Public Services > Central Government

HMRC makes progress on CHIEF replacement plans

David Bicknell Published 26 May 2015

CHIEF replacement plan renamed the Customs Declaration Services programme


A recent contract awarded to the W3Partnership has provided a clue to the progress HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is making towards replacing its CHIEF customs handling system.

CHIEF, which stands for Customs Handling of Import & Export Freight, needs to be replaced by HMRC because the current service is based on ageing technology and within the next seven to 10 years, there are likely to be several EU legislative changes to international trade processes. These changes notably the Union Customs Code (UCC), part of the modernisation of customs which will serve as the new framework regulation on the rules and procedures for customs throughout the EU.

HMRC cannot accommodate UCC within the existing CHIEF service, which is why HMRC is planning to replace it with a new system.

Last year, it emerged that HMRC had decided against launching an invitation to tender (ITT) for the replacement of CHIEF, preferring to develop a replacement using a mix of internal development, commercial off the shelf (COTS) packages and external suppliers, as required, to achieve the best combination of a user-friendly, effective system and value for money."

In detailing the contract to the W3 Partnership, HMRC indicated that the replacement service will be "flexible to change and innovative allowing the implementation of the EU mandated changes to be managed in an efficient and timely manner. It will continue to provide an end to end service that is available 24 hours a day and will include future software and business process development work to support the UK's evolving requirements in relation to Customs applications and information technology services."

In the last six months, HMRC has renamed the CHIEF Replacement Programme as the Customs Declaration Services (CDS) programme to reflect the wider ambitions of the programme in developing the new solution.

As the CDS programme develops further it is understood that it is likely that HMRC will be seeking additional technical support in a number of areas, using standard procurement processes. HMRC is understood to be looking for a solution which provides the functionality of the existing system but where opportunities arise to support future HMRC requirements, the department will seek to ensure they are catered for.

An HMRC spokesperson said, "We employed this supplier for consultancy expertise to enable us to implement a component of the replacement solution for CHIEF. The specific work package is now complete.

"HMRC continues to refine its delivery approach for CDS and has recently undertaken a series of trade engagements to test its delivery timeline. The programme will be procuring a number of products over the coming months to achieve the best combination of a user-friendly, effective system offering value for money.

CHIEF is a business critical system for HMRC as it facilitates the movement of international goods into and out of the UK and allows importers, exporters and forwarders to meet their customs obligations with minimum manual intervention.

The system facilitates three key functions for HMRC: the collection of £34bn of revenue each year; the accurate collection of international trade and transport statistics; the protection of society by controlling the import and export of restricted goods, and detecting the smuggling of prohibited goods.

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