From April 1 licensed retailers will need to ensure that their alcohol wholesaler is registered, as HMRC’s Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme (AWRS) comes into force.

From that date, it will be an offence to purchase alcohol for resale from an unregistered wholesaler in the UK, and it is the retailer’s responsibility to check the registration before they purchase any stock.

These rules do not cover retailers who make incidental trade sales or purchases directly from overseas suppliers.

HMRC, who manage the scheme, will be launching a website where the status of wholesalers can be checked. Retailers will then be expected to prove that they have been diligent in their checks before purchasing alcohol. Suppliers’ registrations should be rechecked regularly in case they are subsequently removed from the register.

These new rules are part of HMRC’s efforts to protect retailers and consumers by clamping down on non-duty paid alcohol entering the supply chain.

The penalties for retailers purchasing stock from an unregistered wholesaler include prosecution, seizure of stock and the potential loss of their alcohol licence.

The NFRN recommends that retailers take the following simple steps to comply with the new scheme:

  • From April 1 check that your wholesaler is registered before you make any purchases by using the HMRC website: and following the link to the AWRS look up service.
  • Keep a screen print of your wholesaler’s register entry and a note of its Unique Reference Number (URN).
  • Regularly re-check the register, keeping a dated screen print when you do. If you find the wholesaler is no longer registered, do not buy any further alcohol supplies from them.
  • Keep your records safe in case HMRC ask to see them.

To check if your alcohol wholesaler is registered, visit


First published in the March 2017 edition of The Fed

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