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City Tax in Arizona: Get with the Program… and the Non-Program

Just as a state can create their own alcoholic beverage regulations, so can they implement their own, distinct, taxing regulations. Arizona has recently clarified their sales tax requirements, applicable to wineries licensed to sell offsite sales of wine directly to Arizona consumers.

According to the Arizona Department of Revenue, sales tax (called, “transaction privilege or use” tax) must be remitted on a local basis. This is the way Arizona tax has been handled since Arizona first became available to direct shippers in September of 2006; tax rates are based on the destination of the order. Most cities in Arizona have the State Department of Revenue collect their taxes for them. However, there are thirteen cities within Arizona that collect their own taxes. These cities are commonly referred to as “Non-Program” Cities. Non-Program Cities collect their own taxes independently from the State. This means direct wine shippers are required to register with all of the thirteen Non-Program cities that they ship to, individually, and remit separate sales tax returns to each of the cites they are registered with.

What does this mean to you? If you are licensed to sell wine directly to consumers in Arizona, you must contact each of the Non-Program cities directly in order to register to collect and remit sales tax with each Non-Program city (this is in addition to becoming licensed to pay County and “Program-City” tax with the state of Arizona). Only wineries that produce less than 20,000 gallons per year can currently become licensed to ship wine directly to consumers in Arizona via the Out-of-State Domestic Farm Winery permit. Wineries that produce more than 20,000 gallons and wineries without a permit can ship onsite sales to Arizona without a permit. In this scenario, wineries are not required to remit sales tax.

The thirteen Non-Program cities are: Apache Junction, Avondale, Chandler, Flagstaff, Glendale, Mesa, Nogales, Peoria, Phoenix, Prescott, Scottsdale, Tempe, and Tucson. A sales tax license usually costs around $50 per city annually, in addition to an application fee, which can range from $0 to $25.

Wine Distribution Notes – Release 28

The latest version of Notes on Wine Distribution by R. Corbin Houchins is now available for viewing or downloading. Release 28 highlights changes in the following categories: Age & Identity Verification, Rethinking Reciprocity and State Notes, specifically Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Ohio, Oregon and Pennsylvania. Headings of sections with substantial changes since the preceding release (published in early April, 2008) are highlighted, so that you can easily find the updated sections.

You can always view the most current version of Houchins’s Notes on Wine Distribution by visiting ShipCompliantBlog.com and clicking on the “Wine Distribution Notes” link under “Compliance Resources” on the right-hand side of the page.

Arizona Confirms a Minor Change to its Direct-To-Consumer Law

The Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses & Control has confirmed a minor change to its direct-to-consumer wine shipping regulations, effective immediately. Under the original interpretation of the direct shipping law Arizona residents could not receive direct-to-consumer wine shipments unless they purchased the wine on-site, and shipments did not exceed 2 cases per consumer per year.

The new interpretation of the law allows wineries to ship to Arizona consumers, as long as the consumer has physically visited the winery at anytime during the calendar year prior to placing the order. Now Arizona consumers who have visited the winery may place off-site orders and have multiple shipments of wine sent to them so long as the combined shipment (throughout the calendar year) does not exceed the 2 case limit. If Arizona consumers wish to have additional wine shipped to themselves in subsequent 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”.

Please visit the Wine Institute website for additional information about shipping to Arizona s or contact Annie Bones, State Relations Coordinator, Wine Institute, at 415-356-7530 or abones@wineinstitute.org.

*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 not affected by this change.

Annie Bones, State Relations – Wine Institute

Caps Off to Dolan's Intentions

In October of last year, wineries began shipping directly to Ohio residents under a new direct shipping permit law. When the provisions of the law in Ohio were first announced, one of the major subjects of controversy was the capacity cap, which only allows wineries that produce less than 150,000 gallons annually to obtain a permit. Capacity caps continue to be a subject of controversy in all the states that use them (currently Arizona, Massachusetts, Indiana Kentucky and Ohio; Florida could adopt a 250,000 gallon cap if SB1096 or HB1293 is passed).

