Brewers Hoping Third Time’s the Charm for Proposed Small BREW Act

Small brewers would receive a significant reduction in federal excise taxes under a bipartisan bill introduced today in the U.S. House of Representatives.

It’s the third time that Reps. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa) and Richard E. Neal (D-Mass) have introduced the legislation, House Bill 494,  the Small Brewer Reinvestment and Expanding Workforce (Small BREW Act). The Brewers Association applauded the introduction of the bill. (See below).

The bill seeks to lower the federal excise tax for small brewers — defined in the bill as those producing fewer than 6 million barrels annually. Under current federal law, brewers are taxed at $7 per barrel for the first 60,000 barrels they produce. The bill, which is being reintroduced for the third time since 2009, aims to lower that rate to $3.50. If passed, the bill would also reduce the excise tax rate from $18 per barrel to $16 barrel for production between 60,001 and 2 million barrels.

By defining a small brewer as one that produces fewer than 6 million annually, the bill includes what has been called the “Boston Beer Provision” — allowing Boston Beer Company, the largest U.S. craft brewer, an opportunity to take advantage of the proposed tax reduction while preventing larger brewers like Anheuser-Busch InBev and Miller Coors from realizing the savings.

Craft brewers argue that lowering taxes allows them to increase sales, expand production facilities and create new jobs.

A 2012 study produced by John N. Friedman, a professor of public policy at Harvard University, argued that the proposed reduction in tax would increase economic activity by $156.8 million in 2012 and $883.1 million over five years. The study also estimated that 4,500 new jobs would be created over the first 12-18 months, with 1,200 more jobs being created over the next four years.

The full press release from the Brewers Association is below:

Boulder, CO • February 7, 2013—With the 113th Congress underway, the Brewers Association (BA)—the not-for-profit trade group representing the majority of U.S. brewing companies—announced the reintroduction of H.R. 494, the Small Brewer Reinvestment and Expanding Workforce Act (Small BREW Act) in the House of Representatives. The bipartisan legislation, which was reintroduced by Representatives Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) and Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.), seeks to recalibrate the federal beer excise tax that small brewers pay on every barrel of beer they produce.

Under current federal law, brewers making less than 2 million barrels annually pay $7 per barrel on the first 60,000 barrels they brew, and $18 per barrel on every barrel thereafter. The Small BREW Act would create a new rate structure that reflects the evolution of the craft brewing industry.  The rate for the smallest brewers and brewpubs would be $3.50 on the first 60,000 barrels. For production between 60,001 and 2 million barrels the rate would be $16.00 per barrel.  Any brewer that exceeds 2 million barrels (about 1 percent of the U.S. beer market) would begin paying the full $18 rate. Breweries with an annual production of 6 million barrels or less would qualify for these tax rates.

“Small brewers are small business owners and this bipartisan legislation would allow them to remain competitive, protect existing jobs and create new employment opportunities in communities throughout Pennsylvania and the country,” said Congressman Jim Gerlach, co-chairman of the House Small Brewers Caucus. “More than 100 small and craft brewers in Pennsylvania provide jobs, produce world-class products and are active community partners. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House on passing this legislation and providing a boost to all small brewers.”

“I have been a consistent and enthusiastic supporter of America’s craft brewers for many years. These innovative small businesses employ thousands of people across the country. They are independent entrepreneurs who are passionate about the product they make. In western Massachusetts alone, there are scores of proprietors creating great brews with locally produced ingredients,” said Congressman Richard E. Neal. “As a senior member of the Ways and Means Committee, I am pleased to introduce this bipartisan legislation that will help the growing small brewing industry.”

“There are few industries with more size disparity than the American beer business. There are 2,500 small breweries who together account for only six percent of the U.S. beer business,” said Rob Martin, president, Ipswich Ale Brewery and Massachusetts Brewers Guild. “Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal understands the struggles craft brewers face because of this, and he has championed our effort to help level the playing field a little by supporting an equitable federal excise tax bill.  He is keenly aware that craft brewers are looking to grow their small businesses and will create thousands of good jobs across the country if this legislation passes. As president of the Massachusetts Brewers Guild, I know I speak for all small brewers when I applaud Congressman Neal’s effort.”

Nationally, small and independent brewers employ over 100,000 full- and part-time employees and generate more than $3 billion in wages and benefits and pay more than $2.3 billion in business, personal and consumption taxes.

“Craft brewing has revitalized a once proud American industry with compelling products and, more importantly, stable, fulfilling jobs,” said Bill Covaleski, brewmaster and president, Victory Brewing Company and president, Brewers of Pennsylvania. “This legislative initiative recognizes the investments already made by America’s new brewing entrepreneurs, and promises to help further innovation and product diversity.”

Consumer demand for the bold and innovative beers brewed by America’s small brewers has grown significantly in recent years.  However, because of differences in economies of scale, small brewers have higher costs for production, raw materials, packaging and market entry compared to larger, well-established multi-national competitors.  Furthermore, efforts to increase state taxes for all brewers continue to threaten jobs and their economic stability.

Adjusting the tax rate would provide small brewers with an additional $60 million per year that would be used to support significant long-term investments in tanks and other equipment and create jobs by growing their businesses on a regional or national scale. Congress has not recalibrated the excise tax on small brewers since 1976.  At that time, there were about 30 small brewers. Today, there are over 2,000.

“America’s small brewers are part of a vibrant, growing industry, and really are Main Street manufacturers,” added Bob Pease, chief operating officer, Brewers Association. “The Small BREW Act will help America’s small brewers invest in and grow their businesses—an important part of economic reinvigoration. We look forward to working with the new Congress on the passage of this legislation, which will have a positive impact on agricultural, manufacturing, hospitality and distribution jobs for the future.”

About the Brewers Association

The Brewers Association is the not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American brewers, their craft beers and the community of brewing enthusiasts. The Brewers Association (BA) represents more than 70 percent of the brewing industry, and its members make more than 99 percent of the beer brewed in the U.S. The BA organizes events including the World Beer Cup®, Great American Beer Festival®, Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America®, SAVOR?: An American Craft Beer & Food Experience and American Craft Beer Week®. The BA publishes The New Brewer magazine and its Brewers Publications division is the largest publisher of contemporary and relevant brewing literature for today’s craft brewers and homebrewers.

Beer lovers are invited to learn more about the dynamic world of craft beer at CraftBeer.com and about homebrewing via the BA’s American Homebrewers Association. Follow us on Twitter.