HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have announced changes to trading in alcohol that are taking place from October 2015. Under the Finance Act 2015, businesses will need to apply to register for AWRS or be at risk of trading illegally. The registration window opens on 1 October 2015 and lasts for 3 months until 31 December 2015. It is important that businesses are ready to make their applications on time and have suitable processes in place to ensure that their trade in alcohol meets the AWRS compliance requirements.From January 2016, HMRC will assess all applications received. Businesses must demonstrate that they are sufficiently protected from the illicit alcohol trade. Where there is evidence of fraud, they may have their right to trade in alcohol removed.From April 2017, it will become an offence for a retailer to buy alcohol from an unregistered wholesaler - unless they are buying direct from abroad or from another retailer who makes incidental wholesale sales.The types of business who will be affected include:•             Alcohol wholesalers•             Brokers•             Auctioneers•             Alcohol retailersIf you trade in alcohol or have clients within this industry it is important that the business not only applies for AWRS on time but also has the necessary procedures in place to ensure that the business can be seen to operate legally – recent experience has shown that HMRC will think nothing of seizing illicit alcohol which is expensive and time consuming to deal with. The advent of the AWRS is designed to prevent illicit trade and given that non-compliance could well put a business out of business it is important that anyone dealing in alcohol is prepared for the forthcoming changes.The VAT People can via its Customs arm, The Customs People, assist businesses with assessing and implementing the necessary processes to meet the AWRS compliance requirements.

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