Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme: Guidance for Trade Buyers


From 1 April 2017, anyone buying alcohol from a UK Wholesaler for sale or supply to consumers will need to check that they are using an approved supplier.

 What is the Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme?

 The Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme was put in place to reduce the risk of illicit alcohol, on which no duty has been paid, being sold to unsuspecting consumers. According to HMRC, the scheme will help to reduce the estimated £1.3 billion in public money lost each year to this fraud, and lessen the damaging effects of competition from illicit trading on legitimate businesses.

Does this apply to you?

 Under the scheme, traders wanting to wholesale alcohol will have to pass rigorous checks. Traders have been able to register online from 1 January 2016. Businesses who buy alcohol to sell to the consumer, such as retailers, hotels, pubs, restaurants, cafes and clubs (‘trade buyers’) do not need to apply unless they also sell alcohol to other businesses, but from 1 April 2017 must ensure they only buy alcohol from others approved by HMRC under this scheme. The scheme won’t apply to private individuals buying alcohol from retailers.

What do trade buyers need to do?

 If you are an alcohol ‘trade buyer’ such as hotel or restaurant, you must review your supply chain to ensure you are doing all you can to source genuine tax paid alcohol by:

  • Reviewing your supply chains to make sure you are sourcing only legitimate alcohol.
  • From 1 April 2017, you will need to make sure that any UK wholesalers that they buy from are registered with HMRC and has an AWRS Unique Reference Number (URN)
  • You will be able to use an online look-up service of approved wholesalers to check that the business you buy alcohol from are registered and have been approved by HMRC. Using this database will form part of the buyers ‘due diligence’ processes.


New criminal and civil sanctions will be introduced for wholesalers and trade buyers caught purchasing alcohol from non-registered wholesalers.

Penalties for wholesalers trading without having submitted their application to HMRC came into force from 1 April 2016. Penalties trade buyers who purchase alcohol from unregistered wholesalers will start from 1 April 2017.

For more information:

Read more about AWRS on the HMRC website.

For more information on this topic, please email our Policy Manager, Gabriella Bittante:

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