Registration and approval: deciding whether to grant or refuse the application
Once the officer has completed the pre-approval visit forms and where appropriate the relevant aide memoire (for warehousekeeper/warehouse premises, registered owner/duty representatives) detailing the findings/results of the visit, a decision must be made either to approve or refuse the application.
Granting the application
It is important that the decision made is fully substantiated by the findings from the pre-approval visit. It is therefore important that the officer has evidence to support their decision; generalities, hearsay or gut feelings will not suffice. If the officer is in any doubt as to the acceptability of the application, and requires further information, the trader should be advised in writing that the application is on hold until the information needed by the officer to make their decision is received.
As the assurance officer is the ‘decision maker’ in terms of granting or refusing approval, they are responsible for drafting the appropriate decision letters.
Note: Only if the officer is completely satisfied that the applicant is a ‘fit and proper’ person to be a registered owner, duty representative, registered consignor, registered consignee, temporary registered consignee, registered commercial importer, tax representative or an excise warehousekeeper should approval/authorisation be granted. Similarly only where the warehouse premises meet the required standards should the premises approval be granted.
Officers should not feel pressured into granting approval/authorisation. Remember, it may be easier to refuse an application rather than grant approval/authorisation and then try to revoke the same at a later date.
If the officer is satisfied that the information they have received and verified during the pre-approval visit confirms that the applicant is a ‘fit and proper’ person, the approval/authorisation should be granted.
However, where the evidence obtained during the pre-approval visit casts doubt over the trader’s likely compliance but it is insufficient to support refusal of the application, or conditions are needed in respect of limiting any trade facilitation approval, consideration should be given to ways to reduce that risk. One option is to place a suitable condition(s) designed to address the specific risk identified on the trader’s authorisation or warehouse premises approval. This action also applies to existing traders where we do not have sufficient grounds to revoke (cancel) their approval/authorisation.
Example conditions include:
- adjustment of the warehouse premises guarantee to reflect real risk;
- restricting warehouse opening times to address a trader’s security management system risk;
- restriction on the types of goods or operations which the trader can deal in whilst they are under duty suspension arrangements;
- restrict the approval to specified suppliers and/or customers (if appropriate as shown on the trader;s business plan (see HMAG30600);
- restriction of the approval to detail the trade facilitation granted. This includes the setting of any time by which the goods can be held in warehouse before they must be duty paid or removed to a GSD warehouse.
- requiring the warehousekeeper, registered owner, duty representative or registered consignor to notify us of specific high risk movements;
- placing conditions on the actual warehouse approval where the owner/duty representative intends to store goods;
- placing conditions on a registered owner or duty representative’s approval where the submitted business plan shows that ‘untested’ trading is proposed.
- arrange for an in depth audit to be carried out by the Departmental Accountant.
This list is not exhaustive.
Note: Placing conditions on an applicant’s approval or authorisation should not be used where refusal (or revocation) should be the preferred option.
When granting approval to trader applications (including warehouse premises), the officer should prepare the decision letter and send undated by email to the NRU (via the Alcohol Approvals Team for applications undertaken by LC) and copied to RIS Ops along with all other relevant paperwork (including the visit report or Caseflow narrative and where required the relevant Aide Memoire (for excise warehouse, registered owner, duty representative or registered consignee applications. The NRU will obtain the traders approval number and where required the warehouse approval number and add this to the letter. They will prepare the trader’s certificate of registration (including any conditions where applicable) and issue this together with the approval letters (appropriately dated) to the trader. The NRU will also update SEED/DTR/REDS databases where applicable.
Refusing an application for approval/authorisation
Where the law allows us the discretion to, any decision to refuse (or revoke when appropriate) must be based on a solid foundation of evidence that will support the decision at a Tribunal hearing.
The assurance officer’s evidence must show that, on the balance of probability:
- the trader is not a ‘fit and proper’ person to hold the warehouse premises approval / warehousekeeper authorisation, registered owner, duty representative, registered consignor, registered consignee, temporary registered consignee, registered commercial importer or tax representative approval;
- that there is, or would be, a significant risk to the revenue; or
- that any of the requirements stated within this guidance have not been satisfactorily met within the trader’s application.
The officer’s decision should be based on the suitability of the business and its key officials. The credibility of the business should be a key factor in that decision.
Where grounds for refusal (or revocation) are identified, the officer should discuss the detail with their line manager before taking the appropriate action.
The following legal provisions allow us the discretion to refuse (or revoke):
- CEMA s100G(2), (4) and (5) allows us to refuse or revoke a warehousekeeper, registered owner, duty representative, registered consignor, registered consignee, temporary registered consignee, registered commercial importer or tax representative application/authorisation, provided we have good reason to believe the trader is not fit or proper to carry on that business; and
- CEMA s92(1), 92(7) and ALDA s15 allow us to refuse or revoke a warehouse approval where the premises are not fit/secure to store excise goods in duty suspension.