There is a lot of discussion about CDS in regards to the UK being ready for Brexit, and it is envisaged that CDS will play a significant role in ensuring that HMRC can handle the expected influx of customs declarations caused by leaving the EU.


What is CDS

CDS (Customs Declaration Service) is the computer system that will handle all import and export customs entries made in the United Kingdom. The system has been designed to replace the aging CHIEF (Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight) system. CDS was commissioned before the EU referendum and is designed around the new EU customs legislation, the Union Customs Code.

Although not designed specifically for Brexit, the project has been changed so that it can cope with the expected increase in customs declarations caused by exiting the EU.

How is CDS different from CHIEF?
CDS is built on an architecture that is more flexible than that of CHIEF, meaning that the system should be more customisable than CHIEF currently is. This will allow benefits for importers and exporters such as being able to access declarations, make their own declarations, and manage who and what can be declared on its behalf?

CDS also handles data in a different way. Whereas CHIEF uses data “boxes”, CDS uses data “elements”, which means that no paper customs entries will exist.

When will CDS be ready?
HMRC is currently undergoing trade testing with a number of stakeholders before being launched next year. The plan is to have the import system launched before Brexit, with the export system to follow at the end of 2019. HMRC are however confident that it has enough capacity in the existing CHIEF system should these dates slip.

What do traders need to do?
Traders must register for CDS on the Government Gateway, otherwise they will not be able to import or export using the new system. The data that traders are required to submit remains broadly the same, however the data must be presented in a different way. Traders are advised to review the updated customs entry completion rules in Volume 3 of the tariff in order to understand what data will be required and how this should be presented.