DRAFT LETTER TO CONGRESS I am writing to ask you to co-sponsor H.R. 747 or S.236. (select one) I am a craft distiller in your state. My business is relatively new, but our industry has been growing over the past few years. Federal Excise Taxes (FET) on distilled spirits are among the nation’s highest, comprising 54% of the typical spirits product’s purchase price. That hurts my ability to reinvest — monthly taxes consume any potential profit. In other words, craft distillers, like me, are paying the government more than they earn. Today, a craft spirits producer pays six times more FET than a craft brewer and 17 times more FET than a small winery for equal quantities of beverage alcohol. That is because the tax code does not provide parity for our industry. We need a reduced FET for small distillers, just as there is a lower rate for small wineries and craft brewers. This is an oversight that needs to be corrected. Our industry is supporting U.S. jobs on main street, in tourism, manufacturing and agriculture. Our growth and that of our broad supplier base is hindered, however, by the unfair federal tax treatment. The legislation fixes this issue and also helps craft brewers and vintners. In fact, it is a united industry — spirits, beer, and wine are in agreement that this legislation is pivotal to our growth. This is why in the last Congress, 288 House members and 51 Senators co-sponsored similar legislation. We hope you will consider adding your name to this bill, and work to make sure it is included in comprehensive tax reform the Congress is likely to pass in 2017. I’m happy to discuss with you or your legislative team if you have questions. Even better, please come visit. It would be our honor to host you and show you how an agricultural product, clearly one farmed in America, is transformed into a spirit unequivocally Made in America. Sincerely, (your name here)
We need to move the co-sponsorship levels to those of the last Congress or beyond. Those numbers help when we press the tax committees and Congressional leaders to make this part of tax reform. While that might seem easy, it is not. The tax bill’s purpose is to broadly reduce tax rates and make the tax code less complex. Industry-specific bills will face a tough climb. But, given the support of our industry and our supplier base, we think it is achievable if our industry stays motivated. How can we secure more sponsors for the CBMTRA? Set up meetings or visits to your place of business and give tours of the distillery. This is the most effective tool to spread our message and develop a relationship with members of Congress. Key time periods usually are weekends and sometimes Mondays and Fridays based on the Congressional schedule. The next Congressional recess is April 10-21. Even if your Representative or Senator cannot visit, invite key legislative staff. Each will take the message home. If a visit is unlikely, call and/or email the Congressional office voicing support for S. 236 and H.R. 747. Don’t delay this. This zip code finder at http://www.house.gov/representatives/ will help you find your U.S. Representative with contact information. Senators can be found at https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/. If you call the Washington D.C. office, ask for the staff person that works on tax issues. Additionally, reach out locally and personally visit district offices or contact the district director. That is typically the most senior person working for the Congressman or Congresswoman back home. So, you’re in the district office. Now what? Share your story. Explain who you are, how many people you employ, your outreach to the local community, your interaction with the agricultural and tourism sectors, and how a reduction could help you put the money back into the state economy and grow jobs on a local level. The key message for members of Congress is that our industry is growing, but needs help from Washington to continue adding jobs — nearly all of which are U.S.-based. There are now an estimated 1,400 craft distilleries in the U.S. employing over 12,000 people. This is up from 200 or so producing craft distilleries in 2010. Investments in our industry are close to $300 million. The growth of craft distilling is supporting main street, small business job growth, tourism and locally-sourced products, much like craft beer and small wineries. Paint the picture clearly and vividly. By passing S. 236 or H.R. 747, craft distillers and their small business partners have the potential to grow even more with a change in tax policies at the federal level. Members of Congress must be reminded that we need parity with craft brewers and small vintners in the FET. Become our partner in this energized, transformational battle. Our legislative affairs committee can provide lots of support — contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Working together, we remain optimistic that our advocacy will prevail.
Margie A.S. Lehrman is Executive Director of American Craft Spirits Association. Visit www.americancraftspirits.org for more information on ACSA and to join. Contact James E. Hyland, Esq. by emailing Jim@PennsylvaniaAvenueGroup.com.
The magazine for craft distillers and their fans.