CDS replaces CHIEF as the UK Customs system

David Rae

The UK government’s Customs Declaration Service (CDS) will fully replace the old Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) from the 1st November.

CDS has already been used to import goods to the UK since October 2022 as part of a phased introduction and will now be used for exports as well.

We have been working with the new CDS system for months, together with our customs partner Gerlach, to ensure this process goes smoothly for our customers and keep freight moving.

Gerlach is the largest customs facilitator in Europe, and their dedicated expertise means all our customers are well-equipped to jump from CHIEF to CDS.

Why did CHIEF need to be replaced?

The CHIEF system has been in operation since 1994 but with new European Union requirements set out in the Union Custom Code (UCC) in 2016 meant that more was needed.

CHIEF is a legacy system that was set up to handle paperwork in a world before Brexit. It was never created to handle fully digitised processes, and the aim of CDS is for a more efficient, flexible and scalable customs process.

The Directors General for Borders and Trade at HMRC, says, “CDS is a key part of the government’s plans for a world-leading fully digitised border that will help UK businesses to trade and to prosper.”

Don’t miss a step

CDS requires a little more information than CHIEF, but these 5 key steps will help you through a smooth transition:


  1. Register your business on Government Gateway
  2. Register for CDS
  3. Check you have all your numbers (GB EORI, UTR, VAT)
  4. Choose your payment method (if you’re using a deferment account, make sure you click to allow us to be your customs agent)
  5. Register for a Customs Comprehensive Guarantee number – this is required if you transport goods more than 3 times a year or if HMRC has told you to get one. It’s an agreement to pay for customs debt that has/will occur. If it’s not paid on import or export, a guarantee is required and becomes accountable.


There never seems to be an end to the ongoing changes to UK and EU customs law but Baxter Freight have always been ahead of the game, guiding our customers past the pitfalls and barriers to keep their goods moving.

Our Customs Manager, Chris Roome says:

 “We saw great success in supporting our customers through Brexit, and these changes are small compared to the very busy few years we’ve experienced. “

If you are concerned about making this transition, we have a team of customs specialists here to help. Feel free to get in touch and one of our experts will be here to help.

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