Application forms to direct ship wine to Michigan are now available!

Michigan�s direct shipping application process appears to be very straightforward (at least compared to other forms I have read through recently). Wineries who wish to ship wine directly to Michigan consumers must complete the Michigan Liquor Control Commission�s (MLCC) Direct Shipper Application, pay the $100 permit fee and register with the Michigan Department of Treasury. Wineries can register with the Department of Treasury by completing Sales/Use Tax Registration Form 518. All forms can be found by going to Wine Institute�s Direct Shipping web site at www.wineinstitute.org/shipwine/ and selecting Michigan under the State Shipping Laws section.

Michigan will begin issuing Direct Shipper Permits on April 1, 2006. Wineries who submit their applications after April 1 will have to wait about two weeks for their applications to be processed. Once a winery has received their approved Direct Shipper Permit it must register their brands. A password will be sent with the approved Direct Shipper Application that allows the winery to logon to the Michigan website www.michigan.gov/cis/ and register their brands. If registering online isn�t for you or your computer just exploded it is also possible to register brands by sending the information in via U.S. mail.

Okay, you have your license and registered the brands. It�s time to sell your wine, but make sure you only sell wines to consumers whose age has been verified as being 21 or older. Age can be verified by obtaining a copy of the consumer�s photo ID or by using an Age Verification Service, such as ChoicePoint.

Wineries must pay a 6% sales tax on all direct shipments. Sales Tax payments will be due either monthly, quarterly or annually. The payment schedule is determined by your estimated total sales. Wineries are also responsible for submitting the Michigan Wine Tax Report and payment of excise taxes quarterly. This is a little confusing because the Michigan Wine Tax Report has instructions to be filed monthly � ignore the instructions � the form has not been updated since the new law passed.

I hope the application process goes smoothly for you. I know there are a lot of Michigan consumers anxiously awaiting their shipments!

Compromise in Michigan

Michigan wineries and the Michigan Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association may be close to a compromise in the Senate that would allow limited direct shipping of wine by out of state wineries. The Michigan House passed HB 4959, which would “allow limited wine shipments by Michigan and out-of-state wineries to individual Michigan consumers but would ban wineries from shipping directly to retailers and restaurants”.

Granholm v. Heald

On May 16th, 2005, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a landmark decision in the case of Granholm, Governor of Michigan, Et Al, v. Heald Et. Al.. We will discuss this case at length in this blog, but let’s start with the basics.

You can see the official Supreme Court decision here, but the key passage from Justice Kennedy’s opinion follows:

These consolidated cases present challenges to state laws regulating the sale of wine from out-of-state wineries to consumers in Michigan and New York. The details and mechanics of the two regulatory schemes differ, but the object and effect of the laws are the same: to allow in-state wineries to sell wine directly to consumers in that State but to prohibit out-of-state wineries from doing so, or, at the least, to make direct sales impractical from an economic standpoint. It is evident that the object and design of the Michigan and New York statutes is to grant in-state wineries a competitive advantage over wineries located beyond the States� borders. We hold that the laws in both States discriminate against interstate commerce in violation of the Commerce Clause, Art. I, �8, cl. 3, and that the discrimination is neither authorized nor permitted by the Twenty-first Amendment. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which invalidated the Michigan laws; and we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which upheld the New York laws.

Basically, because the states of New York and Michigan were allowing in-state wineries to ship directly to consumers while prohibiting out-of-state wineries from shipping directly to consumers in their state, the states were in violation of the Commerce Clause.

As a result, states must treat in-state and out-of-state wineries evenhandedly. This effectively means that states have two options – allow both in-state wineries and out-of-state wineries to ship directly to consumers in their state or prohibit direct shipments altogether.