What does the Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme mean for you?

A new requirement has been introduced by HMRC this year (2016) that will have an impact on anyone planning to set up their own brewery in the UK. The scheme is called the Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme (AWRS).

The reason HMRC are putting this in place is to stamp out alcohol related fraud, which reportedly costs the Government £1.3bn per year in evaded tax. By having this scheme in place, and having any business purchasing alcohol legally required to see registration papers it will make the illegal sale of alcohol more difficult. Unfortunately, this means you have more paperwork to do and will need to register with HMRC on the AWRS.

This is GOOD for you as a legitimate commercial brewer and supplier of alcohol.

The official detail of these requirements can be found in HMRC’s Excise Notice 2002 and I do recommend that you read through the detail to make sure you are familiar with what is expected of you by HMRC.

As the full detail is readily available to you at the link provided above, I won’t reinvent the wheel; this article will act as a quick summary to highlight the main points included within the Excise Notice.

However, if you need further assistance I do provide affordable, low cost, pay as you go brewery consultancy. Click here to find out how I might be able to help you and to see what other people thought of the service.

Things to consider about the AWRS:

  • If you are setting up a business (such as a brewery) where you intend to sell or provide alcoholic products to other businesses (such as bottle shops, bars or pubs) then you will need to register on the Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme with HMRC.
  • If you are making, or planning to make, all of your sales or provisions of alcohol directly to the end customer (and not to another business – such as a bottle shop, bar or pub) then you don’t need to register on the Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme. This is for business to business sales only (B2B). However, most likely you are going to want to make B2B sales if you are setting up your own brewery so registration is probably a necessity.
  • This is going to be relevant to you, even if you are a very small brewer. If you are providing beer to bottle shops, bars, pubs or any other business then you WILL need to register. You won’t be exempt just because you are small. There are no size thresholds.
  • From April 2017 onwards bottle shops, bars, pubs and any other relevant business purchasing beer from breweries are required to confirm with their suppliers that they have been registered on the Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme. This means that if you are not registered you are not going to be able to sell beer to retailers of any type.
  • If you do not register but are supplying alcohol in breach of the legislation then you run the risk of all your goods being seized, a massive £10k fine and even imprisonment. Given this is a new arrangement one should assume that they are looking to make some examples of what happens to people who fail to comply. So be warned!

The long and short of it is, if you want to set up your own brewery, you will need to register on the AWRS.

IMPORTANT: You need to register 45 days BEFORE you start selling or providing alcohol to other businesses. So you will need to include this delay into your start up plans.

Here’s how you can get registered on the AWRS:

  1. You will need a HMRC Government Gateway login account either for your business (if a Limited Company) or as an individual if acting as a sole trader. If you already have one (i.e. if you have registered online already for self assessment, VAT, Corporation Tax, PAYE or other HMRC service) then you can use your existing login. If not, click here and register for free by clicking the ‘register’ button on the right.
  2. If you have just registered with the Government Gateway, they will post out an activation code to you, which can take between 10 and 28 days to arrive. When you receive this you will be able to activate your account by clicking here and logging in. Once logged in, click ‘activate service’ and enter in the activation code you have received and then click ‘activate’.
  3. Once this step has been completed you will then be able to apply for registration on the AWRS. To do this, click here and then log on using your Government Gateway username and password.
  4. Complete the application form and submit. You will receive a reference number, which you should scribble down and keep hold of.

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Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme (AWRS)

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