FET Bill Update: "This Is the Train We Want to Ride"

FILED OCTOBER 6, 2017

The American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) held a meeting this afternoon to provide a quick update on what's happening with the bills created to reduce the federal excise tax for the alcohol industry [see WSD 08-22-2017].

You'll recall, the two identical bills (S.236 and H.R. 747) have majority support in both the House and Senate, so the plan is to get the so-called Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA) bills tucked into the larger tax reform package Congress is working on now.

Why not push it on it's own if it has majority support in both houses? It's a great question, says ACSA lobbyist Jim Hyland. The alcohol associations have talked about this strategy, but the problem with that plan is that Congress tends to pass major tax bills every few years and not much in between. "This is the Train we really need to ride," he continued. "Once this bill is signed, there won't be a big one, or even a small one, for a few years to come."

For those curious about the timeframe for the larger tax reform bill, Jim explained there are informal meetings going on now. The next step for either bill is to have some "high profile" hearings. Then it'll go through the markup stage in the key committees, and if it passes committee, it will go to the floor. Jim expects we'll get one of the bills to the House or Senate floor this year because legislators will want to have a bill that they can move through Congress by Christmas.

ACSA believes there will be major tax legislation by the end of 2017, but it could spill over into 2018 depending on how bipartisan the issue becomes. "I think they're closer than they are on healthcare, they know if they don't do this they're going to have egg on their face," says Jim.

Under the best case scenario where the bill gets into the larger tax package, which then passes, when would new laws go into effect? There's no definitive answer for this, but Jim says, in the past, this type of tax legislation was effective within one year, but they're looking to have a lot of the other changes effective immediately. "I wouldn't expect it would be longer than months, but that's a great question."

While ACSA tends to take the lead on these FET updates, it's worth noting that all of the supplier trade organizations for each category are on board. "[The Distilled Spirits Council] have been helpful and supportive," says ACSA president Mark Shilling. "All beer wine and spirits association have done weekly calls, and I feel like as long as we're all talking with a unified voice we're in better shape than if we start sputtering off and going in different directions."

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