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The problem I identified really was the problem. In the end I managed to speak by telephone to a human being in 'general enquiries', who was very helpful. He got our file up on the system and confirmed that CDS had never been linked to us. This, then, was an HMRC error because the application itself had been approved. This is why the email was never sent confirming successful application, because the email gets sent when access is possible when the link is enabled. The email arrived as soon as the link was made.
Very frustrating that no one in the CDS service or EORI Team could identify and fix the problem - because they only deal with emails and don't talk to users.
Customs oldtime. Thanks for getting back to me, but https: //www.tax.service.gov.uk/customs/payment-records and other entry points get me nowhere. I get the login page, enter the User ID and password, then the telephone access code, and it sends me to a pane that tells me I have to subscribe to the CDS service, and that puts me back to square 1.
The problem, then, is that HMRC have not linked the CDS function to our user ID and EORI etc, so it is not recognizing that CDS access has been approved.
We have been using our DAN/Duty Deferment Account for many years via the old CHIEF system.
We applied to use the CDS service and had the standard reply that the application was being processed and that we would receive an email once processed and that it could take up to 5 working days to process.
We have still never had an email confirming acceptance. After 6 working days I contacted HMRC to chase up the application. They confirmed that the application had been 'manually approved' same day (October 18).
However no CDS account has been linked to our User ID via the Government Gateway, so when logging in to our account via the Gateway there is no CDS module accessible (all the usual ones are there, PAYE etc).
Thus HMRC apparently 'manually approved' the application (though they never sent out the email confirmation) but have not linked the CDS account to our User ID, and thus it cannot be accessed by us.
It seems impossible to get anyone to address this issue. The dedicated CDS helpline has been discontinued (option 5). If I email firstname.lastname@example.org they just refer the matter to the EORI team, and the EORI team simple confirm that the application has been approved. No one is addressing the point that HMRC have failed to link a CDS account to our User ID so that we can access it through the Gateway.