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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.

The Lone Reciprocal State

New Mexico Stands Alone

Offsite Wine Shipping MapIn 2004, 13 states had wine shipping reciprocity provisions. Essentially, reciprocal states allowed any winery to ship into their state as long as that winery’s state allowed an equal reciprocal privilege. The Granholm decision of 2005 effectively declared reciprocity unconstitutional (pop quiz: would reciprocity provisions be beyond challenge if HR 5034 passed?). Since then, 12 of the 13 reciprocal states have adopted permit systems that allow wineries from any state to ship in as long as they stay in compliance with the direct shipping rules.  Now that Iowa’s new permit system is live, New Mexico stands alone as the only remaining reciprocal state. Previous attempts to bring New Mexico into compliance with Granholm have to date been unsuccessful, so the reciprocity statutes remain in effect.

Don’t Forget to Remit Iowa Excise Taxes

Speaking of Iowa, effective July 1st wineries from any state (previously the reciprocity provision restricted the states from which wineries could ship into Iowa) can ship into Iowa so long as they are actively licensed as a "Wine Direct Shipper". Licensed shippers are required to remit excise tax monthly to the Iowa Department of Commerce – Alcoholic Beverages Division (ABD), and the first excise tax report is due this month. Each monthly report should be postmarked by the 10th of the month.

Although it’s possible that electronic filing may be available in the near future, for now the ABD is requiring that licensees complete the Report of Wine Shipments to Iowa Consumers spreadsheet, print it out, and mail it to:

Iowa Dept. of Commerce, Alcoholic Beverages Divisions
ATTN: Tax Division
1918 S. E. Hulsizer Road
Ankeny, IA 50021.

The form is fairly self-explanatory. For each shipment, licensees fill out the name and address of the recipient, the date of shipment, invoice number, total gallons of wine shipped, the shipping company (UPS, FedEx Express, or FedEx Ground), the amount of wine tax owed (multiply total gallons by $1.75), the permit number of the shipping company (UPS=AC0000003, FedEx Express=AC0000002, and FedEx Ground=AC0000001), and the tracking number of the package(s) that shipped. Reporting the tracking number and shipping company is not new to wineries as New York, Missouri, and Virginia all require one of the two data points.

Once you have completed filling out the spreadsheet, print out the completed form and make your payment out to “Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division”. Stuff your envelope with the form and the check, and make sure it is postmarked by August 10th!

Set Your Sights on the Hawkeye State: Get Started by Applying for a Direct Shipping License in Iowa

iowa

The direct shipping applications for Iowa are now available. As of July 1, 2010 Iowa will require wineries to obtain a direct shipping license to ship wine directly to consumers. Previously a reciprocal state, Iowa’s borders will soon be open to all wineries across the country who obtain a permit, regardless of reciprocity status with the state. Additionally, there are no restrictive requirements on the winery (such as a volume production cap), making Iowa’s market accessible to all permitted wineries.

The permit application can only be completed online at Iowa’s elicensing website. You may view Iowa’s user guide for instructions on how to begin the licensing process. The “Wine Direct Shippers License (DS)” requires a fee of $25 and a $5,000 bond. Though the direct shipper license application is completed online, copies of state and federal winery licenses, and bond should be mailed to the Iowa Department of Commerce, Alcoholic Beverages Division. Monthly reports and excise taxes are required although they have yet to release these forms. Iowa will not require wine direct shippers to collect sales tax. Start your application process today and be one of the first to become compliant in Iowa.

Iowa Governor Signs Direct Shipping Legislation

On March 10, 2010, Governor Culver signed Senate Bill 2088 which includes provisions to transition Iowa from a reciprocal shipping state to a permit state and allow unlimited direct-to-consumer shipments. The legislation will become effective on July 1, 2010, and brings Iowa into compliance with the Supreme Court’s 2005 Granholm v. Heald ruling by allowing all in-state and out-of-state wineries to ship to consumers in Iowa. Beginning July 1, 2010, wineries will be required to have a permit in order to ship to Iowa consumers. The permit fee is $25 and must be renewed annually. In addition, direct shippers will be required to obtain a bond, file monthly reports and pay excise taxes. The direct shipping permit application will be posted on the Wine Institute website as soon as it becomes available, along with any updates on the application process.

Free The Grapes! legislative update

Free the Grapes! recently provided an update on direct to consumer shipping legislation and litigation for 2007. As you can see below, many changes are likely to come this year.

