Microbreweries and small-scale wine producers must apply for the new Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme, HM Revenue and Customs warned today.
Anyone selling alcohol to other businesses must apply for approval with HMRC before 31 March.
The Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme will help tackle the £1.3bn a year in unpaid alcohol duty and ensure that legitimate traders are not struggling to compete with those trading illegally.
HMRC is working hard with trade associations and industry representatives to ensure relevant businesses are aware but have found some smaller alcohol producers believe they do not need to register.
Laura Pollard, HMRC’s Deputy Director for Alcohol and Tobacco, said:
“If you sell alcohol to other businesses then you’re a wholesaler and need to register.
“Don’t assume this doesn’t apply to you. Check the guidance and make sure you’re not caught out.
“The scheme will help ensure the alcohol supplied to retailers is legitimate, which will force the dishonest traders out of business.”
The Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme is designed to crack down on alcohol duty fraud by ensuring the supply of alcohol to retailers – the shops, pubs, restaurants and other outlets that sell to consumers – is legitimate.
HMRC will assess applicants to ensure they are ‘fit and proper’, which involves considering factors like connections to convicted alcohol fraudsters, not conducting sufficient checks to protect themselves from receiving illegal supplies and poor record keeping.
Wholesalers that are not ‘fit and proper’ cannot trade in alcohol and will face hefty fines if they continue.
Businesses will need to provide information such as types of customer, products sold, premises used and details of their main suppliers, when they apply.
Retailers will have to buy from approved wholesalers from April 2017. HMRC will publish details of approved wholesalers online.