to save time and money. Follow the links for Import Filing, Export Filing, and Customs Broker Integration to learn more or contact our experts directly to discuss your requirements. 

The UK customs declaration service for AEB customers

What the change from CHIEF to CDS means for AEB customers

If you are already working with Import Filing and/or Export Filing software from AEB, you have the best foundation for the UK government system change from CHIEF to the new customs declaration service CDS. AEB customers have different options to prepare for the change in line with AEB’s comprehensive software migration plan. 

All customers this refers to have already been contacted by our dedicated migration team.

In addition, you can also follow our dedicated article in AEB’s Help Center – it delivers all the information you need and informs about the steps you will need to take. As soon as further information on technical changes becomes available, all subscribers will be informed by email about what’s new. A one-time registration is required for this. 

Migration help for AEB customers

If you are working with AEB software for your UK customs declarations, help is at hand. Please visit our dedicated section in the AEB Help Center to learn about your options and next steps. 

General information: UK customs declaration service 

In this section you can find general information about the customs declaration service CDS and the customs handling of import and export freight system CHIEF with reference to the ongoing system replacement by the UK government. As with any system change, users will have to get used to the new environment and associated requirements. 

There are quite a few differences between how users make declarations on the new customs declaration service compared to the old customs handling of imports and exports freight system. Some of these are detailed below and please refer to the UK government website for more information and latest updates.

Background of the UK customs system change from CHIEF to CDS

The customs handling of import and export freight system CHIEF has been in use by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for nearly 30 years. Its core function is the processing of declarations to facilitate the international movement of goods between the UK and non-EU countries. Technology has advanced over the years and the CHIEF system cannot easily adapt to new requirements. Plans to retire CHIEF have therefore been underway for a long time – a successor project was eventually announced back in 2015 and a system provider was selected in 2016.

The decision to replace CHIEF with HMRC’s new customer declaration service CDS was made before the EU referendum, but developments since have been factored into the planning so that CDS is scaled to handle the increase in the volume of declarations resulting from Brexit. The customer declaration service CDS has been developed in consultation with the border industry and will provide a more secure and stable platform. CDS has the capacity and capability to grow in line with the UK’s trade plans and the system move is also expected to deliver savings for the taxpayer.

Timeline for the move to the new UK customs declaration service

HMRC will be closing its customs handling of import and export freight system CHIEF on March 31, 2023. From this date, all businesses will need to declare goods through the new customs declaration service CDS. Ahead of the complete closure in March 2023, services on CHIEF will be withdrawn in two stages:

  • September 30, 2022: Import declarations close on CHIEF (see above temporary permission option)
  • November 30, 2023: Export declarations close on CHIEF / National Exports System (NES)
Differences CHIEF/CDS: Customs legislation

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 harmonization rules.

This means: It’s a move from using paper-based rules on CHIEF to data processing rules on CDS.

Differences CHIEF/CDS: Tariff

CHIEF declaration completion requirements can be found in the CHIEF Tariff (online). CDS declaration completion requirements can be found in the CDS Tariff (online), which includes separate sections for declaring imports, declaring exports, Inventory Imports, and inventory exports. 

This means: Using the correct tariff is essential. CDS declarations using the CHIEF tariff will be rejected. And declarations using CHIEF codes will be rejected, too, as the code does not exist on CDS.

Differences CHIEF/CDS: Data entry

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

This means: CHIEF declarations are tailored to paper completion and offer several boxes that accept data in a free text format. In the new customs declaration service CDS on the other hand, most data elements are restricted to code format except name and address fields. 3 boxes on CHIEF may equate up to 17 different data elements on CDS. Users making declarations need to populate all required data elements, depending on the selected declaration category, and if they do not select the appropriate data set, the declaration will be rejected.

Differences CHIEF/CDS: Procedure codes

CHIEF features 7-digit fixed Customs Procedure Codes (CPCs) for each goods item. CDS codes are 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.

This means: There is no 1:1 correlation between CHIEF CPCs and CDS Procedure Codes (PCs) / (APCs). CHIEF CPCs are unique to a goods item while CDS PCs / APCs are multiple, interchangeable combinations depending on circumstances. The Procedure Code is always the same in CDS regardless of the type of declaration, i.e. the same code is used on simplified, standard, and supplementary declaration types. As code lists are not the same for CHIEF and CDS, users making declarations are required to select the correct code or their declarations will fail.