Customs Compliance is Going Digital

22nd September 2022

How companies trade around the world has been transformed by digital customs and technology.

From our border controls and trading compliance systems to customs declarations and bills of lading, the old analogue ways of importing and exporting are being consigned to history.

This presents many benefits and opportunities for those businesses willing to get on the front foot and adapt quickly. 

Trade is able to move faster, barriers can be broken down, costs are reduced, and digitised records become easier to access while being kept safe and secure in the cloud.

Most companies still use paperwork and spreadsheets, passing files to third parties via email and asking them to enter the information into software connected to HMRC systems manually. The risk of human error doubles and the need for compliance with HMRC is put at risk.

In October, after five years of preparation time, change is coming as the HMRC customs system (CHIEF) will close for imports and be replaced by CDS (Customs Declarations Service). Firms need to be ready for the additional data, customs intermediaries will need.

All exports switch over to CDS in March 2023. After that, CHIEF will be turned off for good.


CDS is just one reason why adapting to digital has taken on greater urgency. Embracing it will save time and can help avoid problems later. There are so many examples where a lack of data evidence has cost firms VAT reclaims and huge fines. The cost of non-compliance bites deep into any Financial Directors conscience!

Using smart technology allows companies to create a single source of truth between an existing enterprise solution such as SAP and what has been declared to the customs authority by an intermediary like ChamberCustoms

This means if problems occur or investigations are instigated, all the evidence to deal with these challenges is ready and at hand, no matter how far back HMRC might want to dig.  Although historic imports and exports conducted in CHIEF will still be produced at HMRC’s request.


Through ChamberCustoms, the Sheffield International Trade Centre (SITC) is offering a digital solution for international trade that any UK-registered company can take advantage of to solve all the issues such as human input error, paper trails, document retention and archives.  This service can be rolled out to all Chambers of Commerce in the UK who undertake customs declarations.

Our customers remain in control of the declarations being made on their behalf. Their existing data is uploaded to our platform, and smart technology puts it into the right data fields in the HMRC system. 

SITC’s skilled customs agents check the data to ensure compliance with HMRC.  Yulia, Elliot and Rachael are highly trained and tuned into compliance to ensure all our declaration customers understand their responsibility.

There is a full audit trail and ongoing updating of HMRC rules to ensure nobody runs into trouble by missing a change in legal requirements. 

A real-time dashboard also shows SITC’s customers when HMRC has granted permission to proceed, and it is fully searchable.

Any UK company of any size can benefit from the ChamberCustoms system and there is clear and unambiguous pricing with just one invoice per month, with a clear record for all your activity.

Whether you’re a CEO or Head of Finance at a firm that imports or exports, you must understand how the UK border is changing and that compliance with HMRC customs policy ultimately stops with you and is becoming more prevalent as digitalisation replaces the old systems. It’s moving fast!

Greater visibility and stronger solutions are needed to succeed in this fast-changing world of international trade, so I encourage you to embrace the change; the future of your business relies on it.

For more information, please contact chambercustoms@scci, or call 0114 201 8888

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Written by: Liam Smyth. Managing Director of ChamberCustoms Ltd, Nick Patrick.  Head of the Sheffield International Trade Centre.

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