UK Customs Declarations Changes Will Affect All Freight Customers Eventually

Friday, May 31, 2019

UK – As Parliament swans about without resolving the Brexit crisis many companies still have not apparently familiarised themselves with HM Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) new Customs Declaration Service (CDS). This despite harsh warnings from the likes of the British International Freight Association (BIFA) and others that firms need to prepare themselves for changes to import and export procedures with CDS replacing the existing Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system.

Originally CDS was due for a roll out in 2018, then delayed with all declarations set to take place on CDS from early 2019. Neither of these happened as planned and a vague mist of poor information has engulfed the whole thing ever since. Several major forwarders were asked to trial the system and these have assisted HMRC in tweaking the process but, up to now, seemingly hardly anybody outside this elite group has used the system.

The delays are blamed on Brexit and the number of HMRC staff who have been transferred to deal with the manifold possibilities. The eventual adoption of CDS is apparently set in stone so it seems sensible that anyone who will need to use the system, which presumably means everyone responsible for customs declarations to and from anywhere dependent on the final Brexit deal, prepares for the incoming legislation earlier rather than later.

Looking at one specific case, Active Products (UK) Ltd is one of the UK’s many SME importers and the company has now successfully become an early adopter of CDS following advice and support from software specialist Descartes Systems UK Ltd. Active Products is a privately owned company that has been supplying a diverse range of products since 2003. The company operates a bonded warehouse, which allows it to defer duty and VAT payments on imports. It was for this reason, combined with the available resources within the business, which caused Descartes to suggest it would benefit from the early transition.

Since early 2019, Active Products has been using Descartes’ eCustoms system for its CDS import declarations, as part of the migration from CHIEF. Donna Ray, Office & Finance Manager, Active Products (UK) Ltd, commented:

“As a small business, we have undoubtedly benefited from the individual support we received in migrating to CDS early. As a long-standing user of Descartes eCustoms platform, we were grateful for being selected and consider their guidance invaluable in the process.”

Following the technical release of CDS in August 2018, Descartes worked closely with HMRC to prepare Active Products as one of their first three traders for making the first declarations using the new system. Since going live Descartes has continued to help ensure Active Products remains compliant with CDS upgrades and future releases. Pól Sweeney, Vice President of UK Sales and Business Management at Descartes, observed:

"We're pleased that our eCustoms software has helped Active Products UK achieve compliance with the requirements of CDS ahead of the curve. We take our responsibility to both larger and smaller traders very seriously. Despite CHIEF and CDS running in parallel, all organisations will need to address the changes between the systems, which are not only technical but also around the rules of completion and data required to comply with the EU Union Customs Code. Our proactive approach can help ensure all organisations make the transition to CDS in a seamless manner.”