Continuing the controversy, Ohio Representative Matthew J. Dolan is looking to increase the capacity cap for wineries from 150,000 to 250,000. Though the increase in production volume may be a “little step” in the right direction, it certainly seems like a very little step, allowing only 17 more California wine labels to be shipped to Ohio residents. According to The Plain Dealer, Dolan originally vowed to eliminate the cap altogether, but got a lot of pushback from the Ohio Department of Commerce and from Ohio Distributors (as Uncorked points out, “no surprise”).

Just next door, Indiana also prevents wineries producing over a certain amount of wine per year from shipping directly to its residents. Indiana’s original capacity cap was 500,000, but will increase on July 1, 2008 to 1,000,000 gallons since SB0107 was signed on March 13th by governor Daniels. Though this is the highest volume cap of the four states that have said restrictions,

Many will agree that any permit system that discriminates against a winery for the amount of wine produced is not an ideal permit system. Furthermore, the constitutionality of these caps is being challenged through litigation (see Family Winemakers of California vs. Jenkins). State legislators may adopt a capacity cap restriction for any number of reasons, but none of them seem very fair. The state may claim that it is trying to protect its own wineries by establishing the volume cap just above that of the highest producing in-state winery, but who else is being protected while the consumer’s interests fall by the wayside?

Update: In our original post, we mistakenly stated that that Indiana has a capacity cap that is similar to OH, KY, MA, and AZ. The 500,000 gallon “cap” in Indiana that will increase to 1,000,000 gallons on July 1st, 2008 only applies to wineries in that the applicant must not sell more than this amount of wine per year IN Indiana, excluding wine shipped to an out-of-state address.

Caps Off to Dolan’s Intentions

In October of last year, wineries began shipping directly to Ohio residents under a new direct shipping permit law. When the provisions of the law in Ohio were first announced, one of the major subjects of controversy was the capacity cap, which only allows wineries that produce less than 150,000 gallons annually to obtain a permit. Capacity caps continue to be a subject of controversy in all the states that use them (currently Arizona, Massachusetts, Indiana Kentucky and Ohio; Florida could adopt a 250,000 gallon cap if SB1096 or HB1293 is passed).

Continuing the controversy, Ohio Representative Matthew J. Dolan is looking to increase the capacity cap for wineries from 150,000 to 250,000. Though the increase in production volume may be a “little step” in the right direction, it certainly seems like a very little step, allowing only 17 more California wine labels to be shipped to Ohio residents. According to The Plain Dealer, Dolan originally vowed to eliminate the cap altogether, but got a lot of pushback from the Ohio Department of Commerce and from Ohio Distributors (as Uncorked points out, “no surprise”).

Just next door, Indiana also prevents wineries producing over a certain amount of wine per year from shipping directly to its residents. Indiana’s original capacity cap was 500,000, but will increase on July 1, 2008 to 1,000,000 gallons since SB0107 was signed on March 13th by governor Daniels. Though this is the highest volume cap of the four states that have said restrictions,

Many will agree that any permit system that discriminates against a winery for the amount of wine produced is not an ideal permit system. Furthermore, the constitutionality of these caps is being challenged through litigation (see Family Winemakers of California vs. Jenkins). State legislators may adopt a capacity cap restriction for any number of reasons, but none of them seem very fair. The state may claim that it is trying to protect its own wineries by establishing the volume cap just above that of the highest producing in-state winery, but who else is being protected while the consumer’s interests fall by the wayside?

Update: In our original post, we mistakenly stated that that Indiana has a capacity cap that is similar to OH, KY, MA, and AZ. The 500,000 gallon “cap” in Indiana that will increase to 1,000,000 gallons on July 1st, 2008 only applies to wineries in that the applicant must not sell more than this amount of wine per year IN Indiana, excluding wine shipped to an out-of-state address.

