CASE Op-Ed: Beer Brewers Get Boost from Senate Tax Plan
Matthew Kandrach – CASE President
Americans are eagerly watching and hoping for final passage of comprehensive tax reform. It would be a huge win for Americans, providing an impressive income boost for the middle-class.
The Senate just passed their tax bill with an amendment that could also cut federal excise taxes on beer, wine and spirits, and result in an estimated $130 million in annual savings for brewers.
Currently, taxes on the beer industry are extremely high. In fact, 40 percent of what beer drinkers in America pay for a beer goes toward taxes. Savings from reduced federal excise taxes would help brewers reduce costs and create more jobs in the alcohol beverage industry, which already supports 4.6 million American workers.
The amendment is a version of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, a bill that has garnered 300 bipartisan cosponsors in the House and 55 bipartisan cosponsors in the Senate. Its popularity is due to the bill being backed by the entire alcohol industry — brewers, vintners, distillers and importers, large and small. Cheers to the Senate for recognizing this is a smart amendment that would benefit millions of businesses, and suppliers.
However, a recent outlandish and skewed report claims the amendment would lead to more alcohol-related deaths and that alcohol deaths are currently soaring. The fact is that’s just not true. Drunk driving fatalities have decreased 51 percent since 1982, and 21 percent over the past five years, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Furthermore, underage drinking is reporting at historic lows, according to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services’ National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
This is not to say that alcohol abuse is not a serious problem. It is and we should and must continue efforts to promote responsible alcohol consumption. However, the Senate’s amendment to reduce federal excise taxes on the alcohol industry is not going to undermine these efforts.
In fact, the Senate amendment makes the important distinction between beer, wine and liquor and how they are taxed. For example, as the moderate ABV beverage, beer is taxed at a lower excise rate than wine and spirits. Lawmakers understand that beer, wine and spirits are different beverages that are consumed or served the same way, and thus they should be treated differently.
Passing a final tax reform package with the amendment to reduce federal excise taxes on the brewers, vintners and distillers intact would not only boost jobs across the nation, it would give breweries, wineries and distilleries the additional support needed to invest back in their businesses.
The alcohol industry is innovative and creative and is continually coming up with new ways to meet growing consumer demands, from new flavors to packaging and recycling techniques, but the outdated tax structure is preventing the alcohol industry from reaching its full potential. Furthermore, many other industries rely on the alcohol industry for their wellbeing. Every job in the brewing or importer industry creates 33 additional jobs in industries such as farming, manufacturing, wholesaling and retail.
Reducing federal excise taxes on the alcohol industry would be a win for American businesses and consumers, and we urge the conference committee to include the amendment in the final tax reform package.
Matthew Kandrach is president of CASE – Consumer Action for a Strong Economy, a free-market oriented consumer advocacy organization.