The Government has recently introduced the Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme which will affect both suppliers AND retailers of alcohol in the UK from the 1st April 2017.
All businesses that supply alcohol to other businesses for resale need to apply for approval. Those found to be trading without having submitted an application to HMRC will be subject to criminal and civil sanctions.
"But I am not involved in wholesale, I only sell to the public.... This change doesn't affect me or my business!" Yes, it does: there are also penalties to be faced by retailers found to be purchasing from unapproved suppliers - and it is your responsibility to ensure due diligence is demonstrated and clear records are kept.
The HMRC website states the following:
"From 1 April 2017 if you buy alcohol to sell from a UK wholesaler, you’ll need to check that the wholesaler has been approved by HMRC and has an AWRS Unique Reference Number (URN).
You will not need to check all your suppliers on 1 April 2017. You can carry out checks before you next trade with each wholesaler. You will need to repeat this check periodically, to ensure their wholesalers remain approved for AWRS. Keep records of the checks as evidence of your due diligence activities."
If in doubt at all about the legitimacy of the alcohol you are purchasing, do not turn a blind eye. Ask for proof and assurances from your suppliers. HMRC has a look up form on their website for you to use if you wish to check that a supplier has been approved under the scheme.