While the Autumn Leaves Change in Montana, So Do Their Wine Direct Shipping Regulations


Montana’s new direct shipping law goes into effect October 1 and will replace the current “Wine Connoisseur’s License” process with a “Direct Shipping Endorsement” permit system. Applications for authorization to ship directly to consumers in Montana are now available. Overall, the new law and licensing process are fairly simple; the Endorsement fee will cost $50 and the winery will also have to pay the applicable Foreign Winery registration fee, depending on how many cases the winery expects to send into Montana. Effective Tuesday, October 1, wineries must have the Endorsement in order to ship to consumers in Montana.

Wineries that have been direct shipping wine via the now-obsolete “Wine Connoisseurs License” process, or wineries that have been selling to Montana distributors, will likely already have a Foreign Winery License. Wineries already holding the Foreign Winery License may submit an application for the new Direct Shipping Endorsement with the Foreign Winery’s 2013-2014 license renewal application, or if wineries have already renewed their Foreign Winery License or are Domestic Winery licensees, the Endorsement Application may be filed separately. Wineries that are not already licensed as a Foreign Winery will need to apply for the Foreign Winery License and “Direct Shipment Endorsement” box on the Foreign Winery License Registration form.

What else needs to be done to become compliant and licensed? Many of the specifics of the law change are noted in our previous blog post and in Montana’s 2013 Legislative Wrap-up. Below are some items wineries will need to know during the process of becoming licensed.

1. Fulfillment, Carrier and Distributor Notifications

  • Direct Shippers must notify the Department of any fulfillment houses that will send shipments to Montana consumers on behalf of the licensed winery. Submit the name and the address of the fulfillment warehouse you will use with your Endorsement Application, or anytime you plan to begin using a fulfillment warehouse.
  • Direct Shipper applicants must send a written statement acknowledging that they will only contract with common carriers that agree to deliver table wine only to consumers who are at least 21 years of age.
  • Distributor agreements must be submitted along with the Foreign Winery Application. However, if the Foreign Winery applicant intends to ship only to onsumers in Montana, no distributors need to be noted in Section 6 of the application, and therefore no agreements need be included.

2. Label Registrations

  • Foreign Winery applicants may register their labels via the paper application and must include copies of the COLAs that they will ship into the state. Approval of these labels must be received before shipping them into the state.
  • Wineries already licensed as a Foreign Winery should register their products online through the Montana TaxPayer Access Point (TAP) system. Labels being sold both to wholesalers and to consumers in Montana only need to be registered once. There is no fee for registering labels.

The Wine Connoisseur’s License will remain effective until October 1 for any current connoisseur licensees who opted to renew their license for a shortened period of July 1 – September 30 of the 2013 year. After October 1, consumers in Montana purchasing wine will not need to obtain a connoisseur’s license, but will still need a connoisseur’s license to purchase beer if they wish to receive shipments from registered breweries, as beer was not included in the changes enacted by HB 402.

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.

October 1st Brings New Direct Wine Shipping Regulations to Montana

Montana House Bill 402 was signed by Governor Bullock on April 12, 2013 and creates workable direct wine shipping laws in the state. The new law, effective on October 1, 2013, will replace the flawed consumer licensing system presently in place for wine shipping in Montana.

Current regulations require that out-of-state wineries ship only to residents who hold a “Connoisseur’s License“; proof of the consumer license and a special sticker to affix to the shipping box must be provided to the winery before the shipment can be made. The new regulations will require out-of-state wineries to:

  • Register as a Foreign Winery or Importer. Many wineries already hold this license as it allows a winery to sell to a Montana distributor (cost of license is $0 to $400 annually, depending on volume sold in Montana; no-cost product registrations are required as part of becoming licensed)
  • Apply for a $50 annual direct shipping endorsement
  • Supply to Montana the name and address of any utilized fulfillment warehouses
  • Submit written acknowledgement of contracting only with common carriers that agree to deliver wine only to individuals who are of age and who provide a signature upon delivery
  • Ship no more than 18 cases of wine annually to an individual consumer (up from 12 cases/year)
  • Submit excise tax and shipment reports by the 15th of every month

While Montana’s regulations for direct wine shipments are changing, the connoisseur’s licensing system remains in place for shipments of beer from out-of-state breweries. UPS and FedEx, however, do not accept shipments of beer or spirits for delivery to consumers.

We will keep you informed of any updates from the Montana Liquor Control Division regarding the endorsement process once the details become available.

To Stay Afloat, Here is a Life Buoy of Wine Compliance Legislative Updates

As the snow melts here in Boulder, it’s time for a status update on the direct shipping bills we expected to see in 2013, as well as other notable legislation.

1. How are Direct Shipping Bills Stacking Up?

Massachusetts has seen six direct shipping bills introduced this session, and though there hasn’t been much movement yet, HB 294 has the most promise – especially since former New England Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe has recently announced his support for this direct shipping bill.

Pennsylvania currently has three direct shipping bills under consideration: HB 121, SB 36, and SB 101. Only HB 121 has moved out of committee, but all three bills are being considered as part of the privatization push in the state. These bills will move forward if and when an agreement is reached on which portions of the modernization efforts are going to be moved independently from one another. Currently, all three of these bills include the very high “Johnstown Flood Tax” rates – 18% to 24%. The Wine Institute is working to negotiate a lower tax rate before passage of any of these three bills occurs.

