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Time is running out for firms to grasp new customs arrangements

One of the UK’s leading customs agents has warned that hundreds of businesses could be banned from importing unless they urgently switch to a new Government computer system.

ChamberCustoms, which is owned by the British Chambers of Commerce, has been working with thousands of firms to get them ready for the change.

In 2020, the Chamber Network as a whole facilitated an estimated £25bn in overseas UK trade, but warned too many businesses are now in danger of losing out.

HMRC’s Customs Handling Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system will be replaced by the Customs Declaration Service (CDS) on October 1 for companies importing goods from abroad.

It has now announced that firms can apply for an extension to continue using CHIEF for up to a month, but ChamberCustoms fears this will not be enough.

Liam Smyth, Managing Director of ChamberCustoms, said: “The switch over from CHIEF to CDS, has been on the cards for quite some time. We began using the new system with our customers six months ago. But we are regularly hearing from traders who remain frustrated by difficulties in completing their registration.

“Many intermediaries and businesses are still not ready and we are seeing an increased demand for switchover courses with just days to go.

“A month extension will not be enough, intermediaries that have only recently had access to the CDS training system need more time to embed training, CDS is very different to CHIEF.

“If firms are shut out of CHIEF before they are ready then they will effectively be cut adrift and find themselves unable to import.

“With all the other cost pressures and supply chain disruption businesses have been facing it is perhaps unsurprising that some have yet to act, but it is now getting to crunch time.

“Firms need to take action immediately and HMRC needs to look closely at the support and lead in times it is prepared to offer. Otherwise we could be looking at a cliff-edge that could hammer companies at a time when they can least afford it.”

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