New rules for buying alcohol for retailers
Starting in April 2016, HMRC has been registering all alcohol wholesalers in a scheme called the Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme (AWRS). From April 2016 any business selling alcohol to another business had to apply for a registration, and by April 2017 HMRC are supposed to have issued or refused AWRS numbers (URNs) to all those businesses and made them searchable on the internet. – HMRCs guidance is here.
So far this has taken up a lot of time in every brewery in the country – we’ve all been inspected by HMRC to make sure we’re on the level and quite a few have closed down, some coincidentally, some perhaps not so much. So far so good.
What comes next will affect every pub, off licence and supermarket. From April 1 2017 it will be an offence for any retailer to buy or otherwise receive alcohol from any source which is not registered on the AWRS scheme. There will be a duty to check firstly that the supplier’s invoice carries an AWRS URN, and secondly to verify that the registration is genuine on the HMRC web site.
The idea behind this is to tackle duty evasion, which will be a bonus to suppliers and producers who don’t evade duty, perhaps even enough of a bonus to offset the burden of yet another ton of regulation.
According to this article HMRC are warning retailers about this, but the fact is that they don’t know who most of the retailers are and from conversations with my customers I know that my bringing it up has been the first most of them have heard of it. Indeed I’ve searched for advice for retailers on the HMRC web site and drawn a blank.
Unless HMRC can find a way of identifying and effectively communicating with retailers, and then enforcing the rules it will all have been an expensive waste of time. I hope they get on with it pretty quick but on balance I have decided not to hold my breath.