Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme: register as an alcohol wholesaler or producer

Use the digital service to register for the Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme (AWRS) or change an existing application or registration.


If you sell alcohol to another business you may need to apply to register for the Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme (AWRS).

Make sure you’ve read the AWRS guidance before you apply.

Agents can’t use the AWRS service to apply on behalf of their clients.

How to access the service

You must have a valid Government Gateway User ID and password.

If you’re a…. the User ID and password you should use is…
limited company or partnership for an organisation
self employed or sole trader for an individual

If you don’t have an account you’ll need to create a Government Gateway account.

To verify your business details we’ll try to match them to an HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) record that holds your Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR).

This will be your:

Before you start

Make sure you have all the information you’ll need before you begin to apply online. As well as the relevant UTR and your Government Gateway details, you may need the following information:

  • your VAT number and company registration number (if you have one)
  • the addresses of your additional trading premises
  • for UK residents - the names and National Insurance numbers of all business directors, company secretaries or partners
  • for non-UK residents - the names and passport numbers of all business directors, company secretaries or partners
  • the names, addresses and VAT registration numbers of up to 5 of your largest alcohol suppliers, by volume (if you have suppliers)

You might also have to tell us about:

  • the products you sell
  • the types of customer you have
  • how you take orders

What happens after you apply to register

Businesses already trading as alcohol wholesalers before 1 April 2016

You’ll get an acknowledgement with a reference number for your application. This is not your AWRS Unique Reference Number (URN).

You can continue to trade until you’ve been given HMRC’s decision.

Businesses starting to trade as alcohol wholesalers from 1 April 2016

You must apply giving notice of at least 45 calendar days. This will allow HMRC to process your application and undertake the fit and proper test (details are in part 6.10 of Excise Notice 2002). You’ll get an acknowledgement with a reference number of your application.

You can’t trade in alcohol wholesaling until you get approval.

For all applicants we may need to contact you in writing, by telephone, or you may get a pre-approval visit from us to assist in the processing of your application.

There’s no need to phone HMRC to check the progress of your application. You can check online.

Once a decision has been made you’ll get an email telling you to check online. If you’ve been approved you’ll see your URN which you should make a note of.

A URN is made up of 4 letters and 11 numbers, for example, XXAW00000123456.

Registered wholesalers need to include the URN on wholesale sales invoices from 1 April 2017.

How to make changes to your application

You’ll need to use the same Government Gateway username and password that you used to make your initial application. You can then view the status of your request or make amendments.

If your application is being processed

You can make any changes or correct errors in the information you supplied. You should do this as soon as possible by signing into the service and following the instructions for ‘making changes’.

If you’ve been approved by HMRC and been given your AWRS URN

You’ll need to tell HMRC about any changes to your details as soon as possible.

HMRC must be notified of some changes no later than 14 days from the date of change, including changes to:

  • partners
  • directors
  • your phone number
  • your email address
  • your trading name
  • your VAT number

Tell HMRC about any change of address for your principal place of business or to any of your trading premises before you use the new premises.

Paragraph 10.4 of Excise Notice 2002 has a full list of changes and the circumstances where you need to immediately inform HMRC.

Sign into the service to make changes to your application.

How to cancel or withdraw your approval

If your AWRS application has been approved by HMRC but you decide to cancel it, you must let us know at least 30 days before the date you intend to stop trading in alcohol.

You should make arrangements to dispose of any wholesale alcohol stock before this date.

If your application hasn’t been approved you can withdraw an application where you’ve, for example:

  • applied in error
  • signed up as the wrong business type
  • decided not to trade

Sign in to the service to cancel or withdraw your AWRS approval.


Criminal and civil sanctions have been introduced for both wholesalers and trade buyers found buying alcohol from non-approved wholesalers.

Penalties for:

  • wholesalers trading without having submitted their application to HMRC came into force from 1 April 2016
  • trade buyers who buy alcohol from unapproved wholesalers came into force from 1 April 2017

Any alcohol found on the premises of unapproved businesses may be seized, whether or not the duty has been paid.

Businesses will have a similar right to review and appeal as they do for other HMRC regimes for any civil penalties raised, or decisions related to their approval.

Problems with the service

This is a beta registration service. Check if there are any current problems with the service, or times it won’t be available.

If you get an error message when registering for AWRS make sure the information you’ve entered is correct.

If you still get an error message use the ‘get help with this page’ link at the bottom of the AWRS screen to report what’s happened.

Further information

Read the AWRS guide for more information about:

  • who needs to apply
  • exclusions to the scheme
  • what happens after registration
Published 11 October 2016
Last updated 27 October 2017 + show all updates
  1. Information has been added on how to make changes to an application.
  2. First published.