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Legacy UK customs system stops accepting registration requests

HMRC closes new applications to legacy customs system as its shutdown nears

The UK’s legacy customs handling system has ceased to accept new registrations from businesses after 30 years in operation, as a “more user-friendly” system takes its place.

The Customs Handling Import and Export Freight (Chief) system will be closed at the end of September and new registrations for companies that need to make import declarations will be made to the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) new Customs Declaration Service (CDS).

HMRC has worked for years to replace the Chief system and had aimed to turn off the legacy platform by March 2020, with CDS originally due to be fully deployed by January 2019.

The government said CDS is a “more user-friendly, streamlined system that offers greater functionality”. It is part of the government’s plan for Single Trade Window, which will reduce form-filling and make better use of data across government.

Carol Bristow, director general for borders and trade at HMRC, said: “The system will become the UK’s single customs platform, allowing for all businesses to submit their customs documents digitally and safely.

“It is straightforward for importers to register on the system and start making their import declarations as soon as possible.”

CDS was due to become the only system to operate once the UK left the European Union, but it was not ready to handle the large increase in customs declarations expected. Instead, the government focused on updating Chief.

Read more about HMRC and customs IT

  • HM Revenue and Customs has reduced “some risks” in its customs declaration service’s readiness for Brexit, but the tight timetable remains a “major challenge”, says National Audit Office.
  • National Audit Office report highlights concerns over UK’s readiness when Brexit transition period ends, including several IT systems at risk of not being ready in time.
  • The Customs Declaration Service is untested, unproven and not ready, and HMRC is taking a “cloak-and-dagger approach” to working with the industry, hears a Lords committee – but HMRC says delivery of Brexit IT is on track.

Instead of switching off Chief, HMRC launched a dual approach, with traders using Chief for customs declarations relating to imports in Great Britain, and CDS used for those relating to Northern Ireland until CDS had been scaled to be able to handle the increased volumes of declarations.

The government was criticised by industry for its approach to introducing CDS. In November 2020, industry told a House of Lords Committee that CDS functionality remained “unproven” and that HMRC was taking a “cloak-and-dagger approach” to working with industry.

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