The amount of beer sold without duty being paid has fallen by 30% since the introduction of the Alcohol Wholesale Registration Scheme (AWRS) in 2017.

Illicit alcohol industrial unit

The Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD), which campaigned for the scheme to be introduced, hailed the figures as a “huge win for legitimate wholesalers, retailers, and taxpayers”. It added that the success of AWRS was also reflected in increased sales for its wholesaler members.

HMRC’s Measuring Tax Gaps data showed that revenue losses to beer duty fraudsters fell by 30% from £850m in 2016/17 to £600m in 2017/18, equating to a £250m increase in revenue for the Exchequer.

FWD chief executive James Bielby said: “It is clear that the introduction of AWRS in 2017 was hugely successful in returning duty revenue to the Treasury, and sales to legitimate wholesalers. This is reflected in FWD members’ own experience, as they saw an increase in trade in the months after the registration scheme was introduced.

“An extra £250m going to the government instead of to criminals - that’s a fantastic result for a scheme which was suggested by FWD, promoted by wholesalers, and embraced by responsible retailers.”

Under AWRS, alcohol retailers must ensure that they are buying from a registered source by asking for the wholesalers Unique Registration Number and checking it against an online look-up service. They must also keep a record of this check. Wholesalers applied for registration before the scheme was introduced, and were inspected by HMRC to ensure they are ‘fit and proper’ traders.