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Published on August 10th, 2016 | by Dean Carr


What you need to know about importing alcohol to the UK


How to import alcohol

If you intend to import alcohol in to the UK then it would be advisable to check out HM Revenue & Customs webpage regarding “import duty”. The importation of alcoholic drinks into the United Kingdom means you will have to pay excise duty on the alcohol content, regardless of which Country your drinks are being shipped from. Duty payable on alcohol drinks differs depending on what product you intend to import. The duty payable on imported beers and wine may vary considerably more guidance on importing wine can be found at the bottom of this post.

There are basically two ways to achieve this set up your own customs warehouse to store goods with duty or import VAT suspended. This can be a very confusing and complicated process for most individuals and you will need the help of an accountant that understands the different classification of alcohol under HM Revenue & Customs rules. To run a customs warehouse you must be an authorised warehouse-keeper and make an application to HMRC. More information on this can be found on the Government website under “Customs Warehousing

Most people will use an REDS agent or what is known as a bonded warehouse. A REDS Agent stands for: Registered Excise Dealers and Shippers (REDS). These types of warehousing facilities will sort out you import duty/tax and store your goods on your behalf. You will then have to pay duty when removing your goods from these facilities. Excise duty must be paid on all alcoholic drinks before they can be released into Free Circulation for resale or any other commercial use. Take a look at “UK Import Services Limited“, based in Rainham, Kent. There are several brokers of this type in the UK so try searching google for more as it is advisable to get several quotes on your requirements when looking at importing alcoholic goods to the UK.

Do you need a licence to sell?
The other important thing to remember is there are two types of alcohol sales under the licensing Act 2003.

1). A trade to trade sale, (Wholesale)
This would be a sale of alcohol to a premises that has a licence to sell alcohol by retail to the general public, such as a public house or licensed restaurant. You do not need a licence for this type of trade to trade sale, however keeping a record of your customers and obtaining their premises licence number would be good practice.

2). A retail sale, (Retail)
This is where alcohol is sold directly to the general public. This could be a sale made online over the internet, a sale from a licensed restaurant or a sale at a farmers market.

Any sale of alcohol made to the general public would be classed as a retail sale. Therefore you would require a personal licence holder to over see any sales of alcohol from a licensed premises or temporary event.

A premises licence would be required for any sales of alcohol made to the general public. A premises licence would be required from where the sale is appropriated. This could be a warehouse, shop or office with storage facilities.

Samples of alcohol
To help promote sales of alcohol some importers may wish to provide samples of it’s product to their intended customers. A sample given in a small measure free of charge is not a licensable activity, however steps must be taken by the importer or the promotional company to ensure alcohol is not given to anyone under the age of 18. Most promotional companies that provide alcohol samples on behalf of clients will normally train and licence their employees to show due diligence in regards to responsible alcohol retailing.

Trade Shows
Samples of alcohol given at trade shows or retail sales will generally be made under a premises licence or temporary event notice held by the event organiser. Most event organisers will normally insist a personal licence holder is present at an event where samples or sales of alcohol are made.

To find out more about obtaining training to become a personal licence holder or for information on licensing an event or premises take a look at A personal alcohol licence will allow the holder to sell or authorise sales of alcohol, it will also enable the holder to become a Designated Premises Supervisor (DPS or Licensee) on a premises licence. Once granted a personal licence in England and Wales is valid forever or in Scotland for 10 years.

Author: Dean Carr, Senior licensing consultant at PLT.

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About the Author

Dean Carr

Dean has been involved in alcohol licensing for over 20 years and has helped many independent retailers and corporate clients obtain a licence to sell alcohol or offer late night refreshment, regulated entertainment from all sorts of premises. Dean writes articles for various trade related blogs and is currently Managing Director of the PLT group of companies who run APLH and SCPLH personal alcohol licence courses nationwide. You can contact Dean or a member of his expert licensing team on: 01242 222 188

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