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

Wine Institute provided the following summary of direct shipping legislation around the country.

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 2/14/07 and moves to Senate Community and Regional Affairs and to Senate Labor and Commerce.

Arkansas – Senate Bill 592 (Whitaker), a positive bill, creates a DTC shippers permit for wineries. Provisions include: 24 cases annually, $10 permit application fee, sales and excise tax payments annually. Status: Introduced.

Connecticut — Senate Bill 1204 (Joint Committee on General Law) makes a change to the time period specified in the DTC shipping statute from 60 days to 2 months for the 5 gallon limit. Status: Passed out of General Law on 2/27/07.

Florida – Shipping into FL is currently legal. Senate Bill 126 (Saunders) and SB 2282 (Geller) would implement a version of the industry’s model direct shipping bill, but both bills include a discriminatory 250,000 gallon capacity cap opposed by consumers and wineries. Alternatively, House Bill 1217 (Bogdanoff) does not include a cap.

Georgia – House Bill 159 (Willard) and its companion Senate Bill 56 (Untermann) create a DTC shipping license for all wineries (and retailers in SB56), repealing existing law which prohibits wineries with a wholesaler from obtaining a license. Other provisions: $100 permit fee, 24-case annual limit, sales and excise taxes to be collected. This bill is getting industry support.

The wholesaler’s House Bill 393 (Stephens) includes a discriminatory 100,000 gallon capacity cap, creates a new “domestic farm winery” using at least 50% GA grapes, and a national “farm winery” definition of a winery under 100,000 gallons that uses at least 40% grapes from its state of domicile. Such wineries can obtain a DTC shipping permit to ship up to 20 cases of wine per consumer annually. Status: Favorably reported out of House Regulated Industries Committee on 2/21/07.

Hawaii – Two bills, House Bill 1093 (Say) and Senate bill 1019 (Taniguchi), appear to be dead in committee. They would have reduced consumer choice by limiting shipments under the existing DTC shipping permit to 6 cases annually per household from an aggregate of wineries (current system is 6 cases per winery).

Idaho – House Bill 11 would modify the permit legislation passed in 2006 to allow wholesalers and retailers in Idaho and other states to ship wine directly to consumers. Status: Referred to House Revenue and Taxation on 1/22/07.

Illinois – House Bill 429 (Acevedo) is similar to last year’s transition bill that creates a winery-only DTC shipping permit to replace the existing reciprocity law. Provisions include a tiered permit fee based on size of the winery from $150 to $1,000, 12 cases annually, with sales and excise tax collection. Free the Grapes! is encouraging inclusion of retailers in the bill. Status: Passed from House Consumer Protection Committee on 2/20/07 by vote of 11-0. There is also a similar bill in the Senate (SB123, Silverstein).

Iowa – ABC hearings were held on 2/24/07. The ABC recommended to legislators that the reciprocity statute be replaced with a DTC shipping permit system. Other proposals addressed at the hearing include changing the local winery preferential tax rate, changes in Iowa wine labeling rules for IA wineries, and changes to existing designation of 5% of wine tax revenues to Iowa Wine Development Board. Status: Awaiting action by legislature.

Maine – Senate Bill 54 (Bromley) creates DTC shippers permit for wine & beer. Winery or retailer obtains a COA and nonresident shipper’s license ($100 fee). Annual sales and excise tax payments required. Status: Introduced.

Missouri – House Bill 944 (Cooper) creates a DTC permit for wineries to ship 2 cases per month, and requires permit and tax collection. Carriers must obtain permit. Amendment to add retailers drafted on 2/26/07. Status: Introduced.

Montana – Senate Bill 524 (Wanzenried) proposes changes such as adding “purposely, knowingly or negligently” language to the connoisseur’s license, which does not currently work for consumers or wineries. Status: Reported “Do Pass” from Senate Business, Labor and Economic Affairs on 2/21/07.

New Mexico – House Bill 1018 (Silva) creates DTC shipping permit for wineries and retailers to replace reciprocity. Provisions: $50 fee, pay excise and Gross Receipts Tax, 24 cases annually. Status: Passed favorably on 9-1 vote from House Business & Industries Committee on 2/25/07. Companion bill is Senate Bill 1047 (Taylor).

