From CHIEF to CDS,
one platform for all
UK Imports and Exports

August 24, 2022

The UK’s legacy customs system, Customs Handling of Import & Export Freight (CHIEF), is being replaced by Customs Declaration Service (CDS). CDS will handle all imports and exports arriving/departing the UK by land, air, or sea. CDS is a flexible, modular platform that is built to scale with the growth of international trade.

Key changes

Aside from the technical differences between CHIEF and CDS in terms of processing, connectivity and messaging structure, the customs declarations themselves differ in terms of data structure and content.

CDS declarations use Data Elements (up to 91) in place of the 68 SAD boxes referenced by CHIEF. This comparison immediately illustrates the more extensive data set requirement within CDS. Whilst some of the SAD boxes directly correlate to a corresponding Data Element, CDS introduces and mandates a number of new reporting requirements.

Additionally, where a correlation exists, it may be the case that CDS requires the data to be submitted in a different format so you will find there are a number of new code lists. Whilst there are many consistencies between key areas such as the majority of Documents, Licences and AI Statement Codes, there are also some which differ significantly, such as Goods Location codes.

One other key point to note is that CDS uses a new structure for Customs Procedure Codes. CHIEF has a fixed 7-digit CPC for a goods item whilst within CDS this is split onto two parts: a single 4-digit Procedure Code (PC) and up to 99 3-digit Additional Procedure Codes (APCs) for a single goods item. This allows for multiple, interchangeable combinations depending on the circumstances and means there is no 1-to-1 correlation between CHIEF CPCs and CDS Procedure Codes (PCs / APCs).

5 steps to prepare for CDS

Here is our checklist to get you ready to transition from CHIEF to CDS. As a reminder, the closure of CHIEF imports is scheduled for 30 September 2022. This means that the declaration filing of all imports using CDS into the UK is required by this deadline. Exports will follow on 31 March 2023. To ensure your goods keep moving smoothly, it is important to organise now to be prepared for when CHIEF is fully decommissioned.


If your business has not already done so, you will need to register for a Government Gateway account.


You need to register for access to CDS

If you receive a message indicating that your EORI is already registered for CDS, it is likely that someone else from your organisation has already registered for Postponed VAT Accounting (PVA). You will need to identify who within the organisation has registered, and that individual will need to add team members, e.g., the Customs Manager, to the account. To do so:

1. Sign into the business tax account pages.

2. Select ‘Manage Account’ and then ‘Give a team member access to a tax, duty or scheme’.

3. On the ’Manage who can access your taxes and schemes’ page, select the ‘Taxes and schemes’ tab. In the row for ‘Customs Declaration Service’ choose ‘Manage team members’.

4. Select the team members you want to give access to the ‘Customs Declaration Service’ and ‘Save’ your choices.


Declaration payments processing will change with CDS. Therefore, you need to review the payment methods you use. You will be affected if you use any of the payment methods below: 

  • Cash accounts
  • Duty deferment accounts
  • Immediate payments
  • Guarantee accounts
  • Individual guarantees

Note that, where a deferment account is used, you will need to set up a New Direct Debit Instruction.


You may want to review the Trade Tariff Tool, which has been redesigned for use with CDS, providing access to both the UK Integrated Tariff and the Northern Ireland Tariff.

There are some changes to the Document Codes you can use within CDS. For example, the LIC99 waiver code used within CHIEF is no longer valid in CDS. As a temporary facilitation, HMRC has introduced an equivalent document waiver code ‘999L’ that may be entered in Data Element (DE) 2/3 to satisfy certain Tariff measures for goods imported or exported from GB (note: it cannot be used for NI). This code is available for use until 30 September 2023.


The CDS migration deadline is approaching, so make sure you are ready for the change. Our experts are here to ease your journey from CHIEF to CDS. For further information please contact your Maurice Ward Group representative by clicking here.

For UK in specific, you can reach out to

Did you know?

The first ever ‘cargo only’ flight was recorded in November 1910 in the USA, using a Wright Model B aeroplane that flew 65 miles carrying a package of silk. The business owner used the pioneering transport more as a PR stunt to celebrate the opening of his store, with the bundle of silk cut into individual pieces and glued onto souvenir postcards.

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