Wholesalers are calling for ‘UK Duty Paid’ marks on beer cans and bottles to be introduced in this month’s Budget as part of an action plan to tackle alcohol fraud.

The Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD) is urging the Chancellor to adopt measures put forward by HMRC in order to recoup the Treasury £550m a year in lost revenue and ensure the distribution of beer products is managed by legitimate wholesalers. All best-selling beer brands include a duty mark, but some craft and foreign imports do not. 

The FWD also wants the Chancellor to adopt HMRC’s recommendation for a registration scheme for wholesalers.

FWD chief executive James Bielby said: “This is an opportunity to take back the £550m gift given to fraudsters every year, and restore sales to responsible, regulated wholesalers.

“In recent years there has been almost no progress in catching and prosecuting criminal traders, which are now so widespread that one in ten beers is sold illegally in the UK. We believe that rather than trusting ever more in enforcement, the Chancellor must adopt HMRC’s recommendations and stamp out the fraud before it happens.”

Retailers were warned last week to be vigilant of illegal depots, some of which were still operating despite the full knowledge of the authorities. “HMRC knows there’s no point in trimming the leaves off the tree and closing illegal depots, which is why some haven’t closed down,” said FWD communications director Dave Visick, speaking at the Association of Convenience Store’s responsible retail forum. “HMRC wants to follow the money.”