£10K fines for using illicit wholesalers to start in April

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Beer

Illicit trading: pubs warned about hefty penalties
Illicit trading: pubs warned about hefty penalties
The Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme (AWRS), which could see pubs fined up to £10,000 for working with illicit wholesalers, will come into force on 1 April.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has warned pubs that buying alcohol from wholesalers not on its alcohol traders’ central register will be at risk of fines.

Wholesale businesses will be required to meet certain standards before being placed on the HMRC’s register. Only then can pubs buy alcohol from them.

Licensees found buying stock from an unregistered wholesaler could be fined up to £10,000 and have their goods confiscated, HMRC confirmed to The Morning Advertiser  ​(MA​) in January.

‘Approved wholesalers’

A spokesman said: “Licensed premises will need to ensure that they are sourcing their alcohol from HMRC-approved wholesalers.”

To ensure they are within the law, operators will have to carry out due diligence and check the authenticity of their wholesaler before doing business with it.

A gov.uk website will go live from 1 April, allowing licensees to check the legitimacy of their sources and to ensure they are part of the AWRS.

The AWRS was announced in 2013 after the HMRC scrapped plans to introduced fiscal stamps on beer bottles in 2013, which would have resulted in significant costs for brewers.

The purpose of the AWRS, which was announced in George Osborne’s Autumn Statement in 2013, was to tackle the UK’s estimated annual alcohol duty fraud of £1bn.

‘Illegal wholesalers’

However, the fineable amount last quoted to MA ​is double HMRC’s first estimates in 2014, when it told this publication operators could face fines​ of up to £5,000 for using illegal wholesalers.

The launch of the registration process set up to take wholesalers’ details for the central list was delayed in September 2015.

It was expected the system would launch in October 2015, but had to be put back until 1 January “due to technical difficulties”.

At the time the HMRC said: “We have chosen a new launch date to make sure the service is right before making it widely available, and to avoid putting additional burdens on industry during the busy winter trading period.”

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