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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.

North Dakota Makes Direct Shipping Easier for Wineries and Retailers

North Dakota legislature has passed, and its Governor has signed into law on April 1, new legislation that will allow wine orders to be shipped from any fulfillment house that obtains a North Dakota “logistics shipper” license, require licensure of common carriers, and make other related changes to the state’s direct shipping law. These new requirements will take effect on August 1, 2013.

North Dakota notified direct shippers that wine shipments could only be shipped from the licensee’s premises back in April of 2010. Fulfillment houses, from which almost half of all direct shipments originate, were not allowed to ship on behalf of the licensee, despite the fact that California considers fulfillment houses with public warehouse licenses (Type 14) to be an extension of the winery’s premises. With the passage of this bill, licensed wineries and retailers will once again be able to use this much valued function of wine shipping.

North Dakota isn’t the only state to restrict the use of third party and shipping services —

  • Virginia imposed restrictions on shipments from fulfillment houses in 2009, but established regulations to allow it last November. Virginia now requires out-of-state fulfillment houses to become approved, submit signed winery-fulfillment house contracts to the state, and remit periodic shipment reports.
  • New Hampshire enacted a bill in 2011 that not only created a common carrier license, but also created a “black list” of unauthorized shippers from which FedEx and UPS cannot deliver without penalty.

New regulations and laws in New Hampshire, Virginia and North Dakota give these states additional resources and tools to track shipments, enforce direct shipping rules and collect tax on all shipments.

In addition to becoming licensed, fulfillment houses and common carriers wishing to ship wine into North Dakota will be required to report shipments on a monthly basis and will be subject to penalties if they fulfill and/or ship orders from unlicensed warehouses or suppliers. Also, licensed direct shippers will be required to report their use of fulfillment houses in preparing direct shipments. The Alcohol Tax Section of the North Dakota Office of the State Tax Commissioner has already begun drafting license application and reporting forms and plans to make these available ahead of the August 1 effective date in order to give potential licensees time to review the new requirements.

Until the new law takes effect, out-of-state direct wine shippers should continue to ship from their licensed premises. As the August 1 date gets closer, we will keep our clients and readers informed of specifics related to the new regulations.

Wine Retailers Can Only Ship to 14 States

Map of the Retailer Direct Shipping States

Since the 2005 Granholm v. Heald Supreme Court decision addressing the interstate direct shipment of wine, the number of states allowing out-of-state wineries to ship directly to consumers has increased from 31 states to 40. The experience for licensed wine retailers (for example: brick and mortar wine shops, California Type 85 or 20 licensees and auction houses) however, has been somewhat different. The number of states previously available to retailers since 2005 has declined from 18 to 14 states and the District of Columbia.

What Retailers Need to Know

To help retailers navigate the market, we’ve created a quick reference guide, including basic information on regulations in the states available for retailer-to-consumer wine shipping. This guide includes links to license applications, statutes, state websites, and volume limits (if applicable). Note that four states on this list are “reciprocal” states. Reciprocity means generally that if state X’s retailers are allowed to ship into state Y, then state Y’s retailers may ship into state X without the need to obtain a direct shipper license or permit in the destination state. These states are: Idaho, Missouri, New Mexico, and California. General requirements that apply to interstate retail shipments also include but are not limited to:


Download the Retailer Wine Shipping Guide

All states available to retailers are also available to wineries, and in many cases the regulations for the two shippers are similar. Indeed, permit-required states like North Dakota and New Hampshire allow for retailers and wineries to use the same application process and abide by the same rules in order to direct ship wine to that state. With this observation in mind, it would stand to reason that there is the potential for retailers to be welcomed to the same direct shipping states as wineries; actual practice, however, gives wineries access to three times the amount of the US market share.

Additional resources:









Controlled Shipping: HB 1352 Will Make Some Changes to New Hampshire’s Direct Shipping Laws

New Hampshire State Liquor Outlet

HB 1352, a bill that includes changes to volume limits, permit fees, reporting requirements, and common carrier requirements, was signed by Governor John Lynch on July 15, 2010. Direct shipping is already available for wineries and retailers in New Hampshire, but the changes that will take effect on January 1, 2011 will have an impact on wineries, retailers and also on common carriers.

