The launch of the Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme (AWRC) application process has been delayed until January 1 2016.

HMRC announced the three-month delay after officials requested more time to prepare the online application process.

IT issues have led to concerns about some of the data input, particularly in the case of group applications.

More than 20,000 businesses are expected to apply for registration under the scheme, which is intended to prevent criminals trading in duty-evaded beers, wines and spirits. Under its original schedule, HMRC officials were due to start inspecting applicants from January 1st 2016 to ensure they are ‘fit and proper’ alcohol traders.

The Federation of Wholesale Distributors has been involved in AWRS since its inception.

FWD chief executive James Bielby said: “This late change, coming less than a week before the expected start date for applications, is very frustrating for us and our members. Members have volunteered to test the application process over the past six months, and we have put considerable effort into informing them and other stakeholders of their obligations and the original timeline.

“However, we appreciate that the application process must be absolutely watertight before it is launched, and the delay will give HMRC time to ensure that applications are recorded and processed correctly and help deliver an effective registration scheme.”