HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has implemented the first stage of the new Customs Declaration Service (CDS), one of the major elements of its IT infrastructure for dealing with trade post-Brexit.
It said that a selected group of importers will now be able to make certain types of supplementary declarations on the system, and forecast that the majority of importers will begin to use it from November once they have moved to using compatible software.
Exporters are due to follow soon after.
The existing Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system will run in tandem with the CDS during a transition period into early 2019.
Kevin Franklin, HMRC’s Customs Transformation Programme director, said: “The first release of the new Customs Declaration Service is a major milestone. Going live on time is a great step to fully introducing the new system and is testament to the hard work of both HMRC staff and our partners.
“We have been engaging closely with trade representatives including software developers, community system providers, freight forwarders, and traders themselves about CDS and we value the support from these organisations in preparing importers and exporters for the upcoming changes.
“Our priority now is to make sure software developers, agents and their clients are ready and we will continue to work closely with them throughout the transition.
The CDS has been developed to bring together new and existing services, in line with the requirements of the Union Customs Code (UCC) for the EU.
Development plans were laid in 2013-14 when the department decided it would be too expensive to update the ageing CHIEF system. Since then the vote for the UK to leave the EU has intensified the need for the CDS, with projections that the number of customs declarations could increase from around 55 million to 255 million per year.
The implementation could allay some of the fears over the readiness of the relevant IT systems to cope with the changes in trade rules post-Brexit. In May, Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee published a report warning of the possible problems, especially around food imports.
HMRC said that importers, exporters and agents will need to work with their in-house or external software developers to understand the impact the CDS will have on their businesses. Software providers should look at what changes need to be made to their software packages and make decisions about their approach to the roll out of IT and customer migration in-house.
Image, Dover Ferry Port from John Fielding, CC BY 2.0 through flickr