A new registration scheme for alcohol wholesalers announced today will be a massive boost for legitimate traders and taxpayers, says the Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD).
The Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme (AWRS), which will be included in the Finance Bill 2015, is intended to stamp out duty evasion on beers, wines and spirits, which costs the Treasury £1.3bn a year in lost revenue. Originally proposed to government by FWD, the scheme will require any business trading alcohol in wholesale volumes to undergo stringent tests to ensure they are trading within the law. Licenced retailers will also be required to demonstrate that their alcohol products are sourced from registered wholesalers.
FWD chief executive James Bielby said: “This is a major step towards identifying rogue operators and restoring control of alcohol distribution to legitimate wholesalers. We have worked hard to bring this issue to the Government’s attention, and although compliance with the scheme will place an operational burden on our members, it really is a short-term pain for a long-term gain.”
Wholesalers will be required to register during a three-month application window from 1 October 2015 to 31 December 2015, or face a penalty. HMRC will then undertake a programme of pre-approval visits from January 2016, lasting approximately 15 months. During that time HMRC will remove the right to trade in alcohol from any trader failing the AWRS ‘Fit and Proper’ criteria.
From April 2017, wholesalers will be required to display a Unique Reference Number (URN) on all invoices involving alcohol, and to provide it upon request to anyone purchasing from them. Retailers will be expected to make regular checks to ensure a wholesaler’s fit and proper status has not changed, via an online registry.
Mr Bielby added: “Over the next nine months we will be keeping our members up to date on the requirements of the scheme, to ensure that they meet the standards within the timeframe.”