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Glasgow
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Edinburgh
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Stirling
+44 (0)1786 451745

Dumbarton
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Hamilton
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French Duncan

Alcohol Wholesalers Registration Service - What you should know

01 February 2016

What is it?

HMRC have introduced the Alcohol Wholesalers Registration Scheme as a means to prevent fraud in the business to business supply of alcohol.   From 1 January 2016, businesses with a UK establishment who ‘wholesale’ alcohol to other businesses at or after the duty point must apply to HMRC for AWRS approval by 31 March 2016.  All existing businesses must register between 1 January 2016 and 31 March 2016  via HMRC online services.  New businesses registered after 31 March 2016 must apply to use the scheme 45 days before intending to start trading.

The AWRS requires businesses who ‘wholesale’ alcohol, at or after the point at which Excise Duty is payable, to be approved by HMRC.  Businesses will be required to apply to HMRC for approval and need to pass a ‘fit and proper’ test in order to be approved to trade.  Where approval is granted they will be issued with a Unique Reference Number (URN).

HMRC will maintain a register of approved wholesalers (and their URN) and businesses purchasing alcohol from an AWRS wholesaler must check, via HMRC’s online service, that the wholesaler is approved.   It will be an offence for wholesalers to trade without approval and an offence to buy alcohol from unapproved wholesalers.

Failure to register for the scheme will render wholesalers liable to severe penalties and the possible forfeiture of stock if they continue to trade after 31 March 2016.  A failure to apply for approval means businesses will automatically be considered as trading without approval.
 

Does it apply to me? 

The wholesale market is widely defined and is not restricted to ‘traditional’ wholesalers such as cash and carry wholesalers.  Examples include:

• Merchants who buy alcoholic drinks direct from a producer or supplier and supplies them UK duty paid to retailers for resale to the public
• A merchant or broker who specialises in supplying UK duty paid alcoholic drinks to the on or off-trade
• A drinks producer such as brewers, wine producers and cider-makers supplying their own products duty paid to trade buyers
• A retailer or pub with a wholesale arm to their business
• Owners of goods in warehouse or warehouse keepers who are trading their own goods at or past a duty point
• Auctioneers that are arranging a wholesale sale

The scheme also applies to UK established internet based wholesale traders, in the same way as any other wholesale business. 

If you think the above might apply to your business and you would like further information or assistance on this matter please contact Maria McConnell our VAT Senior Manager at m.mcconnell@frenchduncan.co.uk or on 0141 221 2984.