What is Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme? – How to Apply

What is Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme?

The Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme (AWRS) came into existence in 2016, introduced by HMRC to deal with alcohol scam practiced in the market, since it was estimated that £1.3bn of alcohol tax is dodged every year and disposing the authentic sale up to 40% affecting the economic value of the genuine wholesaler and the UK as well. Thus to handle this fraudulence a remedial scheme was introduced. As per the scheme’s directives any wholesaler who sells alcohol needs to be registered with the government by April 1, 2017. This also set a compulsion to all the alcohol suppliers, ensuring to source the alcohol supply from only the registered wholesaler of UK that anyone who sells alcohol wholesaler is solely and authentically.

What is Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme? – How to Apply

Hence from April 1, 2017 for selling purpose if anyone get alcohol from any wholesaler in UK then it is necessary to check first whether he is registered and permitted by HMRC or not and also whether having an AWRS Unique Reference Number (URN). Also, the retailers must check timely to ensure whether the concerned wholesaler is continuing permitted by HMRC or not.

Can I Apply for Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme?

Basically AWRS applies to everyone who is selling a duty waged alcohol to the other businesses for selling purpose. If there is sole selling of alcohol to the general public then there is no need to be registered with HMRC. The businesses are expected to be affected comprises:

  • Alcohol Wholesalers
  • Alcohol Cash and Carry’s
  • Excise Traders
  • Auctioneers
  • Big Retailers
  • Brokers
  • Alcohol Suppliers
  • Producers of alcoholic drinks comprising brewers, cider makers and wine producers and importers
  • Other big sellers who deal with business to business in the alcohol supply chain.
  • Sellers already hold an excise registration, any kind of license or approval

If the business is newly entered in the alcohol wholesaling then it could also apply for the selling approval as a:

  • Limited company
  • Sole trader or self-employed in alcohol trading
  • Practicing as a business partner in alcohol selling
  • Limited accountability partnership business.

What is the process to Apply for Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme (AWRS)?

After the announce of AWRS (Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme), the registration process for current wholesalers had closed by April 1, 2016 and reviewed by HMRC until April 2017 as all the businesses dealing with wholesale trading of alcohol in UK must get approved with URN under this scheme by the date. Since obtaining HMRC approval is not a simple and straightforward process. In fact a sound numbers of applications get rejected at the very first stage. Since HMRC need to assure about the authenticity of the applicants and also get assured that they have an appropriate due meticulousness in the procedure rather than supporting excise duty fraud. Hence there is though a simple process yet a crucial one to get completed successfully, for this one must:

  • First one must ensure to start with the registration process at least before 45 days of start of alcohol trading. Also it is important to give a sufficient time to get the approval from HMRC before the trading.
  • For the registration, first the most to register, sign up with the official website of HMRC only from January 1 to March 31.
  • Firstly, all the relevant documents and evidences must be kept ready to support the application before processing for the registration. The details could be legal entity name; trading name; VAT registration number (if registered); Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) (if registered); registered business address; valid email address and contact number; estimated annual turnover (for new setup); type of business; details of business premises with address; details of the main supply sources (if registered); import or export details of the alcoholic items.
  • Through HMRC online services all the essential instructions need to be followed sequentially.
  • Late entries are liable to pay a penalty or also probably can fail to clear the registration.
  • For the registration, the applicant needs to have a Government Gateway Account. The relevant ID can be accessed from the Government Gateway website and then one can register either as an individual or organization.
  • Keep and note the details of the ID flashed on the screen for further reference as nothing is communicated through post.
  • Clear the “Fit and Proper” criterion as a parameter proving and certifying that the applicant is not involved in any illegitimate alcohol supply chains knowingly or unknowingly. This will also check about the trading history of the applicant.


Since new criminal and domestic authorizations are also being announced including for wholesalers even who still trade without HMRC approval and authentic registration. In this lieu, one could be penalized as per the occurring and finding offence. The offence also be categorized with different acts like failure to register; trading without registration; disobey the HMRC guidance; failure to report the trade amendments to HMRC or others.

  • If a trade buyer is purchasing alcohols from a wholesaler for a trade purpose or other in an illicit way then for this category the trade buyer will be penalized either to prison sentence or monetary fine or confiscation of goods or permanent removal of license.
  • Failure to go against the regulations of AWRS will result a huge risk in the functioning of the trade sooner or later.
  • To cope up with such risks, minimize the adverse impact and also ensuring a successful registration and smooth trade one must contact and take the assistance of the legal expert.

Final Thoughts:

Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme precisely focuses and controls the illicit trading of alcohols. It also manages and regulates the wholesalers and other retailers in control so that they could not function without being registered. Before AWRS came into practice, HMRC had also been working diligently with the central body Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD) which too ensured to control and uproot the illegal alcohol trading.

AWRS is hence working sincerely as an extra security to the alcohol traders in UK providing a safe, secure and convenient platform to the businesses to practice legitimately and also protecting the economic value and revenue generation for the traders and the country as well.

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About the author
Blog Author

Sumit Agarwal
Sumit Agarwal (ACMA ACA India), the Managing partner of dns accountants is a highly respected accountant with expertise in helping owner-managed businesses.

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About the author
Blog Author

Sumit Agarwal
Sumit Agarwal (ACMA ACA India), the Managing partner of dns accountants is a highly respected accountant with expertise in helping owner-managed businesses.


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