AWRS comes into force for retailers

The Alcohol Wholesales Registration Scheme (AWRS) came into force for retailers over the weekend in a bid to crack down on  illicit booze on which no duty has been paid, and ensure the legitimacy of retail supply chains.

(Photo: db)

The new rules covering retailers, which came into effect on 1 April, mean retailers purchasing booze from a UK wholesaler must check the wholesaler is registered and has been approved by HMRC in order to ensure they only buy legitimates alcohol from approved sources.

It follows the introduction of the AWRS scheme in April 2016, in which every UK wholesaler of beer, wine and spirits was required to register with HMRC and undergo rigorous checks prior to approval.

The scheme, which was announced as part of the government’s Finance Bill 2015 in December 2014, aims to reduce the sale of illicit alcohol on which no duty has been paid and which may be dangerous to consumers, and ensure the legitimacy of supply chains.

Under the latest AWRS deadline, any retailer burying alcohol from a non-registered wholesaler may be liable to pay a criminal or civil penalty. In addition, any alcohol found in the premises of unregistered businesses may be seized, whether or not the duty has been paid and they could lose their alcohol licence altogether.

Speaking before the new rules came into effect, David Richardson of the WSTA described it as a “crucial” counter-fraud initiative that had taken considerable effort from all sides to bring into effect.

“The WSTA has supported the scheme from the outset and will continue to support the contribution of every company involved in its implementation.”

James Lowman, ACS chief executive said the scheme was designed to tackle the illicit alcohol market which has a direct, negative impact on responsible retailers.

“We expect the implementation of AWRS to be to everyone’s benefit,” he said.

Simon Doyle, General Manager at Concha y Toro UK, described the move as a “wholly positive initiative”, arguing that there was a “shared responsibility amongst suppliers, traders and retailers in the beers, wines and spirits category to address fraudulent practices across the supply chain.”

“There is a shared responsibility amongst suppliers, traders and retailers in the beers, wines and spirits category to address fraudulent practices across the supply chain. We expect the implementation of AWRS to be to everyone’s benefit.”

One Response to “AWRS comes into force for retailers”

  1. I am indebted to Drinks Business for knowing anything about AWRS at all. Early last year I tried to access the appropriate web-site by using government gateway account number that I use for VAT purposes. After a morning’s investigation it turned out I had to create another account number for the purposes of AWRS. By this time I had lost the will to live and got on with other things. The year took over. Thanks to another prod from Drinks Business early this year I managed to find the AWRS website and completed the application. I then had emails and a conversation with an officer and was told I had been late in applying. I did receive my AWRS number in good time before the scheme started last Saturday. Hadn’t I been a good boy? Not quite. The late application has resulted in a fine of £2,000, generously reduced from £10,000 as I had otherwise done the right things. I realise that I should have taken proper advice at the outset and I would have known that after 31st March last year I would have been seen to be ‘carrying out a controlled activity without an AWRS approval from HMRC.’ Funny. I must have been doing that for the last 40 years and nobody seemed bothered. An accountant customer who has worked for charities in the latter stages of his working life was able to give his take on HMRC. Small businesses are a soft target. Ignorance of the law is no defence. You could try talking them down, but If you appeal and fail you could end up paying more. ‘Don’t even think about not paying’, he added with pretend menace. ‘Don’t mess with these people. They hold all the cards’. I think I have got the message. Cough up when asked.

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