HMRC begins crackdown on alcohol tax evasion

ALCOHOL TRADERS face criminal convictions and fines up to £10,000 if they fail to register with HMRC’s Alcohol Wholesale Registration Scheme, the taxman has warned.

Retailers have until March 31 to sign up to the initiative, as HMRC looks to continue its battle against illegal traders who are failing to pay £1.2bn in alcohol taxes every year.

Not only will HMRC police whether vendors have registered for the scheme, it will be conducting fit and proper person tests on wholesalers, considering factors such as links to alcohol fraudsters and whether they keep adequate business records.

From 2017, retailers can only purchase alcohol from HMRC-approved wholesalers, with the department set to publish a list of approved sellers online.

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

Paddy Behan, an indirect tax services partner at Simmons Gainsford, told Accountancy Age that HMRC should make the registration form more accessible for wholesalers by creating a paper version, not just having it available online.

“I find it wholly objectionable that the form is not made available on paper, even if HMRC want it submitted electronically.

“AWRS registration is crucial to the survival of existing drinks businesses and HMRC have put an obstacle in the way of responsible advisers who wish to advise their wholesaler clients.”

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