America’s brewers, distillers and wineries cannot yet raise a glass to recalibrated federal excise taxes, but they got one step closer to be able to do that on Tuesday.
That is because the provisions of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA) (S. 236)—including the excise tax changes that would benefit America’s small brewers, distillers and wineries—have been included in Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch’s revised “Chairman’s Mark” to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that is now being considered by the Senate Finance Committee.
The inclusion of the CBMTRA is a very significant positive development for all producers of alcoholic beverages, but particularly for small brewers, distillers and wineries.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) offered an amendment to include the CBMTRA to the Chairman’s “mark” to the underlying bill and Chairman Hatch agreed to that. Co-sponsors of Portman’s amendment included Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Dean Heller (R-NV).
Note that the excise tax provisions would expire on December 31, 2019. That is, the recalibrated excise tax rates would be in effect for 2018 and 2019. The reason for proposed expiration of the lower excise tax rates is directly connected to the “score” of the bill by the Joint Tax Committee (JCT). JCT concluded that the bill would cost $16 billion over 10 years. That estimate is in dispute, though. Some believe the cost of the bill is far lower, in the range of $4 billion to $5 billion over 10 years. The higher score by JCT means that the excise tax provisions could only be made effective for two years in an effort to keep the cost down.
The inclusion of CBMTRA is the first step in the long process of enacting this legislation into law. Many expect the Senate Finance Committee will vote out its bill by the end of this week on a party-line vote. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is very controversial, and all Democrats on the Finance Committee very likely will oppose it for reasons unrelated to CBMTRA.
After the bill is voted out of the Finance Committee, it will go to the Senate Floor sometime after the Thanksgiving recess. If the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is passed by the Senate with CBMTRA in it, America’s beer, wine and spirits producers will be asking the House-Senate conference committee—which will reconcile differences in the House and Senate tax reform bills—to ensure that CBMTRA is part of any conference committee report.