Landlords: Are You Buying From An Approved Wholesaler?  Don’t Be Caught By New Rules

Landlords: Are You Buying From An Approved Wholesaler? Don’t Be Caught By New Rules

The taxman is gearing up for another clampdown on alcohol duty avoidance. In just over a month – April Fool’s Day in fact – the Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme (AWRS) comes into full effect. To prepare for the new scheme, HMRC has been registering legitimate alcohol wholesalers for more than a year.

For our clients whose business involves the retail of alcohol, particularly pub landlords and restaurant owners, the April 1 date is important.

Now is the time to ensure your business is in a position to comply with the new regime. After April, buying from a non-approved wholesaler may result in hefty financial penalties or criminal charges.

The chances of your alcohol purchasing arrangements coming under scrutiny are real: HMRC has recruited 200 trained staff to enforce AWRS.

How Do I Know If My Wholesaler Is Legitimate?

You should be able to check that your wholesaler is registered by checking their unique reference number against a new online register. But make sure the wholesaler is registered specifically under AWRS. A separate registration – quite apart from any other HMRC approval – is essential.

What Are The Penalties?

From 1 April 2017, it is an offence to knowingly buy alcohol wholesale from a person who should be approved. Penalties can include a fine, imprisonment of up to 7 years or both.

How Is A Penalty Assessed?

The Revenue will examine each case on its facts. If a criminal sanction is not appropriate HMRC will consider imposing a ‘behavioural penalty’. As experienced licensing lawyers, we understand how to work with the Revenue if your purchasing systems are challenged.

Often by co-operating with HMRC, responding to correspondence quickly and attending meetings when asked can result in significant reduction of penalties. If you are able to establish that you had a ‘reasonable excuse’ for purchasing from an unapproved wholesaler you may be able to avoid a penalty altogether. What is ‘reasonable’ will depend on your circumstances.

In the course of out work we see the pressures and increasing regulatory burden that licensees face. But there are real dangers to your livelihood if you do not meet your legal obligations, including criminal sanctions.

If you are unsure of your responsibilities or need advice on any matter relating to the new AWRS regime please call Winston Brown direct on 020 8858 5996 or contact us online


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