Export CDS Declarations – What You Need To Know

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By Alex Dunbar

HM Revenue and Customs has released further dates to inform businesses in their transition from CHIEF to Customs Declaration Service (CDS), which is mandatory for all businesses by November 2023.

What is CDS?

From November 2023, all export declarations need to be made using CDS. The new Customs Declaration Service (CDS) takes over from CHIEF (Customs Handling Import and Export Freight), and is designed to modernise the processes of managing exports.

CDS is built around the Union Customs Code and will change the way you manage export declarations going forward.

CDS: Key Dates

CDS officially comes into effect for all businesses by 30 November 2023. Some groups will have started the process already; others may have only started last month and yet more still may not be affected until the summer.

We’ve set out the timetable for the rest of the year to help you plan ahead:

  • Late Feb 2023 — Export declarants that only move goods through ports in the UK that use the Goods Vehicle Movement Service (GVMS) — also known as non-inventory linked ports — will be contacted with details of how to start making export declarations through the CDS using third-party software. Declarants that use Designated Export Place (DEP) movements will need to wait until September 2023.
  • From Summer 2023 — HMRC will contact export declarants that currently use the National Export System (NES) web service to submit export declarations on CHIEF to let them know how to start making export declarations through CDS using ‘make an export declaration’ online service.
  • From September 2023 — Export declarants using inventory-linked ports and DEPs will be contacted with details of how to start making export declarations through CDS using third-party software. All routes will be open for making declarations from September 2023.
  • After November 2023 — All export declarations need to be made using CDS.

Source: BIFA

A look back at CDS: the timeline so far

This is the final stage of a process that began in 2021, with the key milestones outlined below:

  • January 2021 — Shipments into Northern Ireland from mainland GB must use CDS or TSS (Trader Support Service).
  • October 31st, 2021 — Shipments into Northern Ireland from outside the UK or EU must use CDS instead of CHIEF.
  • September 30th, 2022 — Import declarations can no longer be made with CHIEF and must be made with CDS.

What is the Customs Declaration Service?

CDS is a one-stop shop for UK customs. It’s being brought in to replace CHIEF and NES (National Export System), which have been in use by HMRC for nearly thirty years.

The new system will cover all import and export declarations for the UK — whether by land haulage, air freight, or ocean freight.

Why is CHIEF/NES being replaced?

CHIEF has been in place for nearly three decades. It’s an old and complex paper-based system that doesn’t have the capacity to cope with increasing demand and the digital world.

CHIEF is also based around the old Community Customs Code (CCC) and Single Administrative Document (SAD) rules. CDS has been formulated in accordance with the modernised Union Customs Code (UCC) implemented by the EU in 2016. The new system is based on data integration and harmonisation rules, rather than paper-based rules (to better work alongside the UCC).

Though planning for CDS started prior to the EU referendum, the system is also designed to be scalable. It will be more able to cope with the increased declarations caused by Brexit.


  • CDS uses distinct codes from CHIEF, although there is some crossover.
  • Procedure codes will look very different under CDS. The old system used 7-digit fixed Customs Procedure Codes (CPCs). Moving forward, you’ll need to use the new two-part codes. These consist of a four-digit Procedure Code combined with up to 99 three-digit Additional Procedure Codes (APCs) depending on the goods being declared.
  • New code lists will be introduced too, while existing lists (like Port and Country codes) will undergo changes.

There will be no correlation between the old CHIEF codes and the new CDS codes, so you’ll need to ensure you use the correct format to stop your declaration from being rejected.

What Can I Do to Prepare for CDS?

Many of us will already have undertaken most of the tricky aspects of making the transition. However, here are the basics for those that need to set up Government Gateway credentials:

Get your EORI number — Before registering for CDS, you need to ensure you have your EORI (Economic Operator Registration and Identification) number. This number is required for any companies trading between EU and non-EU countries. If you haven’t got an EORI number (or you don’t know what yours is) check out our full guide to EORI registration.

Subscribe to CDS — To start using the new Customs Declaration Service, you have to subscribe your Government Gateway user ID to CDS. To register, you’ll need to provide the following information:

  1. Your EORI number
  2. Your Unique Taxpayer Reference number (UTR)
  3. The address for your business
  4. The date you started your business
  5. Your National Insurance number (if you’re a sole trader or an individual)

Then, adjust your payment method as necessary — Depending on the type of account you hold, you may need to make changes to the way you pay (like setting up a new direct debit).

CPC and Commodity Codes – Please note that all CPC (Customer Procedure Codes) will change and some commodity codes will require additional information. This may result in additional information being requested, which has not been needed in the past.

Useful Links

Below are some useful links regarding CDS that will help guide you through the process.

CDS communication pack
Traders check list
CDS finance guide

Hemisphere Can Help

If you have any more questions about the latest updates to CDS and what it means for you, our expert team is on hand with the answers. Simply get in touch with us today to find out how we can make the CDS switchover easy.

Photo: Rinson Chory on Unsplash