The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has today welcomed confirmation by the Treasury that it will not prosecute retailers who after January 2007, still have spirits on their shelves without new duty marks.

The new duty marks on spirits regime, announced by the Chancellor in April 2004, means that from October 2006 retailers cannot accept spirits from producers that do not carry a duty mark. Any unmarked stock still on shelves after January 2007 would have been illegal and so not saleable.

The BRC said it has been working with producers, wholesalers, importers and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) over the last year, to highlight the problems with selling off such large amounts of spirits within three months and to find a workable solution.

This confirmation by the Treasury means that so long as retailers can prove that any unmarked stock was legitimately purchased before 1 October 2006, it will be deemed as 'duty-paid' and therefore legal. Retailers will still be able to sell this stock to customers post January 2007 and HMRC will have no case to prosecute.

BRC Director General, Kevin Hawkins, said: "The BRC is very happy with this outcome. It will save retailers from an administrative nightmare and substantial costs. It will also be one less worry for retailers in the run up to Christmas 2006/New Year 2007.

"We did not want a repeat of the scenario of when tax stamps were applied to tobacco, when on introduction of that regime, retailers were given only six weeks to sell unmarked stock before it became illegal. On this occasion, many retailers, especially smaller retailers, lost a lot of money. For spirits this would be even more serious, given that they are higher ticket items with a slower stock turnover."