The following op-ed was submitted to The Capitolist by Brandon Arnold and is published with permission.
The new federal tax reform law took effect in January and is already yielding positive results for the state of Florida. The economic benefits expected to flow to the state include more than $2,200 in additional take home pay for the average family and over 53,000 new jobs, according to the Tax Foundation. Already, workers have received thousands in cash bonuses from Florida-based companies, ranging from large corporations like Walt Disney and Royal Carribean Cruises to small employers like the Spellex Corporation in Tampa and Joseph’s Lite Cookies in Sebastian.
Does all of that sound like a good reason to raise a glass in celebration? If so, you’re in luck. While most of the conversation about tax reform has focused on big-ticket items — like cuts to the corporate and individual income tax rates, a doubling of the child tax credit, and a new tax deduction for small businesses — an important provision was added late in the process that helps continue the big expansion of the craft beverage industry. Thanks to the new law, brewers, distillers, and winemakers have seen significant reductions to their federal excise tax liabilities. The smaller the producer, the larger the rate cut, which has been great news for the Sunshine State’s burgeoning craft beverage industry. Small breweries had their tax rate cut in half while small distilleries received a rate cut of 80 percent. Small and medium sized wineries had their excise tax burden slashed by 55 to 70 percent.
This industry has been growing rapidly in recent years and the excise tax reduction allows it to continue to expand and create jobs and economic activity. From January 2017 to 2018, the state of Florida added 55 new breweries while the number of taxed sales of Florida-brewed beer increased by 25 percent. A similar growth trend is taking place in the craft distillery world. From 2014 to 2017, the number of Florida distilleries increased from 9 to 32 — a jump of 356 percent.
The growth of these industries has been an economic success story. The brewing industry in Florida accounts for over 150,000 jobs and more than $20 billion in economic activity every year. Two of the country’s ten fastest-growing breweries are in Florida, according to Forbes. Brewing, distilling and winemaking are becoming major components of every state’s tourism industry, and Florida is no different. The expansion of these opportunities will lead to more success for the state and its workers.
Thanks to the tax law’s excise tax cuts, small producers like the St. Augustine Distillery are saving about $150,000 — money that will be invested in more workers and equipment, according to its owner. The owner of Tampa’s Coppertail Brewery says he will save approximately $70,000 and use this money to hire a new employee and expand his operations. The story is the same all over the nation: businesses are using these resources to invest in labor and equipment.
While the trajectory of the industry appears to be on a great path — in Florida and across the country — rocky days could be ahead. New tariffs on aluminum could hit brewers, particularly smaller ones, with substantially higher canning costs. And even worse than that, the craft beverage excise tax reductions are facing a sunset on the near horizon. Absent Congressional action, the tax rates will revert to their 2017 levels beginning in January of 2019. If lawmakers in Washington DC want to see the industry continue to flourish and grow, they should act now to help small brewers, distillers and vintners by making the new excise tax rates permanent. That would certainly be a good reason for a toast.
Brandon Arnold is the Executive Vice President of the National Taxpayers Union, a nonprofit dedicated to advocating for taxpayers at every level of government.