AWRS applies to retailers from April 2017

The first registration numbers for alcohol wholesalers under the new Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme (AWRS) have been issued by HM Revenue and Customs, but retailers should be aware that the numbers have no significance until April next year.

Advice from the Federation of Wholesale Distributors is that while some wholesalers who have already been issued with their registration number are choosing to publicise it ahead of the April 2017 requirement to do so, retailers can continue to buy from wholesalers who have not yet received their number or who choose not to publicise it until the official date. 

Wholesalers are currently being assessed by HMRC anti-fraud inspectors to ensure they are trading within the law, and from April 2017, retailers must only buy from those who are included in the AWRS list of approved wholesalers. They will be able to check their source is registered via a simple online look-up service.

Until then retailers can trade with any wholesaler which is operating legally, with no requirement to check to see if they have been issued with a registration number.

FWD Chief Executive James Bielby said: "HMRC is inspecting a large number of businesses and can’t issue all its approvals at once so while some businesses will have received theirs it doesn’t mean that those who haven’t are not legitimate.

“To make sure you’re trading within the law you should ask your wholesaler if they have applied for registration under AWRS. Any wholesaler who hasn’t submitted an application is trading illegally.”

The registration scheme is intended to reduce the amount of duty-evaded beer, wine and spirits sold in the UK, which costs the taxpayer £1.2bn a year.

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