The government's Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme has suffered a blow after it was revealed it received only a quarter of the sign-ups as HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) had predicted.
The scheme received around 4,800 applications before its deadline of 31 March, although HMRC had previously estimated around 20,000 businesses might need to register and had directly identified 9,500 eligible parties.
"The estimate of how many customers need to apply was made on the best information available. In the past wholesalers have not been required to register with HMRC so we knew the numbers were not exact.
"However the number of applications is lower than expected. We are currently looking at who applied and will use that analysis to determine what we do next for those who have not applied but should have," an HMRC spokesperson said.
Wholesalers that do not register under the scheme could face a fine of up to £10,000 or a criminal conviction. However, City AM understands that businesses that are able to prove they did not know they needed to register for the scheme will not be subject to any punishments.
"There could be a number of reasons why people thought they would be liable to register but weren't," David Richardson, regulatory and commercial affairs director at the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said.
"It may be that some of the reasons behind the figure include businesses registering as part of wider groups, premises numbers and that some weren't actually eligible under the conditions of the scheme who originally thought they would be."