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HMRC internal manual

Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme

HM Revenue & Customs
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Trade buyers: trade buyer's obligations

From 1 April 2017, it will be an offence to buy controlled liquor that is intended for re-sale from unapproved UK wholesalers, unless the sale is excluded from the scheme (for example it is an incidental sale).

The AWRS does not introduce any new legal requirements for trade buyers who are not also approved wholesalers. However, they can be guilty of an offence/liable to a civil penalty for buying from an unapproved wholesaler. As a result they must be able to demonstrate to you that they have checked that the UK wholesalers they purchase from have been approved by HMRC (or have alternative evidence to show they have bought from a retailer who legitimately does not need to be approved).

They do this by requesting the AWRS URN of the wholesaler they are buying from and checking that it is valid via the online look-up system (accessed via the Government Gateway). The online look up service will hold details of all current approved and ceased wholesalers. Where an approved wholesaler has ceased trading, it will return the date that the wholesaler’s approval ceased.

(The details regarding the online look up service will be confirmed in due course.)

A trade buyer will be expected to check a wholesaler’s approval status before trading with them. They will also be expected to periodically check that the wholesaler is still approved. We do not prescribe how often the check should be made, this will be up to the business to risk assess how often they think they should check each supplier’s AWRS status.

We also recommend that trade buyers carry out similar types of due diligence checks that approved wholesalers must carry out to satisfy themselves of the legitimate provenance of the goods.