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Just 10% of the estimated 20,000 businesses that must sign up to the Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme by the end of the month have done so, HMRC has warned.

It told The Grocer only 2,100 had registered to date for the scheme introduced as part of the government’s duty fraud fighting efforts.

Its original estimate of 20,000 that needed to register still held true, HMRC added, although it said it had only identified 9,500 so far.

The ones it had not identified included newsagents and off-licences that sold alcohol to other businesses for resale, auctioneers, wine importers and micro brewers, for example.

James Bielby, chief executive of the FWD, said: “We urge HMRC to target its communications to these businesses in the remaining days before the deadline.”

The FWD was confident its own wholesaler members would apply by the 31 March deadline, Bielby added. “Most have already done so, including more than 80% of buying group members who trade in alcohol. If there is a shortfall in the number expected to apply, it is likely to be businesses like merchants, brokers and auctioneers who are either unaware of the requirement, or think they do not need to register.”

Companies needing to register must first sign up to the Government Gateway, a centralised online register for government services. User IDs are provided instantly and many businesses will already have Government Gateway accounts to pay taxes, but it will take 10 days to process for those who are not already registered for self-assessment online.

HMRC said: “We think we will see a significant number coming through in the run-up to the deadline. We don’t want people to leave it to the last minute. We will continue to work with trade associations and industry representatives and another press notice will go out next week.”