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CDS - Customs Declaration Service and You

Updated: Mar 2, 2023

CDS will be replacing CHIEF from the 1st of October for import declarations. What do you need to do as a business to be ready for this change?

What is CDS?

HMRC are upgrading their Custom Declaration platform for the first time in over 20 years, replacing the existing Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system with the Customs Declaration System (CDS)

The last date for Import Declarations through CHIEF will be September 30th, 2022, with the last date for Export Declarations being 31st March 2023.

ACT Forwarding & Logistics have been testing the system in preparation of it's launch, and are ready to make declarations on your behalf using the new software.

Do I need to register?

As an importer or an exporter, you will need to register for CDS, even if you are using a customs agent like ACT to complete customs declarations on your behalf. This does not mean you will be making declarations, but it will mean that the system will allow your EORI number to be used on declarations.

You will not need to register if you are a private individual importing or exporting personal effects.

How do I register?

We will not be able to complete declarations on your behalf unless you register for CDS so this is a vital step you must undertake to be able to continue trading from October 2022.

You will need the below information to be able to register:

  • A government gateway account

  • A GB EORI number

  • Your Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR)

  • National Insurance number

  • The date you started your business

Register for CDS - click here

What else do I need to do?

There are two final steps you must undertake to ensure your goods can continue to move without delays.

1. Authorise us to use your accounts on your customs declarations - video guide here

You will need our EORI number to authorise us to complete declarations on your behalf. GB357874251000 is the number you need to input.

We would ask that you authorise us for both your duty deferment and cash accounts, as this will help us reduce any delays in your goods being customs cleared.

If you do not have a duty deferment account, then you must authorise us to use your cash account.

There is the option to allow us to see your available balances. This isn't essential, but a benefit would be that it allows us to check if a shipment is being held due to payment reasons, as we can confirm if it's a funds issue rather than waiting for you to confirm this.

2. Confirm a payment method for VAT & Duty costs - details here

We will seek confirmation from all of our importers of your new cash account numbers that you get automatically when registering for CDS, as this means you can pay Customs Duties & Import VAT directly to HMRC using your account, and it will prevent there being delays while we try to sort out how duties would be paid.

Please note, that if you currently utilise ACT's deferment account to pay for your Customs Duties & Import VAT, this process will not change.

What has changed?

There are multiple changes that have been introduced with CDS replacing CHIEF, but the key ones that affect you are below.

  • Box numbers into data elements

    • Box numbers have now been replaced by Data Elements. As an example, box number 33 on CHIEF which would have been for the Commodity Code, will now be DE 6/14 on CDS.

  • Amount of data fields

    • Where CHIEF requires up to 68 'Boxes' of information to be completed for import declarations (and 45 for export declarations), CDS requires up to 76 'Data Elements' for imports and 65 for exports. This means we may need to ask for additional information we never did previously.

  • PVA statements

  • Cash accounts

    • Replacing the FAS method of payment from CHIEF, everyone who registers for CDS will be automatically given a CDS cash account to allow for the smooth payment of Customs Duties & Import VAT.

  • Immediate payments

    • Payments can now be made immediately with a new reference number that will be generated on the entry. If you are opting to use this payment method, we will provide you with the relevant reference number for you to make the payment so HMRC can link the payment to the entry.

  • Authorising customs agents

    • We will need to be granted authorisation through the CDS portal to use your cash account and duty deferment account, otherwise we will not be able to use them on a declaration. This can be done by clicking this link

  • Paperwork

    • The layout of the typical C88 you are used to will be changing and we will be creating a post to explain the layout of the new documentation in the coming weeks to make that transition smoother for you. There is also no longer a H2 or E2 document.

  • Entry numbers

    • CHIEF entry numbers have been replaced by a CDS Movement Reference Number, more commonly known as MRN. This will be what you need to provide to your hauliers so they can create your GMR. The MRN format will be similar to the following - 22 GB BS7GM11MO8TT18 - The year, two digit country code and a randomly generated 14 digit alphanumeric reference number.

  • License requirements

    • These are now more prominent than ever, and we will have to declare to HMRC not only which licenses you have, but also which ones aren't applicable. This means it's vital that you are checking you have the relevant licenses for your commodities before attempting to import them.

What else do I need to know?

We will be releasing a new clearance instruction sheet which will include a few CDS specific changes to help keep things flowing smoothly and ensure that we have all the required information at the first time of asking. It's important to remember that you are responsible for your customs declarations being correct, so the clearer your instructions are, the less likely you are to have any delays in your goods being cleared.

We are also preparing an FAQ document of questions we receive from our customers. If you have any questions you are unsure about, please send them on to us at with "CDS FAQ" in the subject and we will publish those too.


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