New York – Interestingly, Assembly Bill 4345 (Destito) replicates the wine DTC shipping program for beer manufacturers and beer wholesalers. Free the Grapes! has no activities or campaigns concerning this bill because it deals with beer and not wine. Status: Introduced.

North Dakota – Senate Bill 2135 (Senate Finance and Taxation Committee) makes changes to existing DTC shipping statute. Provisions: increases amount of shipments to 3 cases per month (currently 1 case per month), removes “reciprocal” provision passed in 2005 but never implemented. Removed vague language that could have been interpreted to allow an in-state winery to also hold a wholesalers license – clarifies no self-distribution, which was believed to be the case by in-state industry at this time anyway. Status: Passed Senate 1/23/07 and now to House Finance and Taxation.

Oklahoma – Several bills in the House and Senate have been introduced, several of which request a voter referendum to allow OK consumers to receive DTC shipments from out-of-state wineries, but a permit system has not been outlined.

Oregon – House Bill 2171 (Minnis) transitions OR from a reciprocal DTC to a permit system. Would cover wineries only. Status: Introduced. This is the OLCC bill. House Bill 2488 (House Business and Labor Committee) is similar, allowing wineries, retailers and “associations” to obtain permits. $50 fee. Excise taxes to be paid. Unlimited shipments. Status: Introduced.

Pennsylvania – House Bill 255 (Godshall) is a positive DTC shipping permit bill with a $100 registration fee, 2 cases per month to any individual. Taxes collected. Status: Introduced.

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. Status: Introduced. Companion bill in Senate (1977, Stanley).

Virginia – Senate Bill 984 (Edwards) creates an “internet wine retailer license” to allow sales by a retailer having no physical premise. Status: Passed both House and Senate and sent to Governor on 2/22/07.

West Virginia – Senate Bill 712 (Kessler) is an omnibus liquor bill, that among many provisions, includes creation of a DTC shipping permit for wineries, wholesalers and retailers. Provisions include: $150 permit fee, 2 cases per month, sales and excise tax payments. Removes self distribution privilege for instate wineries. Original 50% tax increase has been removed. Creates a “wine spa” license, a wine B&B license, and a “mini” winery license to replace farm winery permits.

LITIGATION UPDATE

Texas — The Specialty Wine Retailers Association (SWRA, www.specialtywineretailers.org) litigation in Texas to address that state’s discriminatory stance between in-state and out-of-state retailers is in its discovery phase. Until the case is decided, out-of-state retailers may continue to ship to Texas consumers.

Massachusetts — The Family Winemakers of California reports that its lawsuit against the State of Massachusetts seeking to overturn the 30,000 gallon production cap in the DTC law is still in the discovery phase. Once discovery is complete both sides will be preparing motions for summary judgment for later in the year.

Direct shipping bill passes West Virginia Congress

In May of 2005, in the case of Granholm v. Heald, the United States Supreme Court effectively invalidated the practice of reciprocity because it discriminates against wineries in non-reciprocal states. At that time, there were 13 reciprocity states. Today, there are only seven reciprocity states left (Oregon, New Mexico, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, and West Virginia), and at the end of 2007 there may be only two as Oregon, New Mexico, Missouri, Illinois, and West Virginia have legislation pending that would move their states into the “limited direct”, or permit state category.

West Virginia may be the first reciprocal state to change in 2007. Senate Bill 712 recently passed the West Virginia Congress and is expected to be signed by the Governor. This bill would create a permit system where in-state and out-of-state wineries can apply for and receive a license to ship up to two cases of wine per month directly to adult residents. Permitted wineries would be responsible for reporting monthly excise tax (beginning July 1, 2007), sales tax, and a schedule of shipments made in the previous month. The permit would cost “One hundred fifty dollars per year for a direct shipper’s license for a licensee who sells and ships only wine and two hundred fifty dollars for a direct shipper’s license who ships and sells wine, nonfortified dessert wine, port, sherry or Madeira wines” plus a brand registration fee of $100 per brand for three years. Common carriers shipping into WV would be required to collect an adult signature upon delivery of wine packages.

One thing to note about this bill is that it would level-down on self-distribution, meaning that in-state wineries would lose their privilege to ship wine directly to retailers. There are also some requirements that are a bit gray as they are written, but will hopefully be sorted out and clarified after the bill is signed by the Governor and the rules are promulgated by the Alcohol Beverage Control Commissioner.