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  • Connecticut Wants You to File Sales Tax Online in 2014

    Wine direct shippers doing business in Connecticut will be required to report and pay sales tax due for all filing frequencies beginning on or after January 1, 2014. This mandate affects direct wine shippers because sales tax remittance is a requirement of their direct shipping license in Connecticut. Currently most shippers file both their sales tax and excise tax returns for Connecticut via paper. After January 1, 2014, however, only excise tax should be remitted via paper mailings. Specific details on this eFile mandate may be found in Informational Publication 2013(15), but below are a few notable details to get filers prepared for this change.

    New e-filing sales tax filers have two options to file sales tax returns: via telephone at 860-289-4829, or via the TSC Online website. Taxpayers need their “Connecticut Tax Registration Number” and PIN or information from a previously filed return to log on to the TSC website. Both of these options allow for sales tax to be paid along with filing the return. Sales tax filers may remit payment via ACH debit (recommended), ACH credit (pre-registration required) or by a credit card (convenience fee assessed). For specific details on each of these payment options please refer to the publication noted above.

    Any sales tax filer that would like to begin filing sales tax online now is allowed to do so; simply choose one of the above options to file and pay sales tax for the last tax return of 2013.

    Is the Marketplace Fairness Act Fair for Wineries?


    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.

    Hidden Costs of Direct Shipping Licensing

    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.

    Bonds

    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.

    Label Registration

    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.

    Application Fees

    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.

    One Less Dry Town in Connecticut

    Back in July of 2005, Connecticut passed legislation affecting direct shipments of wine the entire state. At that time, four towns in Connecticut were dry. As of February 9th, 2009, only three dry towns remain where wine cannot be shipped directly to consumers. The town of Wilton recently held a public hearing in which a board elected to amend Chapter 8, permitting the sale of alcoholic liquor within the city limits. The remaining dry towns are Bridgewater, Eastford and Roxbury, (which translates to the zip codes, 06752, 06242 and 06783, respectively). There is no news on whether or not any changes are expected in the three remaining dry towns.

    Notice

    Connecticut Revises Consumer Aggregate Volume Limit Rule

    The Connecticut Direct Shipping Law has been slightly altered. Wineries with an approved Out-Of-State Wine Shipper’s Permit will be able to ship up to 5 gallons (twenty-five 750 ml bottles) to a consumer every 2 months instead of every 60 days. The change becomes effective October 1, 2007 and should make it easier for wineries to track consumer aggregate volume limits. Under the new law a winery that ships 5 gallons of wine to a consumer on October 12, 2007 cannot ship wine to the same consumer until December 13, 2007. No other Connecticut direct shipping regulations have been changed in any way. Information about how to apply for a CT Out-Of-State Wine Shipper’s Permit is available on the Wine Institute website.

    Free the Grapes! Legislation and Litigation Update

    From Jeremy Benson at Free the Grapes! :

    Free the Grapes! Media Update
    August 2007

    Now that we’re at the end of most state legislative sessions, we thought it timely to provide an update on direct-to-consumer (DTC) wine direct shipping as of month-end July 2007. Here are some highlights, followed by a more detailed description.

    Highlights:

    o DTC legislation was considered in 23 states;
    o Two states transitioned from reciprocal to a DTC permit system (MO, WV) with additional states pending (OR, IL).
    o The legal direct shipping states for wineries represent 78% of wine consumption in the U.S., although retailers can reach far fewer states.

    Wins:

    • Florida: the third largest state for wine enjoyment, remains a legal state for winery shipments after a fierce defense of the court order that allowed shipping;
    • Hawaii: a concerted effort to reduce quantity limits failed;
    • Missouri: transitioned from reciprocal to permit status (no fee);
    • North Dakota: increased shipping quantity limits;
    • Virginia: now allows Internet retailers without a physical presence to direct ship;
    • West Virginia: replaced reciprocal status with permit bill.

    Losses:

    • Arkansas: DTC permit bill failed in committee;
    • New Mexico: reciprocal transition bill failed due largely to opposition by wholesalers and the beer lobby;
    • Georgia: effort to replace cumbersome law with permit bill failed;
    • Texas: passed a law limiting DTC shipping from in-state retailers outside their particular county;
    • Ohio: passed potentially unworkable permit system for DTC shipments, including capacity cap of 150,000 gallons;
    • Legal rulings supported the on-site sale requirement in ME, and opposed a challenge to TN’s shipping prohibition.

    LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
    Wine Institute provided significant input to the following summary of state activity this year.

    States with Legislation Under Consideration

    Wisconsin – For 20 years, Wisconsin has been a reciprocal state, allowing its consumers to purchase wine directly from wineries as well as in-state wine retailers. But consumers will lose these privileges if the Budget Bill passes as it is currently written. Anti-consumer provisions were slipped into the Senate version of the 384-page, $66 billion, two-year Budget Bill in mid-July. The conference committee will now reconcile differences in the Senate and Assembly versions of the budget bill.

    Illinois – House Bill 429 passed both House and Senate and is before the governor for signature. It creates a winery-only DTC shipping permit that replaces the existing reciprocity law. The Specialty Wine Retailers Association was unsuccessful in securing an amendment continuing shipments from out-of-state retailers, although in-state retailers were successful at maintaining their in-state shipping privilege.

    Additional States

    Alaska –House Bill 34 (Ledoux) would specifically allow in-state wineries to make DTC shipments to AK consumers, with a 5-gallon per shipment limit. Status: passed House and Senate, and was signed by the Governor on 5/31/07.

    Arkansas – Senate Bill 592 (Whitaker), a positive bill that would have created a DTC shippers permit for wineries, died in House Rules Committee March 30.

