Retailers who sell alcohol to other businesses, or regularly sell large volumes to a single customer, will have to register as wholesalers when the new Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme is implemented later this year.

The scheme, which opens for registration in October, and comes into force in January, is designed to stamp out duty fraud by ensuring that only legitimate businesses trade in duty-paid alcohol.

A retailer who makes “incidental high-volume sales”, such as occasionally providing products for a community event, would not be required to register.

However, if these sales were frequent, or part of the store’s business model (for example, if it advertises that it can cater for large events) then it would be deemed to be trading as a wholesaler and need to apply for registration, the Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD) warned.

FWD chief executive James Bielby said: “We are concerned that many retailers may not realise that they are acting as a wholesaler.

“If they are, they need to apply for registration between October and December this year, or face possible penalties from 1 January 2016. They will also have to demonstrate that they are sourcing their alcohol legitimately, and keeping records of who they purchase from.”

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has issued a flowchart to help retailers decide if the need to apply for registration.

Under the scheme, retailers will also have to ensure that they only buy from approved wholesalers from April 2017.

HMRC will publish details of approved wholesalers online.

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