If you sell alcohol wholesale to customers who sell it on, for example if your customers are retailers, caterers or restaurants, chances are you will need to apply to register with The Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme.

This scheme, which commenced on 1 January this year, was established by the UK Government to curb the growth of the black market for alcohol – and its subsequent loss of some £1.3b in duty. If you haven’t registered and been assessed and approved by the HMRC to sell alcohol by April 2017, your business customers will not be able to legally buy from you.

Once registered with the scheme, wholesalers will undergo rigorous checks by HMRC to ensure they are ‘fit and proper’ to trade in alcohol.

This assessment will include background and operational checks to ensure there is no past connection to convicted alcohol criminals, that you have a policy in place that ensures you’re only sourcing from legitimate alcohol suppliers, and that you maintain satisfactory records of orders and sales.

As part of the application process, you will need to provide trading information such who your main suppliers are, who you sell to (type of customer), the products you sell, and the premises you trade from.

For most legitimate, organised businesses, this will only create a slight headache and, once approved, HMRC will publish your details in the approved wholesaler list, online, which will enable your customers to legally trade with you.

However, for those who haven’t systematically documented their orders and sales, it presents a bigger challenge – and this might be a sign that it’s time to invest in IT. A merchandise management system such as STL’s MMS will help collate all the required information for you.

Further information on the scheme can be found here: The alcohol wholesaler registration scheme