    Connecticut — Senate Bill 1204 was passed into law and changes the time period specified in the DTC shipping statute from 60 days to 2 months for the 5 gallon limit.

    Florida – Shipping into FL is continues to be legal after competing bills—with and without discriminatory capacity caps—were considered but ultimately died in committees.

    Georgia – House Bill 159 (Willard) and its companion Senate Bill 56 (Untermann) would have replaced the state’s convoluted shipping law with a DTC shipping license for all wineries (and retailers in SB56). The bills died in committee. Wholesaler-supported House Bill 393 (Stephens) sought to create new “domestic farm winery” and national “farm winery” categories with discriminatory capacity caps. The bill died in committee.

    Hawaii – House Bill 1093 (Say) and Senate Bill 1019 (Taniguchi) sought to reduce consumer choice by limiting shipments under the existing DTC shipping permit from six cases per winery per consumer per year, to six cases per household per year. Both bills died in committee.

    Idaho – House Bill 11 would have modified the permit legislation passed in 2006 to allow wholesalers and retailers in Idaho and other states to ship wine directly to consumers. Bill died in committee.

    Maine – Senate Bill 54 (Bromley) would have created a DTC shippers permit for wine & beer. The bill passed the Senate on 6/12/07, but was killed in the house later that week.

    Missouri — The Governor of Missouri signed SB 299 transitioning Missouri from a reciprocal state to a permit state effective August 28, 2007. The new permit law requires all wineries to obtain a direct shipping permit (no fee), limit shipments to two cases per consumer per month, submit an annual report by January 31, and pay excise taxes. The direct shipping permit application and instructions are available on the Wine Institute website at www.wineinstitute.org/programs/shipwine.

    Nebraska – L441 (Mcdonald) will allocate funds raised by the existing $500 DTC shipper license fee paid by all wineries to be deposited to the NE Winery and Grape Producers Promotional Fund. The bill was signed by the Governor on May 30, 2007.

    New Mexico – House Bill 1018 (Silva) passed the House, but was killed in the Senate after intense pressure from wholesalers and the beer lobby. It would have replaced reciprocity with a DTC shipping permit for wineries and retailers.

    North Dakota – Senate Bill 2135 was signed into law and makes favorable changes to existing DTC shipping provisions, including: increased quantity limit from one to three cases per month, removed “reciprocal” provision passed in 2005 but never implemented, and removed vague language.

    Ohio – During closing stages of budget process an amendment was adopted that will create a potentially unworkable permit system for DTC shipments into Ohio. The law has a capacity cap of 150,000 gallons, along with “per family household” aggregate limit that may prevent wineries from being able to ship even if they qualify for the permit. The bill was signed by the Governor on June 30 and becomes effective October 1, 2007.

    Oklahoma – Several bills in the House and Senate were introduced, including a voter referendum to allow OK consumers to receive DTC shipments from out-of-state wineries, but a permit system has not been outlined. All bills died in committee.

    Oregon – House Bill 2171 (Minnis) would transition state from a reciprocal DTC to a permit system for wineries and retailers. Status: The bill passed the House & Senate, and was sent to the Governor for signature in June.

    Pennsylvania – House Bill 255 (Godshall) and Senate Bill 293 (Ferlo) are positive DTC shipping permit bills with a $100 registration fee, two cases per month to any individual. Taxes collected. Status: Both bills remain in Committee.

    Tennessee – House Bill 1850 (Todd) creates a DTC shipping permit for 2 cases annually. Provisions: $100 fee, annual reports, annual excise and sales tax payments (companion bill was SB 1977, Stanley). Both bills died in Committee.

    Texas – Senate Bill 1229 (Gallegos) was signed by the governor May 5, and limits the ability of TX retailers to use common carriers for DTC delivery outside their particular county. The bill was aimed at pending litigation spearheaded by the Specialty Wine Retailers Association seeking statewide sales via common carrier.

    Virginia – House Bill 1784 (Cosgrove) and Senate Bill 1289 (Watkins) augmented current direct shipper permit to clarify that those shipments are by common carrier only, and created separate allowance for any legal shipper to make deliveries of up to 4 cases of wine to a consumer in their own vehicle. Additionally, Senate Bill 984 (Edwards) also became law, creating an “internet wine retailer license” to allow sales by a retailer having no physical premise.

    West Virginia – Senate Bill 712 (Kessler) was signed by the governor and, among many other provisions, replaced reciprocity with a DTC permit bill for wineries, wholesalers and retailers.

    LITIGATION UPDATE

    Maine – As previously reported elsewhere, on March 5, U.S. District Court Judge Carter adopted the magistrate’s report and recommendation issued three months ago in the Cherry Hill (Tanford/Epstein) suit. This ruling supports an on-site sale requirement for any sales to consumers, contrary to an opinion rendered in December 2006 in KY ruling that on-site provisions were unconstitutional.

    Tennessee – As previously reported elsewhere, the U.S. District Court in Tennessee ruled in favor of the state regarding what most thought was an ill-advised lawsuit (Jelovsek v. Bresden). The plaintiffs alleged that consumers faced a greater burden in traveling to another state to purchase wine in person at a winery than they faced in buying wine directly from a TN winery tasting room. The judge was not convinced, and the wholesalers have promoted their “victory” to bolster arguments for the preeminence of the 3-tier system in all matters.

    Texas – All summary judgment motions have been filed. Oral arguments are scheduled for September 21 in Dallas. Wholesalers claim that passage of Senate Bill 1229 moots this lawsuit (see Texas paragraph under legislation, above).

    Massachusetts — Motions for summary judgment are expected this winter in the case that seeks to overturn the 30,000 gallon production cap in the DTC law. Family Winemakers of California is the lead plaintiff.