HMRC starts clampdown on traders evading alcohol tax

The taxman is warning alcohol traders that they must remember to register with the HMRC Alcohol Wholesale Registration Scheme (AWRS), before the end of March, or face penalties.

Those retailers who fail to submit their registration to the initiative by 31 March face paying a fine of up to £10,000, as well as having criminal convictions. The initiative is an attempt to cut down on illegal traders, with the government owed £1.2bn each year in alcohol taxes from those failing to pay.

As of 2017 onwards, only wholesalers who have received approval from HMRC can sell alcohol to retailers. HMRC will produce an official list of registered wholesalers who have met HMRC’s requirements and have been approved to sell alcohol.

“Do not run the risk of being hit with a fine,” said Laura Pollard, the deputy director for alcohol and tobacco at HMRC.

“Give yourself plenty of time to get your application done on time. Any business selling alcohol to other businesses should check whether they need to apply. Don’t leave it too late. AWRS will help hardworking, legitimate businesses, by ending the illegal competition from traders selling illicit alcohol.”

However, HMRC has faced criticisms from some in the business over the fact that the registration form is available online only, not on paper. HMRC want the forms to be submitted electronically but a paper form is still desired by a number of people, it seems.