Untangling the complex world of wine direct shipping and compliance

Early Reporting Pays off in the Great Lake State

March 22nd, 2014
By Patricia Lomas - ShipCompliant Client Services Team

You asked for it, you got it! Driven by client requests from our Ideas Forum, ShipCompliant recently implemented reporting options to allow clients to take advantage of Michigan’s early and timely filing discounts.

Michigan licensees who file the Combined 160 return monthly or quarterly, on or before the 20th of the month, are eligible to take advantage of filing discounts based on submission date. Most licensees fall into the standard discount amounts of $6/month, $18/quarter, or $72/year but there is a formula for those who fall above or below the standard discount threshold, dependent on tax liability.

Learn more about Michigan’s filing discounts (Note: Access available only to ShipCompliant clients)

Early and Timely Filing

The Early Filer option in ShipCompliant was created for those who file quarterly or monthly returns, on or before the 12th of the month in which the report is due. For those who file on or before the 20th (but after the 12th) are eligible for a discount by selecting the Timely Filer option. Both frequencies automatically calculate the discount on the Michigan Combined 160 return and are available within the ShipCompliant Reports Settings page.

For all of you annual filers, do not feel alone. You too are entitled to a discount. Keep an eye out for an email alert notifying you when the Early and Timely Filer frequency options are available to select in your ShipCompliant account.

Don’t forget to submit your Michigan returns by the early or timely deadlines in order to secure your discount!

Learn more about Michigan’s filing discounts (Note: Access available only to ShipCompliant clients)


A Forum for Your Thoughts

March 19th, 2014
By Megan Milan, Marketing Coordinator

The beauty of ShipCompliant and other software as a service products is that they are cloud based, which allows them to be ever-changing and always improving. We have a responsibility to fix things that are broken and maintain upkeep, but more important and far more interesting in our eyes, is the usability and deliverability of our software. Whether you are a power user or just getting started with ShipCompliant, we want to hear how we can make it better for you.

That’s why we developed the Ideas Forum.

In the Ideas Forum you can post your feedback for both the ShipCompliant team and all ShipCompliant users to see. When someone posts to the forum, you’ll see a button to vote for that suggestion. By voting for an idea, you are voicing your thoughts that this idea is important to you and your workflow. We internally review all of  your suggestions and pay especially close attention if an idea has been voted up the chart. You can monitor your idea and other ideas by clicking on the links below where a new idea can be added.

  • Click Hot to see trending ideas.
  • Click Top to see the ideas that have the most votes.
  • Click New to see the newest ideas.
  • Click Status to keep an eye on what we are reviewing, what we are planning on working on, and what has been declined. (If an idea is declined, it is most likely that the feature exists and we just need to show you where or make it easier to find.)

To date, we have implemented over sixty of your amazing suggestions! Visit the Ideas Forum by clicking here, or click on the lightbulb in the upper right corner of any ShipCompliant screen. Can’t wait to hear more of your thoughts!


What Is A “Wine Growler”? TTB Weighs In

March 18th, 2014
By Jeff Carroll - VP of Compliance, ShipCompliant

You may not have heard much about the subject of “Growlers” in association with wine in the past. While beer lovers are far more commonly attracted to these types of containers and their purchase, it’s just not yet that common with wine. However, with a recent ruling by TTB, “Wine Growlers” will likely be a subject of conversation among wine lovers, wineries and wine retailers.

First, what is a “Growler? According to the TTB definition a Wine Growler “is any container that is designed to be securely covered and is intended to be filled (or refilled) with wine for purposes of off-premises consumption, as well as any similar container designed to facilitate the secure transportation of the wine for later consumption off of the premises.” In other words, imagine a consumer coming to your winery and rather than buying a few bottles of wine, they bring a three liter container, have it filled from a barrel of your tax-paid wine, and then take it home to enjoy.

Many years ago the concept of the “wine growler” was not uncommon. Consumers would often bring large containers to wineries or retailers, have them filled up with their favorite wine, which they would then bring home and use as their source of wine. Both before Prohibition and after its repeal, it was not uncommon for consumers living in wine country to obtain their supply of wine in this way. Today, however, this practice has been largely a relic of the past.

