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HMRC internal manual

Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme

Variations and conditions: record keeping - approved wholesalers

Regulation 8 of the Wholesaling of Controlled Liquor Regulations (WCLR) 2015 provides for the Commissioners to prescribe in the public notice the records an approved wholesaler is required to keep. An approved wholesaler also falls within the definition of a “revenue trader” in the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979. This is a wide definition intended to capture any business that deals in goods which are subject to excise duty, which includes wholesalers of alcohol. Under the Revenue Traders (Accounts and Records) Regulations 1992 (RTAR), revenue traders are required to keep general records of their business activities. If an approved wholesaler also holds an excise registration, for example, to be an owner of goods in warehouse they will have record-keeping obligations, potentially for identical records, under two separate pieces of legislation.

To prevent:

  • approved wholesalers having overlapping record keeping obligations under RTAR and WCLR 2015, and
  • to avoid any confusion regarding the penalty regime that would apply if an approved wholesaler fails to meet their record-keeping obligations

the RTAR record keeping obligations have been dis-applied for approved wholesalers. This means that where you are checking the records of an approved wholesaler, in relation to their wholesale activities then any failures to comply should be dealt with as a failure to comply with the WCLR 2015. This would attract a penalty of £500.  If the same business also holds an excise registration, any record-keeping failures in relation to those activities should be dealt with under RTAR and would attract a £250 penalty.

(This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000)

Annex A of Excise Notice 2002 sets out the records that wholesalers will be obliged to keep. An approved wholesaler must keep appropriate records of all sales and purchases of controlled liquor, including the name and URN of suppliers. The records required are largely those already required to be retained by other revenue traders under RTAR and so should already be kept by businesses operating in the alcohol supply-chain, but particular obligations for approved wholesalers are:

•           copies of invoices and delivery documents, accessible to HMRC onsite

•           names and URNs of suppliers that are approved wholesalers

•           a stock control system

•           details of any premises used for storage.       

Records should be retained for six years and would generally be kept at the principal place of business, although they can be kept elsewhere. You can request that the records are made available for inspection at the principal place of business or approved premises. You will need to ensure that the business records will be available when you arrange to make a visit when processing an application or for an assurance visit.

Where there have been contraventions of these record keeping regulations, you should consider raising regulatory penalties for each contravention. Poor record keeping can often be used by businesses who deliberately keep inadequate records in order to make it difficult for HMRC officers to check the provenance of goods. Therefore, where there has been serious and persistent record keeping failures, you should consider whether further sanctions, for example, adding conditions to, or revocation of, the approval are appropriate.

Regulatory penalties are covered in more detail in AWRS140000

Note: the disapplication of RTAR only applies to the actual records that an approved wholesaler is obliged to keep. It has no impact on your general information and inspection powers provided for under CEMA1979.