Pubs warned ‘watch out for duty cheats’ after rules tightened

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

Confirm: licensees need to ensure their wholesalers are registered
Confirm: licensees need to ensure their wholesalers are registered

Related tags: Wholesale

The Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD) has urged pubs to be vigilant when purchasing alcohol following the introduction of tougher wholesale registration rules.

From 1 April it has been an offence for businesses that buy alcohol for onward sale to purchase products from a wholesaler without checking the source is registered with HMRC.

Operators must do this by asking the wholesaler for their unique reference number (URN) and entering it into an online checking service​.

Since its introduction at the beginning of the month, the FWD has claimed that more than 1,300 applicants have failed to sign up to HMRC’s Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme (AWRS).

Pubs could face fines

At the start of this year (January), HMRC warned that pubs trading with illicit wholesalers could face fines of up to £10,000​.

FWD chief executive James Bielby outlined the importance of the scheme and why operators should take note.

“It is vitally important that alcohol trade buyers understand that it is their responsibility to check they are buying legally,” he said.

“AWRS is already having a positive effect and saving millions in taxpayers’ money as duty cheats are forced out of the market.”

Illegal to buy from unregistered source

He added: “Those who failed their HMRC inspection or did not apply for AWRS registration will not have the required URN.

“These businesses have until the middle of May to sell their [existing] stock, but it is illegal for anyone to buy from an unregistered source.

“You must make the necessary check when you buy from a new source and keep a record of it. The look-up system is very easy to use and it will help prevent you falling prey to the criminals and being implicated in their fraudulent activity.”

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