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  • Chris Bratton - Tech Journalist

HMRC to shut down Legacy UK Customs System

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has announced the upcoming shutdown of its 30-year-old Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (Chief) system. Originally, the system was scheduled to be replaced by the Custom Declaration Service (CDS) in March 2020, but the transition was delayed several times. The final shutdown date for the Chief system is set for June 4, 2024.

The shutdown process has been ongoing for several years, with the Chief system running alongside the CDS. In September 2022, the import declarations function of Chief was switched off, but businesses have still been able to submit export declarations through the system. However, from June 4, 2024, all customs declarations must be submitted through the CDS.

Currently, around 30% of all export declarations are submitted through the CDS. HMRC is providing support and assistance to businesses making the transition to ensure a smooth process. Sarah Hartley, HMRC's director of border change delivery, urged businesses to move over to the CDS as soon as possible for a seamless transition.

The rollout of the CDS began in August 2018, with the initial plan for it to be the sole customs system in use after the UK's exit from the European Union in 2019. However, it became evident that the CDS would not be ready to handle the expected increase in customs declarations post-Brexit. As a result, both the Chief and CDS systems were kept running in parallel, with a gradual transition planned.

The government's decision to focus on upgrading the Chief system rather than prioritizing CDS functionality drew criticism and incurred additional costs and time. Despite the challenges, HMRC remained confident that the CDS would be ready by the Brexit deadline. However, it became apparent that this was not the case as the deadline approached.

In November 2020, a House of Lords Committee raised concerns about the unproven functionality of the CDS and HMRC's approach to working with industry. The road to getting the CDS ready for trade has been complex, but HMRC is determined to complete the transition and ensure an efficient customs management system for businesses.


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