Any business which wholesales alcohol and which has not registered with HMRC’s Alcohol Wholesale Registration Scheme (AWRS) is now outside the law and faces.
Wholesalers which sell alcohol to other businesses had until March 31 to register with the scheme. HMRC estimated that the possible universe of businesses which should consider registering, but Wholesale News understands that fewer than 5,000 had actually done so by the time the deadline passed – significantly lower than expectations, although much higher than the March 10 total of 2,100; suggesting that there was a last-minute rush to register.
However, all FWD members who sell alcohol were among the 4,863 responsible businesses that put themselves forward for inspection as “fit and proper” alcohol wholesalers under AWRS.
From April 2017, retailers must only buy their stock from registered wholesalers and must be able to demonstrate that they have checked their source is AWRS-approved.
“Any wholesale businesses that have failed to apply for AWRS approval, including importers, agents, brokers and some retailers, is now trading illegally, and we expect HMRC to act swiftly to identify them,” said a spokesman for FWD.
“The estimate of how many customers need to apply was made on the best information available. In the past, wholesalers have not been required to register with HMRC so we knew the numbers were not exact,” said an HMRC spokesperson. “However the number of applications is lower than expected. We are currently looking at who applied and will use that analysis to determine what we do next for those who have not applied but should have.”
Wholesale News also understands that HMRC is currently overstretched both by years of budget cuts and by public and political pressure to investigate various companies and individuals following the “Panama Papers” leaks; and that resources to seek out those who haven’t applied but are still selling alcohol might not be available for some months.