The extension of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act — which was set to expire at the end of this year after being passed into law in 2017 as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act — had been a top priority for beer industry trade groups the Beer Institute (BI) and the Brewers Association (BA), as well as the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), the American Craft Spirits Association, Wine America, the Wine Institute, and the U.S. Association of Cider Makers.
Those groups had sought permanence, although a one-year extension appeared to be the likeliest outcome after the House Ways and Means Committee announced support for an extension through 2020. The legislation garnered bipartisan support, with 326 cosponsors in the House and 73 cosponsors in the Senate.
The extender would keep in place through December 31, 2020, an excise tax rate of $3.50 per barrel (a reduction from $7 per barrel) on the first 60,000 barrels for domestic brewers producing fewer than 2 million barrels annually. The legislation also sets the federal excise tax to $16 per barrel on the first 6 million barrels for all other brewers and beer importers, while maintaining the $18 per barrel excise tax for brewers producing more than 6 million barrels.
Speaking to Brewbound, BI president and CEO Jim McGreevy called the one-year extension “a great outcome.”
“There are some machinations that need to be done, but this is a year,” McGreevy said. “Really, I feel like this should be the start of our work to getting it made permanent.”
Negotiations on whether to include a tax extender package had been ongoing, with the extender considered dead at several points in the process, McGreevy said. However, a deal was reached just before midnight. Congress now has three days to finalize the deal before adjourning at the end of this week for the rest of the year.
The timeline to move the agreed upon package forward to the House and Senate floors remains unclear, as the House is slated to vote on the impeachment of President Donald Trump on Wednesday.
However, the package is expected to be passed by Friday, barring an unforeseen hiccup, McGreevy said.
UPDATE (2:20 p.m. EST, December 17): The U.S. House of Representatives passed the tax extender package. The legislation now advances to the Senate.
In a statement, Brewers Association president and CEO Bob Pease thanked congressional members on behalf of the 7,700 small and independent craft breweries for what he called a “vital extension” of the tax cuts.
“America’s small craft brewing industry continues to grow and thrive, hiring new workers, buying new equipment, and expanding their operations, in large part due to the recalibration of the excise tax,” he wrote. “The Brewers Association and our members really worked this issue hard, knowing that it’s the key to continued growth. We want to thank the hundreds of BA members who came to Washington to visit with lawmakers, who wrote notes and letters to them, and who hosted them at their breweries back home. This was a team effort. We urge Congress to pass this measure and the President to sign it.”
According to the BA, a survey of its members found that 73% used the excise tax savings to buy equipment, make upgrades to tasting rooms and breweries and move into new buildings. Meanwhile, 53% said they used the savings to hire new employees, while 39% responded that they added to employee benefits, increased pay, offered insurance and expanded vacation time.
Last month, the BI released the results of a survey that showed that 68% of voters support extending federal excise tax relief.
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