Montana, which is effectively closed to direct shipping because of the problematic “connoisseur’s license” system, should see a change when HB 402 is made law. The legislation would replace the wine connoisseur’s license with a direct shipping “supplement”, available to Montana wineries and to out-of-state wineries holding an Importer License. Breweries, however, would still be subject to connoisseur license regulations. HB 402 has passed both the House and Senate, and is on its way to the governor’s desk for his expected signature.

Arkansas’ House and Senate passed HB 1749, a very restrictive direct shipping bill sponsored by the Speaker of the House. The bill was signed by Governor Mike Beebe on March 21, 2013, turning it into law. Act 483 will open up “direct shipping” to Arkansas consumers by wineries that obtain a $25 annual permit. All orders must be placed in person, at the winery; internet orders will not be allowed. Additionally, permit holders may only ship one case per calendar quarter to an individual’s residence only, state sales taxes and excise taxes must be paid, and a special label provided by the ABC at the cost of no more than $10 per label must be on all shipments.

In Delaware, HB 60 was introduced on March 21, 2013; this bill would allow wineries to ship 12 cases annually under a new $100 permit program. Excise taxes would be paid quarterly, and carriers would be required to obtain a permit as well.

A direct shipping bill was introduced in South Dakota earlier this legislative session, but SB 100 has been tabled for the year.

2. COLA Processing at TTB Shifts to Electronic

In keeping with their word to streamline the label submission and approval process, the TTB has revamped their website and included several helpful resources on their labeling page, including a table with up-to-date information on label processing times. Additionally, on February 1, 2013, the TTB began processing paper COLA submissions in the same way they process electronic submissions; paper submissions are scanned into the system and the TTB will notify applicants of approval or rejection via email, if an email address is listed on the application. Industry Circular Number 2012-03 contains more detailed information on this change. We expect more changes to the COLA process as the year progresses. Jeff Carroll of ShipCompliant will be moderating a panel called “COLA Changes on the Horizon” at the NCSLA annual conference in June.

3. Pennsylvania’s Privatization and Modernization

The latest news on modernization centers on HB 790 – a bill that calls for and addresses privatization of the sale of alcohol in the state of Pennsylvania. Though there are several accompanying bills that supplement Pennsylvania’s privatization plan, this bill is leading the charge for ending Pennsylvania’s status as a control state. HB 790 addresses how the state should make the changeover to private distribution & retail sale of alcohol, what should occur in the interim, and what should be the end result of a privatized system. Currently, this bill has passed the House and is awaiting action in the Senate.

4. Third Party Marketing

Two bills were introduced to limit third party marketing in Maryland: HB 1420 and SB 990. These bills contained the following language: “An order may not be transmitted to the holder of the direct wine shipper’s permit by a retailer, a wholesaler, or any other third party, including a marketplace site on the internet in which sellers offer products to customers.” Following a hearing on SB 990, the author has withdrawn the bill, and the author of the House bill no longer intends to move HB 1420 forward either. Defeating both of these bills took a great deal of work by lobbyists working in Maryland on behalf of the wineries and the third party companies.

5. Existing Direct Shipping Laws, Reworked

Nebraska currently allows wineries and retailers to apply for a direct shipping license. LB 230, a bill that would add restrictions to the current process, originally contained language to eliminate access of direct shipments from retailers including online retailers. However, after two amendments, the bill creates a direct shipping license for both wineries and retailers. If passed, wineries (but not retailers) would be required to “identify” the brands they will ship to Nebraska consumers, and submit “notification to wholesalers of intent to direct ship” any brands that are also sold to Nebraska wholesalers. Both wineries and retailers would be subject to a status of nexus (likely requiring payment of corporate income taxes) and monthly excise tax reports (currently an annual filing). As of March 15, this bill is in Committee. Wine Institute is opposing LB 230.

SB 15 in Indiana was intended to help wineries that direct ship into the state, but fails to address all of the existing direct to consumer limitations. The bill would remove the “previous visit” requirement by consumers before direct shippers can send wine shipments. However, a new requirement to obtain a faxed or scanned copy of the consumers identification would be required. Also, wineries with a wholesale relationship are still not eligible for the direct shipping license in this bill. For these reasons, Wine Institute is opposing the bill at this time. Currently in Senate Committee.

6. Product Registration Updates

In Arkansas, HB 1480 would become active on July 1, 2013 if implemented, and would require all wineries to register their brand labels and label extensions at a fee of $15 per label per container size. Additionally, wineries producing over 250,000 gallons annually would have to register as a supplier and submit an annual permit fee of $50. This bill is currently out of committee and in the House with a recommendation of “do pass”.

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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

Montana: No Federal Onsite Shipments, Please

The Montana Dept. of Revenue, Liquor Control Division recently confirmed that consumers in Montana are prohibited from receiving direct wine shipments under the Federal Onsite provision (sec. 11022 of Public Law 107-273). Montana law only allows consumers with a connoisseur’s license to receive direct wine shipments. However, the common carriers, FedEx and UPS, have NOT approved Montana for shipment of direct-to-consumer sales, because Montana law requires a consumer to obtain a license to receive such direct shipments.