Consumer volume limits for wine will increase from the current 60 individual “containers” (none of which can exceed 1 Liter in size) per household per year, to 12 nine-Liter cases per consumer per year. Additionally, the Commission may provide allowances for more wine to be shipped to an individual consumer if the product is not otherwise available within the state. Direct shipping permits, previously free for both wineries and retailers, will now cost $100 for wineries and $500 for retailers, annually. Monthly “markup” (8 percent of the retail price for shipments of liquor, wine, beer, or beverage) tax reports will need only be filed if there are shipments to report, whereas previously, monthly reports were due even if shipments were not made.

If a permittee ships more than 600 Liters (previously set to 1,200 individual containers) of any particular liquor or wine, the permittee must offer to sell a matching amount to the state at the lowest price delivered into New Hampshire, if they want to ship more than the 600 Liter limit.

Effective January 1, 2011, common carriers (FedEX, UPS, etc.) will be required to cease shipments from wine shippers that do not hold valid shipping permits in the state of New Hampshire. An “unauthorized shipper” list will be provided by the Commission to the carriers on a monthly basis. This is a unique requirement for the common carriers to be responsible for maintaining a “do not ship from” list, blocking shipments into New Hampshire from unauthorized shippers.

New Hampshire Updates Monthly Reporting Form

The New Hampshire Liquor Commission has just established a new fax line dedicated to direct shipping. Direct Shippers should fax their monthly report to the new fax number 603-271-8424 on or before the 10th of the following month. Direct Shipping Reports must be filed each month regardless of activity. Wineries with no shipments to report are encouraged to email their reports as attachments to directshippers@liquor.state.nh.us instead sending via fax. The Direct Shipping Monthly Report form has been updated with the new fax number and is posted on the Wine Institute website. Should you have any questions please contact Annie Bones, Wine Institute’s State Relations Coordinator, at 415-356-7530 or abones@wineinstitute.org.

by Annie Bones, State Relations – Wine Institute

Direct Shipping Licensing Updates

Michigan

Direct shipping permits for Michigan are renewable on May 1. The annual renewal cost for the Michigan Permit is $100; the same as the initial permit fee. For those wineries that do not have a direct shipping permit for MI now is good time to consider applying. Licenses are valid from May 1 – April 30 and the $100 fee is not prorated.  The permit allows wineries to ship up to 1,500 9-liter cases to Michigan consumers.  Brand registration is required. This can be completed through the MLCC’s online label registration program for no fee. Sales tax and excise tax must be paid and reports must be filed.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire has updated its direct shipping permit application. The updated application is now available on Wine Institute’s website along with the instructions. Please be sure to complete the application in its entirety and attach all required documents. Incomplete applications will be returned.  Applicants will be happy to note that there is no permit fee. Approved shippers are allowed to ship up to 60 containers of not more than 1 liter each to each consumer during a calendar year. Monthly reports and tax payments are required.

Tennessee

The Tennessee Alcohol Beverage Commission has updated their ”Direct Shipper Application Requirements – ABC” document posted on the TN ABC and Wine Institute websites. The original version of the document did not include the “Wholesale Gallonage Letter” requirement. The Wholesale Gallonage letter is one of 2 documents issued by the TN Department of Revenue that wineries must submit with their application. The second document is the “Certificate of Registration for Sales and Use Tax.”  While the application on the TN Department of Revenue website says a bond is required, a bond is not required for wineries. For the TN DOR wholesale gallonage and sales and use tax application form, go to:  http://www.state.tn.us/revenue/forms/general/f13005_1.pdf.   Licenses are valid 1 year from the date issued and the annual license fee is $150.00. There is also a 1 time non-refundable application fee of $300.  Additional information about the application process is available on the Wine Institute website. Wineries may also contact Sharon Loveall at the TN Alcoholic Beverage Commission with any questions about winery direct shipping permits at 615.741.1602, ext. 141

By Annie Bones, State Relations – Wine Institute