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  • Michigan excise tax shift creates pricing scramble

    Michigan Alcoholic Beverage Excise Tax: Important change shifts liabilities from supplier to wholesaler on February 1, 2015

    The Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) is making a significant change to the regulations for alcoholic beverage distribution within the state. Beginning February 1, 2015 Michigan alcoholic beverage wholesalers will be responsible for the filing and payment of all wine, malt, and low alcohol mixed spirit drink excise taxes. Please note, all spirits over 10% ABV are controlled by the state and no change or action is needed. Currently, manufacturers and out-of-state suppliers are responsible for excise tax remittance on their sales to Michigan wholesalers. The January 2015 filing period is the last period these suppliers are obligated to complete before Michigan wholesalers must take responsibility for excise tax reporting and remittance. The reports listed below will no longer be completed by suppliers beginning with the February 2015 filing period and onward: The MLCC is still finalizing the new reporting requirements for suppliers and wholesalers and we will let you know when they release more information.

    • Michigan Form LCC-3803 Beer Tax Report and LCC-3886 Beer Shipment Report
    • Michigan LCC-3890 Wine Tax Report Sales to Distributors
    • Michigan LC-MW 891 Mixed Spirit Drink Tax Report

    Do I need to change my pricing?

    Yes, depending on how you determine the prices at which you sell to wholesalers, action may be required. Most domestic wineries, breweries, and importers calculate the price at which they sell to wholesalers very carefully. It is an equation made up of many supplier and wholesaler costs, including production, logistics, retail prices, excise taxes, etc. The transition of the excise tax collection, reporting and remittance burden from the manufacturers and out-of-state suppliers to the wholesaler will be a joint effort in negotiating prices.

    What are my next steps?

    • Suppliers can throw away those old forms starting in March because you won’t need them anymore.
    • Wholesalers should await notification from the state on new reporting and remittance requirements, they’re still working to finalize the rules.
    • Suppliers need to recalculate prices and communicate to their wholesalers.
    • Await more information from ShipCompliant and the MLCC on future reporting requirements in March for February sales.

    New Direct-to-Consumer Shipping Requirements in Maine

    Wineries licensed to ship to Maine consumers now have fewer reports to file each year. Maine recently amended its direct-to-consumer law to require that direct shippers file excise tax returns and shipment reports once a year. Unlike the quarterly reporting periods which were based on the calendar year, the annual reporting period corresponds to the license year. The filing deadline for annual reports is the 30th day of the month immediately following the annual expiration date of the direct shipping license. Licensees are required to report the total gallons of wine shipped to Maineconsumers during the license year, with the exception of the first annual report which will cover all shipments made from July 1, 2014 through the end of the license year.

    The total volume of shipments from a direct shipper to any one recipient address in Maine continues to be 12 cases per calendar year. The Maine Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages & Lottery Operations (BABLO) is in the process of notifying wineries currently licensed to ship to Maine consumers of the transition from quarterly to annual reporting periods. Direct Shipper Excise Tax Returns and Report of Wine Shipment Forms have been updated to reflect the new filing schedule and can be accessed on the BABLO and Wine Institute websites.

    Annie Bones
    State Relations – Wine Institute
    abones@wineinstitute.org

    Expansion of Allowable Label Revisions by TTB Helps Industry

    Last week TTB expanded the list of Allowable Revisions to Approved Alcohol Beverage Labels within the Industry Circular 2014-02. These minor changes come after a major effort last year to reduce the number of new label submissions from domestic suppliers. You can read more about the first change in this blog post. Previously approved labels with new changes that fall within the list of allowable revisions, both existing and the below additions, do not need to be approved again. This topic will also be discussed at the 1st Annual ShipCompliant Wholesale Gathering in White Plains, NY on October 16th.

