The Alcohol Wholesale Registration Scheme (AWRS) will come into force from 1 April – making it an offence to buy alcohol from an unapproved UK wholesaler.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has introduced the legislation as an attempt to crack down on alcohol fraud.
From 1 April, wholesalers will be required to give customers their valid Unique Reference Number (URN), which will be issued by HMRC.
Once the AWRS comes in to force, all businesses buying alcohol from a UK wholesaler for sale or supply to consumers will need to check that their wholesaler has been approved by HMRC by entering its URN on an online look-up service of approved wholesalers on GOV.UK.
Those found to be purchasing alcohol from a non-registered UK wholesaler could be liable for a penalty, and may have their stock seized.
Wholesalers operating prior to 1 April 2016 should have registered for the scheme between 1 January 2016 and 31 March 2016 and, if approved, will receive their URN before 1 April 2017.
Wholesalers trading without AWRS approval will also receive penalties. Businesses will need to check their UK wholesaler remains registered.
Wholesalers who are currently operating without having applied are urged to apply now. New businesses must apply for AWRS approval 45 days before they start trading.