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Nebraska Tightens up Existing Direct Shipping Law

LB 230 passed Nebraska’s unicameral legislature and was signed by the Governor on April 24, 2013. The new law will go into effect on September 6, 2013. Nebraska is currently open to direct shipping from wineries and retailers (although there was some debate recently as to whether retailers should qualify under the current law), with easy-to-navigate regulations. The new law introduces several new restrictions that Nebraska direct shippers should be aware of before the new law goes into effect.

Though the bill’s statement of intent indicated that only manufacturers (wineries) would be able to obtain a license, after amendments to the bill, retailers were added back in and will be eligible for the Nebraska direct shipping license. So, at the end of the day (following a confusing set of hearings and deliberations) currently licensed wineries and retailers will both be able to continue to ship to Nebraska consumers, but with added complexity and requirements.

Direct shippers will see several marked changes to rules and licensing processes. Here’s a quick breakdown of these and other requirements in the new law – additional descriptions follow below:


Item Before
Sept. 6
After
September 6
Nexus status Not required In addition to requiring sales tax payments (common for direct shipping law), the potential to trigger additional tax obligations exists
Brand identification Not required Retailers and manufacturers may "only ship the brands of alcoholic liquor identified on the application
Distributor notification Not required Manufacturers (but not retailers) must notify Nebraska distributors carrying the identified brands, of the manufacturer’s intent to apply for a direct shipping license.
Notification of any violations Not required “…the applicant agrees to notify the commission of any violations in the state in which he or she is domiciled and any violations of the direct shipping laws of any other states…”
Non-sellable products Not required Required. Shippers may “…not ship any alcoholic liquor products that the manufacturers or wholesalers licensed in Nebraska have voluntarily agreed not to bring into Nebraska at the request of the commission;”
Excise tax Annual filing Monthly filing
Common carrier approval Not required Required

Under current regulations, it was somewhat unclear whether or not direct shippers were required to register to pay sales taxes, though most direct shippers did. The establishment of nexus under the new law could also mean that, in addition to requiring sales tax registration (common for direct shipping law), there is a potential to trigger additional tax obligations. Brand listings will be required as part of the licensing process, and wineries (but not retailers) must notify their Nebraska distributors carrying the listed brands of the manufacturer’s intent to apply for a direct shipping license. If a Nebraska manufacturer or wholesaler volunteers not to sell certain products within Nebraska’s borders, direct shippers would also not be allowed to sell those products under the new law. Furthermore, direct shipper applicants will have to notify the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission of any violations of direct shipping laws of any other states and any violations in the state in which the shipper is domiciled.

Many of the new laws will require clarification as to how currently licensed direct shippers should proceed in order to remain licensed and compliant – for example, will existing licensees have to notify distributors of their existing direct shipping license on Sept 6, or will this new requirement take effect once their current license expires in April? As we get closer to the September effective date, we will notify our clients and readers of any published guidelines or additional information.

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