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Do you buy Alcohol from Wholesalers? Then read this and don’t risk a £10,000 fine

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Do you buy Alcohol from Wholesalers? Then read this and don’t risk a £10,000 fine

All businesses involved in the supply of alcohol to other businesses, should by now have applied for registration with HMRC under the Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme (AWRS). This includes:

  • breweries and microbreweries
  • wine producers and vineyards
  • spirit producers
  • cider producers who make more than 70 hectolitres of cider a year
  • wine importers
  • general wholesalers selling alcohol, including cash and carry businesses
  • specialist wine wholesalers

The purpose is to tackle alcohol duty fraud by making wholesale of illicit alcohol more difficult.

What is the effect of this on Pubs, restaurants, off licence and other retailers? If you buy alcohol from a wholesaler, from 1st April you must check that the wholesaler has registered with HMRC and has an AWRS Unique Reference Number (URN).

Many reputable wholesalers have already added details of their registration to their website, but you should still check. HMRC will have an online look-up service of approved wholesalers to make the checking simpler for you. We would recommend you keep a copy of the entry in your records.

What if you don’t check?……..it could get very expensive.

There are now new criminal and civil sanctions for wholesalers and trade buyers. The maximum is a fine of £10,000. But it doesn’t stop there.

If a retailer is found to have purchased from a wholesaler who does not hold a AWRS permission then HMRC may also apply to the licensing authority for them to consider sanctions to the trader’s retail licence to sell alcohol. This means most likely a review of any premises licence and ultimately probable loss or lengthy suspension of the licence all together.

New businesses wholesaling from 1 April 2016 have extra hurdles to cross to those who were pre-existing. They need to supply business plans amongst other items. You cannot start trading in alcohol wholesaling until approval is received.

Peter Adkins

Peter is our Director of Regulatory Services and highly regarded for his specialism in Licensing and Gambling Law. The guide to the legal profession, The Legal 500, recognises Peter’s specialism in this area and he is regularly engaged by clients all over the country involved in all aspects of the Licensed trade. Peter deals with pubs, restaurants and hotels, social and members clubs, casinos, gambling establishments, shops and late night take-aways. Peter and the firm are able to look after all their legal needs.

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