    You May… Comments
    29. Delete or change promotional sponsorship-themed graphics, logos, artwork, dates, event locations and/or other sponsorship-related information (e.g., sports leagues, team organizations, annual sporting events, and annual or semi-annual festivals). If authorization by a third party was required for use of such promotional sponsorship-themed information on a label when first approved, it is the responsibility of the industry member to have any necessary documentation of authorization to cover the revisions to the approved label(s).
    30. Add, delete, or change a label or sticker that provides information about a rating or recognition provided by an organization (e.g., “Recognized as one of the top values in vodka by x Magazine” or “Rated as the best 2012 wine by x Association”), as long as the rating or recognition reflects simply the opinion of the organization and does not make a specific substantive claim about the product or its competitors. These statements or graphics must not conflict with or qualify any mandatory information and must comply with all applicable laws and regulations.  Substantive claims about the product or its competitors are not covered by this exemption.
    31. Delete all organic references from the label. If you choose to delete one organic claim on a label on which you have received approval to make organic claims, then all organic claims, references, and certification statements must be deleted on the revised label.  The deletion of individual references or certification statements is not permitted without a new COLA.
    32. Change an approved sulfite statement to any of these options: “Contains Sulfites,” “Contains (a) Sulfiting Agent(s),” “Contains [name of specific sulfating agent],”“Contains Naturally Occurring and Added Sulfites,” or “Contains Naturally Occurring Sulfites.”“Sulphites” may be used in lieu of “Sulfites.” A sulfite statement is required when sulfur dioxide or a sulfiting agent is detected at a level of 10 or more parts per million, measured as total sulfur dioxide. The statement used must accurately reflect all of the sulfur dioxide or sulfiting agent(s) present in the alcohol beverage. For wine:  Any other variation of the statement or removal of the statement requires a lab analysis. For sulfite waivers, the proprietor must have proof of sample analysis from a TTB-certified laboratory or from the TTB Compliance Laboratory.
    33. Add, delete, or change information about the number of bottles that were “made,” “produced,” “brewed,” or “distilled” in a batch; respectively. Example:  “100 bottles produced.”
    34. Add certain instructional statements to the label(s) about how best to consume or serve the product.  Only the statements listed in the comments section may be added. Only the following statements are approved to be added to a label:“Refrigerate After Opening”“Do Not Store In Direct Sunlight”,“Best If Frozen For ___ to ___ Hours”, “Shake Well”, “Pour Over Ice”, “Best When Chilled”, “Best Served Chilled”, “Serve Chilled”, “Serve at Room Temperature”

    Wine: Managing sulfite and organic statements are much less stringent. (8,027 approved wine labels in September 2014)

    Malt: Adding or removing those treasured “Beer Festival” recognitions on labels will no longer require a new label. (708 approved malt labels in September 2014)

    Spirits: Small batch whiskey information can be more dynamic on versions of the label. And, the growing interest in organic spirits will help TTB and suppliers be more efficient. (1,286 approved spirits labels in September 2014)

    For more information, you may view the complete list of allowable revisions here. Thus far, TTB has approved 90,749 new COLAs this year, with 10,267 in September alone. Keep an eye on newly approved COLAs by clicking here.

    Indiana Now Requires Encrypted File Transfer for Alcohol Reports

    No one disputes that applying new technology to the process of complying with state liquor regulations is long overdue. However, the new eFile requirements for Indiana excise taxes and shipping reports demonstrates that instituting new digital processes can be challenging. GenericFeatureBubble_compliance

    The New Law

    Beginning with the October filings (due in November), Indiana will require alcohol excise taxes to file reports and submit tax payments electronically. This applies to Direct-To-Consumer as well as wholesale reporting.

    • If you are reporting more than 50 transactions in a reporting period, you must do so via XML file format. If you are reporting less than 50 transactions, you can request to enter each transaction via the Indiana Department of Revenue transaction-by-transaction data entry.
    • Form 726 is now ALC-DWS: Direct Wine Seller’s Excise Tax Return
    • Forms ABP1-B and ABP1-WLare now ALC-PS: Primary Source Suppliers Monthly Report
    • Beginning August 15, 2014, taxpayers must register with INtax and have a 10-digit tax identification (TID) number with a three digit location. You will not need to reregister if you already have a TID.
    • Taxpayers must send PGP-encrypted files when filing.
    • In order to eFile, taxpayers must successfully upload at least two test files without errors. Once two files have been uploaded taxpayers will be able to perform a bulk file upload.
    • More details available on Indiana’s website.
    • ShipCompliant clients will have their tax payments calculated and reports generated in the appropriate XML format. Test uploads will also be available.

     

    AutoFile and the ShipCompliant Fix

    If this all sounds somewhat complicated, then you have correctly understood the implications of the new eFiling process in Indiana. AutoFile is a great solution for those wineries who would like to have the new reporting process handled automatically. AutoFile will handle all of the testing, encryption, and file transfer requirements on behalf of subscribers, with robust accounting tools and visibility into reports and payments. While we applaud the state of Indiana for updating their reporting process for a digital age, ShipCompliant’s mission is to ease the burden of compliance for all of our clients. In this case, the best way to do just that is to sign up for AutoFile. Plus, your first month of reporting is on us!

