Senate Works to Lower Wine Excise Taxes (April 13 Update)

The amendment was dropped from consideration on the bill. We will be considering other legislative options with our alcohol industry coalition partners.

Craft Beverage Reform and Tax Modernization Act Introduced as Amendment to FAA Bill

by Michael Kaiser

4.7.16

Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) have introduced the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA) as an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill. The FAA, like any independent federal agency, is required to be reauthorized every few years by Congress in order to be fully funded. Often times, other policy items (or riders) are added by amendment to an unrelated bill in order to secure passage. The FAA reauthorization is currently being debated in the Senate and could be voted on as early as next week.

As we reported last year, the CBMTRA is a comprehensive alcohol excise tax reform bill containing tax provisions for every alcohol commodity. WineAmerica was neutral on the bill as originally written (see our initial analysis here), but worked over the course of the Summer and Fall of 2015 to secure an agreement that was more beneficial to the American wine industry. The bill was close to being added to the FY 2016 Omnibus Appropriations Bill but that effort fell short at the last minute. The bill has now been revived this past week.

The specific provisions for wine are as follows:

Expands Tax Credits for All Wineries

Under present law, wine is subject to an excise tax of between $1.07 and $3.40 per gallon, based on alcohol content and carbonation level. Qualifying small domestic wineries producing 250,000 wine gallons or less are eligible for a tax credit (Small Producer Tax Credit) generally equal to 90 cents per gallon on the first 100,000 gallons produced, with that benefit phasing out between 150,000 gallons and 250,000 gallons. This provision removes the phase out and replaces the credit with a new tiered credit system for wine produced in the U.S. or imported as follows:

  • 1.00 credit for the first 30,000 wine gallons produced
  • $0.90 credit for the next 100,000 wine gallons produced (30,001 to 130,000)
  • $0.535 for the next 620,000 wine gallons produced (130,001 to 750,000)
  • All wine produced over 750,000 will be taxed at the regular rate.
  • In addition, this provision removes the existing prohibition against claiming the credit for naturally sparkling wines.

Expands the Alcohol Threshold for Table Wine

Under current law, still wine is taxed at different rates based on alcohol content. Still wine containing not more than 14% alcohol by volume is taxed at $1.07. Still wine above 14% and less than 21% alcohol by volume is taxed at $1.57 per gallon. It is important to note that for labeling purposes alcohol content in wine may vary from the stated amount within certain tolerances, however no such tolerances exist for tax purposes. The CBMTRA would provide that wines up to 16% alcohol by volume qualify for the $1.07 tax rate, raising the threshold for table wine from 14% to 16%.

Increases Carbonation Tolerance Levels for Low Alcohol Wines

Current law provides a tolerance for still wine of 0.392 gram of carbon dioxide per hundred milliliters of wine, which is generally taxed at $1.07 per wine gallon. Wines exceeding this limitation are taxed as “sparkling wine” at either $3.30 or $3.40 per wine gallon. The CBMTRA would increase that tolerance to 0.64 gram of carbon dioxide per hundred milliliters of wine for wines produced primarily from grape or solely from honey and water (mead), which do not contain any other fruit and contains no more than 8.5% alcohol by volume.

WineAmerica supports the passage of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reduction Act. This is the first time wine, beer and spirits have all been supportive of the same federal tax reform package. We commend Senators Wyden and Blunt for introducing the CBMTRA as an amendment to the FAA reauthorization bill and look forward to working with them and our industry partners to ensure passage in the Senate and then turn our focus to the House of Representatives.

 

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Questions? Contact Michael Kaiser, Director of Public Affairs, mkaiser@wineamerica.org.

WineAmerica is the national voice the American wine industry. Based in Washington, D.C., WineAmerica represents wineries in 43 states and leads a coalition of state and regional wine and grape associations.  As an industry leader, WineAmerica encourages the dynamic growth and development of American wineries and winegrowing through the advancement and advocacy of sound public policy

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