Don’t Let Your Divorce From CHIEF Be A Massive Time Thief

By Nicholas Booth - Just Trade News Editor

Importers are facing a tough six months, simultaneously dealing with an admin overload and the looming challenge of learning a new computer system that is still a work in progress.

In terms of personal stress, it’s akin to a dysfunctional divorce, moving house while blindfolded and learning a new language. For this reason, Just Trade has devised a new system to simplify your migration. Details and web links are below.

But first, here is some context on the problem. There is plenty of ‘data’ available, some from dubious sources, as we will see below. Don’t trust data on its own. Data tells you that the red thing on your chopping board is a tomato. Data also says it’s a fruit. But knowledge and (in some cases) experience tells you not to put the tomato in a fruit salad.

Content may be ‘king’, but Context is the Queen, and it’s the Queen that makes all the smart moves on the chessboard. So, first, we bring you the Context. Then, please proceed to the Content.


HMRC has clarified a ‘falsely represented’ story in The Loadstar, which said the CHIEF customs system will run until 2025, when in fact, the Import declaration is being phased out by October this year. Export declarations via CHIEF will also end in just over a year from 1st April 2023.

The old CHIEF system and the new Customs Declaration Service (CDS) are running in parallel but, according to research (see newsletter) traders are already feeling overworked understanding the new regulations. Since the options for Import declarations and Export declarations on CHIEF end on different dates in different years, declarants will effectively need to migrate twice to CDS. Confused?

Our advice is to start your preparations immediately because all the good systems integrators are already taken. SCC, which is creating the CDS, isn’t answering phone or email communications. We know because Just Trade has been seeking clarification. Meanwhile, some freight forwarders are sticking with the old CHIEF because, they say, they don’t have the time to learn the new engines of CDS, which still haven’t been tuned.

New declarants, who never used CHIEF, may think they have the advantage as they have a fresh perspective, says Nicholas Tate, developer of Just Trade and publisher of the International Trade Guide. However, they must follow the same process but may need to consider additional authorisations.

In response to this looming crisis, Tate has created a practical action plan to help Importers and Exporters negotiate the move from one system to the other.

Importers should take this matter in hand and perform this action in-house, says Tate. This is the only way to stay in control and mitigate any issues occurring from their customs agent.

So, start now. As government mandarin turned philosopher Confucius once said, the hardest part of the thousand-mile journey is the first step. The sooner you take it, the better.


Just Trade has created a simple Three Step plan for systems migration.

Step One is to Register (click to open) for CDS.

Step Two is to Register (click to open) to Just Trade for access to its CDS compatible filing solution.

Step Three: Declarants should familiarise themselves with the CDS completion guidance (click to open).

The Just Trade system user interface features guidance on conversion from CHIEF to CDS and each box is identified by the field descriptions in the Completion Guidance.

It also lets users make unlimited declarations to HMRCs Trade Test environment to practice and familiarise themselves with CDS messages and declaration acceptance.

Having completed the three-stage initiation process, it is time to register for the HMRC Trader Dress Rehearsal. You may even be emboldened to visit CDS production and make live declarations.

To put everything in context, why not discuss the issue with a Just Trade representative? Or email us at


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