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HMRC internal manual

Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme

The scheme: UK establishment

The law specifies anyone carrying on a controlled activity who is UK established must be approved as a wholesaler in controlled liquor. AWRS uses the definition and interpretation of ‘UK established’ found in VAT:

A person is UK established if the person has a business establishment, or some other fixed establishment in the UK in relation to a business carried on by the person.

This does not mean the business must be liable to be VAT registered before they need to be approved for AWRS. The full set of VAT guidance is in VAT Place of Supply: Services Manual. If you have any doubts about whether a person is UK established for the purposes of AWRS, you should read the AWRS guidance first. If a business claims they are not UK established and you are unsure after reading this guidance, you should refer to the Alcohol Strategy Team in Indirect Tax.

Business establishment

The business establishment is the place where the main functions of the business’s central administration are carried out. This will usually be the head office, headquarters or ‘seat’ from which the business is run. This is where essential day to day decisions concerning the general management of the business are taken. PO Box or brass plate addresses are not classed as business establishments.

Fixed establishment

A fixed establishment is an establishment other than the business establishment, which has the human and technical resources necessary for providing or receiving alcohol permanently present. A business may have several fixed establishments, which may include a branch or agency. If a business has a temporary presence of human and technical resources, this does not create a fixed establishment in the UK.

Examples of a fixed establishment include:

  • an overseas business sets up a branch comprising staff and offices in the UK to arrange wholesale sales of alcohol imported from outside the UK. The UK branch is a fixed establishment
  • an overseas business sets up a UK subsidiary to act in its name to arrange wholesale sales in the UK. The overseas business has a fixed establishment in the UK created by the agency of the subsidiary.

Examples where there is not a fixed establishment include:

  • an overseas company that registers or is incorporated at their accountant’s address but has no other offices or staff in that country
  • the presence of computer servers alone within a country
  • the existence of a UK VAT registration without any supporting resources in the UK.