Now, in response to a few inquiries from wineries and retailers as to the legality under federal law of filling up wine growlers for consumers, TTB issued a ruling that this practice is in fact legal under certain specific circumstances. According to TTB, federal law allows the filling of growlers with wine under the following conditions for wineries or retailers:

1. Receive a permit from TTB to operate as a “taxpaid wine bottling house”
2. The Growler to be filled may be no larger in capacity than four liters
3. The Growler may be brought by the customer or purchased on-premise before filling
4. The filling of the Growler must be for the purpose of off-premise consumption.
5. The winery or retailer must keep specific records concerning tax paid wine, received, dispensed and removed from the premises.

Currently, only Washington (assuming Governor Inslee signs the bill today to allow growler refills by wineries only) and Oregon allow the sale of wine in growlers in one form or another. However, with this ruling, the attention it brings to the idea of selling wine in growlers and given the entrepreneurial times in which we live, we expect to see wineries and retailers in other states begin to explore the idea of selling wine in growlers.

It’s worth noting that while wineries are required to hold a “basic permit” with TTB and obtain Certificates of Label Approval (COLAs) for labels that they produce, retailers are not required to hold a TTB license. A retailer that applies to be a taxpaid bottling house would then be subject to TTB jurisdiction and record-keeping requirements. It appears that wineries or retailers that obtain the additional TTB permit would not need to obtain COLAs for growlers that are filled, at least as long as they are not pre-packaged for the consumers.

Here is a link to the recent TTB ruling on Wine Growlers: http://www.ttb.gov/rulings/2014-3.pdf


Don’t Fall Behind With Your Fortified Wine

February 28th, 2014
By Emily Kalkhofer - ShipCompliant Direct Product Analyst

Maine, New Mexico, and Washington are the only states that have separate excise tax rates for wine and wine fortified with spirits (Edit: Some states consider a product to be fortified if it is over a certain ABV, regardless of the addition of spirits). To date, we’ve accommodated wineries that shipped fortified products to consumers by having two separate versions of the report or used calculations based on product ABV in each state. Based on user feedback, we wanted to make this process easier and more accurate, so we recently added the ability to specify that a product is fortified in ShipCompliant. With this change, we updated the Maine, New Mexico, and Washington returns listed below so that any orders containing “fortified” products will be taxed at the corresponding rate, beginning with returns that are due on or after March 20.

  • Maine Direct Shipper Excise Tax and Premium Report of Table Wine, Sparkling and Fortified Wine
  • New Mexico Liquor Excise Tax Return for Direct Shippers
  • Washington LIQ-318 Wine Authorized Representative Certificate of Approval Holder Summary Tax Report
  • Washington Liquor Shipment and Tax Report (LIQ-778 Distributor)
  • Washington Liquor Shipment and Tax Report (LIQ-870 Wine Shipper)

If you are subscribed to one of the returns listed above, we will automatically update your return to tax products based on the new “fortified” product settings starting Friday, February 28 – you do not have to take any action in your ShipCompliant account unless you have fortified products.

To mark products as fortified, select the “Fortified” checkbox when adding or editing products in your account. Please note: Any orders entered prior to specifying that a product is fortified will not be retroactively updated. To learn more, read our client Knowledge Base article.


South Dakota Direct Shipping Bill Needs One More Push

February 26th, 2014
By Jeff Carroll - VP of Compliance, ShipCompliant

South Dakota is one of the few remaining states that prohibits the direct-to-consumer shipment of wine, but that could change if supporters of wine shipping quickly encourage the South Dakota House of Representatives to support SB 114. And speed is of the essence since SB 114 must pass out of the House by March 11 if it is to become law this year.

Passed by the South Dakota Senate by a vote of 23-11, SB 114 would allow a licensed winery to deliver up to twelve cases of wine to an individual consumer within a calendar year. The bill includes a $150 annual permit fee and remittance of sales and excise taxes. It also goes a little further than most states with existing shipping laws by requiring both age verification of the purchaser and also the registration of each label shipped into the state in advance.

The next step for SB 114 is to move through the Commerce and Energy Committee in the House of Representatives. Then, if voted through, receive a positive vote on the floor of the South Dakota House of Representatives before the bill would head to the Governor’s desk for signing, which he said he would do. The Commerce and Energy Committee is expected to consider and vote on the bill early next week.

Free the Grapes! is recommending that South Dakotans contact immediately House Commerce Committee members. Winery proponents can help the effort by reaching out to any customers and contacts in South Dakota and urging them to visit the Free the Grapes! website to send their thoughts on the bill to South Dakota lawmakers.