HMRC has postponed the launch of the Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme (AWRS) to January 1, 2016.

As our members and the wider wholesale industry should already be aware, the purpose of the Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme is to reduce the risk of illicit alcohol, on which no duty has been paid, being sold to unsuspecting consumers.

To be approved under the scheme, traders wanting to wholesale alcohol will have to pass rigorous checks. In 2017, the scheme will also provide a facility for retailers to check whether their suppliers are approved.

As widely reported, HMRC had planned to launch an online registration application service for alcohol wholesalers on October 1, 2015 - this will now be postponed until January 1, 2016.

HMRC has said that rigorous pre-launch testing has pointed to some technical issues that need to be fixed before the service is launched.

"We are committed to giving customers a fully tested, first-class system," said HMRC. "We have chosen a new launch date to make sure the service is right before making it widely available and to avoid putting additional burden on industry, during the busy winter trading period.

"This will include inviting a selection of customers to use the system from October 1, and provide us with feedback which we will use to refine it. We will then open the scheme to all customers on January 1, 2016."

This means that the application window will now run from January 1 to March 31, 2016, rather than October 1 to December 31, 2015 as originally anticipated.