    Is Massachusetts the Most Important Change Since Granholm?

    The opening of Massachusetts for direct shipping is perhaps the most important change to the direct shipping market since the Granholm v. Heald Supreme Court decision in 2005. We estimate that within three years of opening for direct shipments on January 1, 2015, Massachusetts will easily vault into the top ten states by shipping revenue and represent over $60 million in additional revenue for wineries that ship.

    Let us explain.

    The value of opening up any given state for direct wine shippers is, we find, related to three primary factors:

    1. The state’s population
    2. The state’s proximity to an important wine producing state/region
    3. Per capita consumption of the state

    Massachusetts’ Population
    Massachusetts has a population of approximately 6.6 million people, just above the national average of 6 million people per state. It is similar in population size to Tennessee, Indiana, Arizona and Washington State. While not a hugely populated state, it is by no means sparsely populated.

    Massachusetts’ Proximity to a Wine Region
    Massachusetts has a very small wine industry. However, it borders New York, an important wine producing state and wine tourism venue. This bodes well not just for New York wineries, but it suggests that Massachusetts wine lovers will benefit from easy access to wines they have recently discovered on day trips and weekend excursions.

    Per Capita Wine Consumption in Massachusetts
    Only five states have a higher per capita wine consumption rate than Massachusetts. At 29 bottles of wine consumed per person annually, Bay Staters consume wine at more than a 50% greater rate than the average state. They like their wine.

    Given these factors, and looking at how similar states, in terms of consumption and location, rank in the direct-to-consumer shipping channel, we believe that Massachusetts wine lovers will have wine shipped to them at a significantly higher rate than the average state.

    For the overall winery-to-consumer shipping market, 0.213 bottles of wine per capita were shipped in 2013. However, the top 10 winery-to-consumer shipping states averaged 0.276 bottles per capita. We have every reason to believe that Massachusetts will hew closely to this average within three years after the state opens for shipments. In fact, we are confident is saying that by 2018, three years after Massachusetts finally opens for direct shipping, it will generate more than $73 million in wine shipments and rank #7 for value of shipments among all legal states. Sales for DTC By 2023, the value of the Massachusetts direct shipping market will be over $100 million per year.

    A number of people and organizations have worked very hard to open up Massachusetts for direct shipping and to give Massachusetts consumers the simple right to buy the domestic wines they desire, especially Coalition for Free Trade, Free the Grapes!, and Wine Institute. Many years, much lobbying, lawsuits, more lobbying, working the media and harnessing the power of the consumer finally brought it about. It’s not only long in coming and a sweet victory for everyone, but also a very profitable victory for wineries across the country.

    Direct Shipping To Massachusetts–Finally!

    massachusetts blog logo3Eight years after Massachusetts passed an unworkable and overly-restrictive direct shipping bill, and four years since the same law was ruled unconstitutional by a federal court, Bay State legislators finally passed a workable direct wine shipping law that will allow out-of-state and in-state wineries to ship wine directly to state residents. The new law was included in the 2014 budget bill (see page 257), and was signed by Governor Deval Patrick this morning. Set to go into effect on January 1, 2015, the new wine shipping law will make both wineries and Massachusetts wine lovers overjoyed.

    Massachusetts is ranked among the most important states that still had not passed winery direct shipping law. Massachusetts is particularly important given the size of its population and its residents’ love of wine. Only four states have higher per capita consumption rates for wine than Massachusetts.

    The new direct shipping law, passed as part of the 2015 fiscal year budget, provides the following conditions for shippers:

    • Only bonded wineries may apply for a direct shipping permit
    • Direct Shipping License Fee: $300/winery (separate permits required for each “affiliate, franchise or subsidiary”)
    • Direct Shipping License Annual Renewal Fee: $150
    • Shipments limited to twelve 9-liter cases per purchaser in a calendar year
    • Reports to the state must be remitted annually
    • Excise Taxes must be remitted on each sale

     

    Over the next six months, the Massachusetts Alcohol Beverage Control Commission will be responsible for creating and making available license applications for direct shippers. We will report here on those developments as well as any others that impact direct shippers.