In May of 2012, Governor Jan Brewer established the Transaction Privilege Tax Simplification Task Force in order to identify ways the current complex sales tax code could be simplified in the hopes of reducing tax filer stress and increasing tax-filer compliance. The conclusions of this task force, available in full in the Final Report, led to the creation and subsequent passage of HB 2111. HB 2111, which goes into effect January 1, 2015, calls for all licensing and taxes to be paid and reported through a single online portal.
This change, outlined in more detail in Section 42-5015 of the bill, will be an especially welcomed change to how Transaction Privilege Taxes (TPT) are reported. Currently cities are split between 73 “program” cities, where the state collects the tax, and 18 “non-program” cities, where cities are responsible for collecting the tax. For licensed wine direct shippers who remit applicable taxes to several locations, this can result in an overwhelming set of tax filing requirements. The state will release more information regarding the new online platform throughout 2014. ShipCompliant clients should stay tuned for announcements that will further outline the changes as well as subsequent updates that will ease the transition in their account to the new “one-stop-shop” process. All updates to clients will take place well in advance of the January 1, 2015 effective date.
In short, yes, for a couple of reasons:
1. Wineries already pay sales tax in most states
2. The vast majority of wineries will likely be exempt from the law
So what is it, exactly?
Senate Bill S. 743, more commonly known as the “Marketplace Fairness Act“, is a pretty simple bill that would give states the ability to require out of state businesses that have “remote sales” in excess of $1 million annually to remit sales taxes. Each state would be able to opt in to the Act, but only after they have simplified their tax structure, either by joining the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement or to follow the steps outlined in the bill to simplify their sales tax requirements.
Will it pass?
With broad bi-partisan support, S. 743 passed out of the Senate with a vote of 69 to 27. However, a tough battle is expected in the House, and therefore the Marketplace Fairness Act has a long way to go before it is enacted with a signature from President Obama. Amazon.com is supporting the bill (presumably because they would like to move forward with their plans to build warehouses in each state to support same-day shipping), while eBay is one of the main voices in opposition.
What will it mean for wineries?
A lot hinges on the definition of “remote sales”. Keep in mind the fact that state legislation to allow wine shipments typically includes a provision that also requires wineries to register for and pay sales tax. As it stands in the Senate version, and based on our interpretation of the current language, sales by wineries to states where they are already required to pay sales tax would not be counted when considering the $1 million threshold for remote sales.
Based on some quick analysis, there are a few hundred wineries in the US that ship more than $1 million worth of wine to consumers each year. BUT, if you include sales only to those states (Alaska, Colorado, D.C., Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Wyoming) that do not require wineries to pay sales tax, then we estimate that less than 25 wineries would exceed the $1 million cap. In other words, the vast majority of the 7,000+ wineries in the US would be exempt from this law.
Wineries are already accustomed to calculating, collecting, and remitting sales taxes in most states. So, for those wineries that would not be exempt from this law, it would probably not be that big of a deal to add a few more states (initially the states of Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, and Wyoming) to the list of states to which they would be required to remit sales tax. They already have the technology and processes to do so.
The bill would take effect, at the earliest, on October 1st, 2013. Once effective, the 22 “Streamlined” sales tax states would begin requiring sales tax for remote sellers with over $1 million in sales. After that, each of the remaining 28 states would choose whether to opt in to the Act and start requiring sales tax from remote sellers.
Side Note: For suppliers interested in selling to retailers (self-distribution), Arizona law permits holders of a Domestic Farm Winery License that produce less than 20,000 gallons per year, unlimited shipments to Arizona retailers.
Before jumping into a direct shipping program in a new state, wineries should consider their current prospect list, market potential, shipping difficulty and costs. When it comes to calculating start-up costs to enter a new state, there is often more than meets the eye. In addition to license fees, wineries may need to budget for a number of “hidden” fees including bonds, label registration fees and other application fees.
Some states require wineries to obtain a bond in order to secure a direct shipping license. A bond is a written guaranty, purchased from a bonding company (usually an insurance firm or a surety company), to guarantee that all taxes due will be paid to the state. If there is a failure to pay, the bonding company will make good up to the amount of the bond.
Bonds for direct shippers range from $500-$1500 depending on the state, but premiums, or out-of-pocket costs, to wineries typically average around 10% of the total bond price, or $50-$180 out-of-pocket on an annual or biannual basis. Different bonding agents may quote different rates, so it pays to shop around.
Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Texas and Wisconsin all require that wineries secure a bond before submitting your license application. For wineries that ship 40,000 gallons or more annually, Oregon issues a bond document after the license application has been received but before the license is issued. Wineries that ship less than 40,000 gallons to Oregon annually can apply for a bond wavier.
Several states require brand or label registrations for direct shipping. Ohio, a state that 26% of direct shippers have in their program, requires wineries to register all the labels that will be shipped into the state for a one-time registration fee of $50 per label.
If that sounds pricey to you, consider Connecticut who charges $200 per label and requires labels to be re-registered every 3 years if they are still actively shipped into the state.
Georgia, Michigan, New York, North Carolina and Virginia do not charge a fee though label or brand registration is required in these states.
Some states may require business, Secretary of State or tax registration, or other one-time application fees. This varies from state to state and depends on how your business is structured. Wineries that start shipping to Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia or Wisconsin may encounter one or more of these fees.
License, bond, label registration and application fees all factor into the true break-even costs of shipping to a new state. The key to ensuring a profitable direct shipping program is to research thoroughly in order to avoid getting caught off-guard with unexpected costs.
The latest version of “Notes on Wine Distribution”, by R. Corbin Houchins, is now available. Release 32 includes updates on legislation, litigation and general discussions on available distribution channels for wine. This release includes substantial changes, including new sections on age and identity, facial neutrality, and logistical support services, as well as updates to state summaries in Arizona, Delaware, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. Read about these and other updates that affect the way wine is sold and shipped within the United States.
If you are at all interested in the shipping and distribution of wine, this is an excellent resource that is well worth reading. You can view the most recent version of the document anytime by visiting the ShipCompliant Blog and clicking the link located under “Compliance Resources”, or by visiting CorbinCounsel.com and clicking on the home page link, “Notes on Wine Distribution.”
Click Here to View NWD Release 32
Following our May 6th submission, Wine Institute received further clarification from the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses & Control regarding their continuing interpretation of the on-site sales law. Wineries may ship up to 2 cases of wine per Arizona consumer per calendar year as long as the consumer purchases the wine while physically visiting the winery. The wine paid-for by the consumer may then be shipped at anytime during the year to a residential or business address. The purchased wine may be broken down into multiple shipments during the year. No off-site orders are permitted at any time except by wineries holding a direct-to-consumer permit*. If Arizona consumers wish to have additional wine shipped to themselves in subsequent calendar years, they will need to physically visit the winery each and every year. There continues to be no reporting, tax or permit requirements under the “on-site shipping law.”
*The rules and requirements for wineries producing up to 20,000 gallons of wine in a calendar year with an approved direct-to-consumer permit/self-distribution license are different. Please visit the Wine Institute website for additional information about shipping to Arizona or contact Annie Bones, State Relations Coordinator, Wine Institute at 415-356-7530 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Annie Bones, State Relations – Wine Institute