An Accident On The Way To Court

The February 26, 2008 decision by an Arizona federal district court in Black Star Farms LLC v. Oliver supports an in-person purchase requirement, one of the principal legislative attacks on the level-field principle enunciated in Granholm.

In-person purchase as a precondition to direct shipment solves a fundamental political problem for the middle tier. Although Granholm allows states to eliminate discrimination against interstate direct shipment by forbidding in-state shipment, pursuing that “level down” strategy requires extravagant expenditure of political capital, because it constitutes a death sentence for a significant fraction of local wineries. Thus, wholesaler trade associations are faced with reconciling survival of direct shipment for local wineries with the core objective of forcing wineries in other states to go through three tiers, a conceptual problem after Granholm.

The solution is the “accident of geography” theory, which contends that the impracticality of, e.g., an Arizona consumer’s visiting a Yakima Valley winery to place an order for a wine advertised on the Internet, compared to the convenience of visiting an Arizona winery for the same purpose, does not discriminate against interstate commerce. The Black Star court, like a New York federal district court in Buy Right, Inc. v. Boyle and a Tennessee federal district court in Jelovsek v. Bresden, appears to have bought the theory; federal district courts in the Kentucky case, Cherry Hill Vineyards, LLC v. Hudgins, and the Indiana case, Baud v. Heath, rejected it. Appeals are reportedly under way in the fourth, sixth and seventh federal circuits; if the plaintiffs appeal in Black Star, the ninth circuit will also be involved.

At first impression, the wholesalers’ argument does not seem logical. With respect to governmental restrictions, the Commerce Clause is supposed to provide equal access to markets for interstate commerce originating in any location. True, it does not require states to neutralize natural effects of geography, such as the greater cost of shipping from a distant point, but the trade restriction in question arises from the legislative pen, not from geography itself. For legislation, the Commerce Clause supports location parity by voiding state enactments with substantial discriminatory effects, including the effect of leveraging location advantages of local businesses against distant competitors.

Ironically, the court in Black Star appears to have recognized that aspect of the Commerce Clause, as it cited a 1994 Supreme Court case on the subject, C & A Carbone, Inc. v. Clarkstown, which invalidated a facially neutral city ordinance requiring all nonhazardous solid waste received and processed in the town to be deposited at the defendant township’s transfer station. The fatal flaw of the Clarkstown ordinance was that in practice it favored local waste management business to the exclusion of all non-local competition, which sounds pretty similar to a three-tier requirement for out-of-state businesses, but the Black Star court decided not to follow that precedent for reasons that are difficult to divine in its opinion.

There is, nevertheless, a solid basis for the anti-trade result in Black Star and other recent cases, which is widely (and perhaps erroneously) understood as endorsement of a geographic accident defense to Granholm-based suits. If there were only one message I’d want readers of these blogs and Notes on Wine Distribution to take away from discussion of Granholm, it would be the enormous evidentiary difference between a facial discrimination case like Granholm itself and a de facto discrimination case like Black Star. The latter category, which includes challenges to volume caps as well as to on-site limitations, requires much more extensive preparation, with economic expert testimony, to satisfy the plaintiffs’ substantial burden of proof. The Black Star judge underlines that point in refusing to reach the same result as Hudgins and Baude: “However, Plaintiffs proffer no evidence to suggest that such a limited exception, applicable to both in-state and out-of-state wineries, erects a barrier to Arizona’s wine market that in effect creates a burden that alters the proportional share of the wine market in favor of in-state wineries, such that out-of-state wineries are unable to effectively compete in the Arizona market.” Providing the kind of evidence the court would have to see before invalidating a facially neutral statute adds something like $150,000 on top of all the other costs of the litigation, which should be a sobering, but not surprising, fact for enthusiasts of law reform by litigation, and especially for those who think Granholm provides a lay-down slam in direct shipment cases.