Wholesaler registration delayed but not derailed

Shelves of beer

HMRC has delayed the launch of the Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme (AWRS) application process until 1st January 2016. The three-month application window, originally scheduled to run from 1st October, will now start from that date.

More than 20,000 businesses are expected to apply for registration under the scheme, which is intended to prevent criminals trading in duty-evaded beers, wines and spirits. Under its original schedule, HMRC officials were due to start inspecting applicants from 1st January to ensure they are ‘fit and proper’ alcohol traders.

The delay has been sanctioned by Treasury Minister Damian Hinds after HMRC officials requested more time to prepare the online application process. IT issues have led to concerns about some of the data input, particularly in the case of group applications.

The Federation of Wholesale Distributors has been involved in AWRS since its inception. Chief Executive James Bielby said: “This late change, coming less than a week before the expected start date for applications, is very frustrating for us and our members. Members have volunteered to test the application process over the past six months, and we have put considerable effort into informing them and other stakeholders of their obligations and the original timeline.

“However, we appreciate that the application process must be absolutely watertight before it is launched, and the delay will give HMRC time to ensure that applications are recorded and processed correctly and help deliver an effective registration scheme. “

There is no suggestion that the Government will not go through with its commitment, made in the Finance Bill 2015, to introduce AWRS. FWD will work closely with HMRC over the coming months to ensure the new schedule is met.