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Hauliers report problems with post-Brexit customs system but HMRC insists it is 'online and working as planned'

Originally launched as 'minimum viable product', GVMS has the necessary upgrades, UK taxman says

Glitches in IT systems designed to manage the movement of goods from the EU to the UK are holding up shipments.

According to Bloomberg, problems with the Goods Vehicle Movement Service (GVMS) – a UK government IT platform for moving goods into or out of Northern Ireland and Great Britain – have meant hauliers have not been able to load shipments onto the system and get their reference codes accepted.

The news outlet cites three organisations, including auto manufacturer Honda, as having been hit by difficulties with the system, causing shipments to be held up at the UK border.

In November 2020, UK public spending watchdog the National Audit Office said it had been assured a "minimum viable product" for GVMS would be released in December 2020 followed by a second release in June 2021 that would provide more functionality and enable the delivery of import and export controls.

UK tax collector Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs (HMRC) launched GVMS to support the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland in January 2021, although there was a delay in delivering full functionality, according to a report [PDF] from public spending watchdog the National Audit Office (NAO) in November last year.

From 1 January 2022, hauliers and logistics organisations needed to use the system to get any goods that you move through a port in the UK through customs, according to the HMRC website.

News of problems with the system are not likely to be reassuring to the NAO, which, as of November, reported that further changes were required before January 2022 when traders will need to submit a full customs declaration at the point of entry to Great Britain.

"The most significant relates to making enhancements to the GVMS to improve the interaction between GVMS and other HMRC systems and to enable GVMS to validate the information it is receiving," the report said.

In July 2021, HMRC told the NAO it "was confident that it could make the changes to GVMS required in order to support its own requirements before January 2022, but that it was still working through the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs' requirements to see if they could be accommodated in time.

"If not, this would mean that heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers could find out from the GVMS system whether or not their goods have been cleared or require checking and provide details of locations of the inland facilities, but that there would not be the functionality in place to inform drivers the specific inland facilities to attend for checks if required."

The Border and Protocol Delivery Group, which sits within the Cabinet Office, told the NAO that from August 2021 HMRC systems changes were on track but that there was a red-rated risk for delivery of the Defra-related GVMS changes for January 2022, "although plans were being developed for workaround solutions."

When we asked whether the requisite January 22 updates to GVMS had been made, an HMRC spokesperson responded: "GVMS is online and is working as planned. HMRC continues to undertake a wide variety of engagement activity with hauliers and traders to ensure they understand the new obligations. We will continue to work closely with ports and carriers to monitor the situation."

The Brexit transition, which saw the UK leave the world's largest economic trading bloc and free movement arrangements with its largest trading partner, has also hit the migration of other HMRC systems.

Plans to migrate from the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system to the Customs Declaration System (CDS), which began in 2013, had been put on hold when the UK entered the final phase of the transition period, which closed at the end of 2020. CHIEF was first introduced in 1994 and HMRC said in August last year it would be closing it on 31 March 2023 and transferring all work to the CDS from that date. ®

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