Kentucky Election Day Bill Creates New License for Out-of-State Wine and Spirits Suppliers

All out-of-state wine and distilled spirits suppliers that sell to Kentucky distributors are now required to obtain an “Out-of-State Distilled Spirits/Wine Producer/Supplier License” following the passage of SB 13 in April. Before this bill became effective on June 25, 2013, suppliers still needed to register their brands with the ABC prior to selling to Kentucky distributors but did not need to obtain a license. In an informative fact sheet, Kentucky explains SB 13 was “…a much needed ‘clean up’ of existing statutory problems and inconsistencies that existed in Kentucky law without changing or expanding existing license privileges.” By now, most current out-of-state wine and spirits suppliers have received an application packet from the Kentucky Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to apply for the new license, needed in order to continue selling to their Kentucky distributors.

SB 13, originally a bill to allow for sales of alcoholic beverages on election days, went through several amendments that also added changes to current law in regards to sampling allowances, elections of wet/dry location changes, and numerous updates to the alcoholic beverage licensing system. These added amendments included the creation of the Out-of-State Distilled Spirits/Wine Producer/Supplier Licenses and accompanying fees:

  • “Out-of-state Distilled Spirits/Wine Producer/Supplier” – 50,000 gallons or more produced imported annually. $1550/year or $3100/two years
  • “Limited Out-of-State Distilled Spirits/Wine Producer/Supplier” – 2001 to 49,999 gallons produced imported annually. $260/year or $520/two years
  • “Micro Out-of-State Distilled Spirits/Wine Producer/Supplier” – 2000 gallons or less produced imported annually. $10/year or $20/two years

If you are an out-of-state wine/spirits supplier that has not yet applied for the new license, or if you wish to begin selling to Kentucky distributors, fill out the application for an Out-of-State Distilled Spirits/Wine Producer/Supplier License and submit to the state, or contact the Kentucky ABC at (502) 564-4850 for further assistance.

UPDATE: License fees are based off of gallons imported into the state of Kentucky on an annual basis-not overall annual production.

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.

Notes on Wine Distribution v.32

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

Kentucky On-Site Requirement Invalidated, but Questions Remain

On December 24th, the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed, in the Cherry Hill case, the judgment of the district court, invalidating the on-site purchase requirement.

The district court ruled, pursuant to the Supreme Court’s decision in Granholm v. Heald, 544 U.S. 460 (2005), that the in-person purchase requirement in portions of Kentucky’s statutory scheme discriminated against interstate commerce by limiting the ability of out-of-state small farm wineries to sell and ship wine to Kentucky consumers.

Although this decision sets an important precedent, especially in light of a contradictory decision in Indiana, several questions remain unresolved. Despite the justifiably positive news in the press, direct shipping to Kentucky seems unlikely in the near term.

The biggest obstacle is the fact that the common carriers (FedEx and UPS) have not approved the state of Kentucky for direct shipping. Among other reasons for not yet opening up the Bluegrass State, the carriers are not thrilled about dealing with the 53 Dry and 16 Moist counties.

Furthermore, in spite of the recent victory in Massachusetts where the 30,000 gallon capacity cap was declared unconstitutional, the Cherry Hill challenge of the 50,000 gallon capacity cap in Kentucky was not successful. So, even if the carriers approved Kentucky for shipping, only “small farm” wineries would be eligible for a permit.

Corbin Houchins provided great analysis of the original district court ruling two years ago, and I recommend revisiting that post for more information on Cherry Hill. He highlighted an additional question about the two case “per visit” limit, and how that would apply given the unconstitutionality of the on-site visit requirement.

Cherry Hill Decision

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.