HMRC launches first stage of new customs systems in Brexit preparation milestone

Written by Richard Johnstone on 17 August 2018 in News
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Rollout of software to some businesses hailed as “testament to the hard work of HMRC staff”

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HM Revenue and Customs has begun to roll out the new customs system that will be able to deal with the expected increase in declarations after the UK leaves the European Union.

The first stage of the rollout of the Customs Declaration Service, which has been in development since 2013-14 to replace the existing Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) but was expanded but after the UK voted to leave the EU, was hailed as a milestone by senior officials.

The first software release has been made available to a selected group of importers, who will start making certain types of supplementary declarations on the new system from this week, in the initial step of a three-phase rollout lasting until early next year.


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The majority of importers will start using CDS from November, once their own software provider or in-house IT team has completed development of CDS-compatible software. Exporters will follow after this. CHIEF will continue to operate in parallel while the transition of traders takes place.

The CDS system was originally developed for importers and exporters who have to complete customs declarations when trading outside the EU, as well as to ensure the system met the latest requirements of the EU’s customs code and to allow businesses to access more of their customs information in one place.

Following the UK’s vote to leave the EU, HMRC prioritised work on the new system and developed contingency plans should CDS be delayed. These include refreshing the CHIEF IT infrastructure so it can be scaled to cope with processing a higher volume of customs declarations, and exploring other technology and process changes that may be required.

This led to the National Audit Office stating that the revamped customs service should be ready for a no-deal outcome when the UK leaves the EU in March.

Kevin Franklin, HMRC’s customs transformation programme director, said the first release of CDS represented “a major milestone”.

“Going live on time is a great step to fully introducing the new system and is testament to the hard work of both HMRC staff and our partners," he said.

“We have been engaging closely with trade representatives including software developers, community system providers [that track the movement of goods], freight forwarders, and traders themselves about CDS and we value the support from these organisations in preparing importers and exporters for the upcoming changes.

“Our priority now is to make sure software developers, agents and their clients are ready and we will continue to work closely with them throughout the transition.”

HMRC said that importers, exporters and agents should work with their in-house or external software developers to understand the impact that the new system will have on their business. Support for software developers includes a test service to allow customs software developers to test their solution against CDS functionality, and a developer hub for specific information on how to build compliant software.

About the author

Richard Johnstone is CSW's deputy and online editor and tweets as @CSW_DepEd

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