Competing beer bills pour into Congress

Separate factions of the beer industry introduced competing bills Thursday, as they jockey for preferred changes to the way their products are taxed.

The Fair BEER Act was introduced in the House with 23 lawmakers signing on. The measure is championed by the Beer Institute, a trade group whose largest members include Anheuser-Busch Inbev and MillerCoors.

{mosads}It would create new tiers for how excise taxes on beer are levied — allowing those who produce 7,143 barrels of beer or less on an annual basis to pay no excise taxes. About 90 percent of all permitted beer producers in the United States fall into this category, including micro-pubs or restaurant breweries.

The bill would set out three additional rate levels, topping out at 2 million or more barrels per year.

“This comprehensive reform bill supports brewpubs, microbrewers, national craft brewers, major brewers, and importers alike and encourages their entrepreneurial spirit, which is exactly the spirit we need to get America’s economic engine going again,” Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), who is sponsoring the bill, said in a statement.

Rep. Ron Kind (Wis.) is his Democratic counterpart on the legislation, and the Senate companion bill should be introduced in the coming weeks.

The Fair BEER Act also extends tax breaks to beer importers, which would include brands like Heineken and Corona.
For decades, American brewers have paid a lower excise tax rates on the first 60,000 barrels of beer produced than the $18 per barrel after that amount, effectively creating a lower marginal tax rate for smaller producers and allowing the craft beer industry to grow.

Meanwhile, the Small Brewer Reinvestment and Expanding Workforce Act (BREW) Act was reintroduced in the Senate with 25 initial co-sponsors, joining a companion bill introduced last month in the House.

That measure is preferred by the Brewers Association, an organization primarily representing smaller craft brewers as well as larger ones such as Boston Beer Co., which produces Sam Adams.

That bill also lowers excise taxes for smaller producers. However, it also expands the definition of a small brewer from 2 million barrels produced to 6 million, saying that the increase would help keep pace with the growth of the industry and the world’s largest producers.

“Small brewers have been anchors of local communities and America’s economy since the start of our history,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (Md.), the bill’s Democratic lead, in a statement. “The federal government needs to be investing in industries that invest in America and create real jobs here at home. With more than 3,200 small and independent breweries currently operating in the US, now is the time to help this industry — and our economy — keep growing stronger.”

Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) joins him as the primary Republican on the Small BREW Act.

Last session, the Small BREW Act garnered signatures from 182 House members and 47 senators. The BEER Act, which was written differently than this year’s version, had 114 supporters in the House and 12 in the Senate. 

Tags Ben Cardin Ron Kind Steve Womack Susan Collins

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