The Overseas Trade in Goods Statistics are based on a combination of Survey data (Intrastat) for UK trade with the European Union (EU), and Administrative Data (CHIEF: Customs Handling of Import Export Freight) for non-EU.

Administrative data

What is Administrative data?

Administrative data refers to information collected primarily for administrative purposes. This type of data is collected by government departments and other organisations for the purposes of registration, transaction and record keeping, usually during the delivery of a service. It is often collected for operational purposes, with its statistical use a secondary function.​​



Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF)

The Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system records the declaration to Customs of goods by land, air and sea. It allows importers, exporters and freight forwarders to complete customs information electronically, and automatically checks for entry errors. This system is the Trade Statistics & Customs Analysis (TSCA) source of administrative data for non-EU trade.

CHIEF connects with five Community System Providers (CSPs); these are independent trade systems that directly serve hundreds of carriers, transit sheds and freight forwarders. CSPs record and track the movement of goods within ports and airports, enabling them to operate more efficiently.

CHIEF is also part of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) risk assessment process. It identifies which consignments, or goods within a consignment, will need to be physically examined, or have their documentation examined. This gives legitimate goods, and those deemed to be a low-level risk, faster passage when they are directly imported from non-EU countries, or exported to them from the UK.

CHIEF data collection

Traders can submit import/export/transit or pre arrival declarations by a variety of methods:

  • CSPs - Customs-approved third party service providers offering trader access to inventory controlled ports around the UK
  • Excise Movement Control System (EMCS) - the EMCS is aimed at all Excise businesses who are currently involved in the movement of goods in/under duty suspense
  • Import Control System (ICS) - ICS is provided for the use of carriers responsible for bringing goods into the EU that require Safety and Security checks
  • New Community Transit System (NCTS) - a basic, free to use service, suitable for low volume NCTS users
  • National Export System (NES) - for traders to submit Export Declarations to the CHIEF system - please note that at the present time, NES XML traders must obtain a digital certificate from an approved supplier
  • Hard copy declarations - HMRC do permit the submission of manually completed customs declarations under agreed circumstances - completed hard copy declarations should be submitted to HMRC, National Clearance Hub.

Survey Data

What is Survey data?

A survey is an investigation about the characteristics of a given group by means of collecting data from a sample of that group and estimating their characteristics through the systematic use of statistical methodology.


Survey data is used by the Trade Statistics & Customs Analysis (TSCA) via the Intrastat survey to determine the UK’s trade with EU countries. The Intrastat system has been in operation since 1993 for all Member States and is linked to the VAT system.

Trade statistics are a key part of the UK Balance of Payments and National Accounts, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Any errors or omissions in the statistical data supplied can have a serious impact on measuring the health of the UK economy.

Intrastat data forms an integral part of the statistical information supplied to the European Commission, the European Central Bank and United Nations agencies, such as the International Monetary Fund. The supply of timely, accurate and complete Intrastat data by businesses plays and important part in the UK Overseas Trade in Goods Statistics (OTS) and cannot be underestimated.

Collection of Intrastat data

UK businesses that trade to or from other EU Member States, and which meet the reporting threshold for intra-EU Arrivals and Dispatches are legally obliged to submit supplementary trade declarations using the Intrastat system. A step by step guide or alternatively a demo is available to help businesses understand and comply with the Intrastat system.


Trade Statistics Data Processing

Administrative data from CHIEF is supplied to TSCA in the form of daily file transmissions of cleared/departed customs declarations to our data processing system, called TS93. This system allows for data validation and quality checking so that TSCA can make data-led amendments to both CHIEF and Intrastat data.

Extraction and manipulation of this data allows analysts to perform complex statistical processes, which in turn allow for risk prioritisation of checking and confirming declaration details with individual businesses.