Retailers will need to keep accurate records of spirit purchases to avoid falling foul of new customs regulations.

As part of a new regime to fight smuggling, from October 1, 2006, all spirits produced above 30% abv and in bottles of 35cl or more will have to carry a new government stamp to prove that the correct duty has been paid on them. It will be illegal to sell any spirits of these types not bearing this stamp after January 1, 2007, unless retailers can prove that they were purchased legitimately before October 2006.

Although the regulations will require retailers to keep a record of their purchases of spirits, the new rules are something of a concession to the trade as the original scheme proposed an outright ban on sales of unstamped stock from 2007.

The Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD) had feared that the three-month window would be too short a time to sell stock through, particularly as the Christmas season would feature more niche products than at other times of year.

FWD director general John Murphy said: “We faced the prospect of wholesalers’ customers trying to return unmarked stock and this would have presented an impossible reverse logistics nightmare. The authorities were made well aware that the independent sector posed the biggest problem area for slow moving spirits stock.

“It is most important that retailers realise that it is incumbent on them to keep the evidence that unmarked spirits were purchased before October 1, 2006 and were therefore not required to be stamped. Wholesalers will be working to make sure the message gets across.”

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