Just days to go for alcohol wholesale sign-up

Companies which sell alcohol to other businesses must apply for HMRC's Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme by March 31st or risk going out of business - and for those who have yet to sign up for the Government Gateway, the deadline is March 17.

HMRC has warned that those who do not apply in time may face a fine of up to £10,000 or a criminal conviction.

The scheme, which seeks to prevent a £1.2bn annual loss in duty revenue from fraudulently-distributed beer, wines and spirits, requires all alcohol wholesalers to provide details of their business via an online application form. Over the next 12 months applicants will be assessed as 'fit and proper' traders and issued with a registration number. From April 2017, retailers will not be able to buy alcohol from wholesalers who fail the test, or failed to apply for registration.

Applications must be submitted via the Government Gateway, with which applicants must also register. This process can take up to two weeks, which means that anyone who hasn't applied for access to the Gateway by March 17 could miss the AWRS deadline.

A survey of FWD wholesalers reveals that most members have already submitted applications, and those that have not are aware of the deadlines. However, many other businesses will also need to apply, including:

  • a cash and carry selling UK duty paid alcoholic drinks to for example, off-licences, supermarkets, restaurants, hotels, public houses, etc or to another wholesaler for resale
  • a merchant who buys alcoholic drinks direct from a producer or supplier and then 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 merchant, such as a specialist wine merchant, supplying UK duty paid alcohol to a business enterprise for resale
  • a drinks producer such as brewers, wine producers and cider-makers supplying their own products duty paid to trade buyers
  • a retailer with a wholesale arm to their business
  • owners of goods in warehouse or warehousekeepers who are trading their own goods at or past a duty point
  • auctioneers that are arranging a wholesale sale
  • businesses who act as an agent between a supplier and another business to arrange, or offer for sale alcohol to other businesses - these agents often don’t take physical possession of the goods and are known in the industry as ‘dry brokers’

The information needed when making the application includes:

  • legal entity name
  • trading name
  • VAT registration number if registered
  • Self Assessment or Corporation Tax Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) number if registered
  • registered business address and how long at that address
  • contact telephone number
  • email address and postal address
  • your estimated annual turnover (for new businesses)
  • types of customer you sell to, for example pubs, restaurants
  • products sold
  • how many trading premises you operate and their addresses
  • business names, addresses and VAT numbers (if registered) of main suppliers
  • whether or not you import or export alcoholic goods

HMRC's Excise Notice gives full details of the application process





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