CBMA: A Short Guide to the Rules of the Road

By: Brad Berkman and Louis J. Terminello, Greenspoon Marder

As is said, the only thing certain is death and taxes. As it applies to beverage alcohol, the tax at issue addressed in this article is an excise tax which is based on volume and alcohol-proof gallons. There are two levels of excise taxes collected for alcoholic beverages: one at the state and the other at the federal level. As the reader likely knows, state excise tax, in most instances, is paid by the distributor. This article will examine federal alcohol beverage excise tax rates established by the U.S. Internal Revenue Code and the changes to these rates under the Craft Beverage Modernization Act (the “CBMA”).

  First, a little history, the CBMA was initially meant to be a temporary measure, however, Congress, in 2020 made the CBMA a permanent law and transferred the administration of the CBMA to the Alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) on December 31, 2022. As virtually all industry members know, TTB is tasked with administering excise tax collections for domestic and foreign producers of alcoholic beverages, among many other things. In 2017, as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the CBMA came into effect reducing excise taxes imposed on wine, beer, and spirits at certain volume levels, produced in the U.S. and those items produced abroad and imported into the U.S. 

  At the introduction of the CBMA, TTB was tasked with administering the domestic component of the CBMA, (that is for wine, beer and spirits produced in the U.S.), and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, (CBP), was responsible for the administration and collection of taxes for imported alcoholic beverages (as they had always done for imported alcohol). Excise tax for imports was due at the time of entry of the product into the U.S. stream of commerce, (once it cleared U.S. customs). This required thorough and accurate reporting by importers and/or their customs brokers at that time to CBP. Incorrect or incomplete reporting to CPB led to the loss of importer revenue for many wine industry members. CPB reporting requirements were, and arguably still are an arcane process.

  Under the CBMA, importers are still required to pay excise tax to CBP upon entry of the product but the administration of the CBMA for importers is now carried out by TTB. TTB has created a reasonably friendly system or portal where licensed importers can register and file their claims to receive the reduced tax benefit.

  The process requires that the foreign producer must first register with TTB, using the portal at myttb.com, and disclose certain basic information such as ownership information, email address and phone number and key contact information including key personnel. After registering, the foreign producer, through the online system, may then assign all or a portion of available CBMA credits to an appointed importer. It is worth noting here that foreign producers are allocated the same tax credit benefits as U.S. manufacturers of beverage alcohol.

  After supplying the importer information (using the importer TTB issued Basic Permit number), the foreign producer must identify the commodity (wine, beer and/or spirits), the tax rate or credit, the quantities of proof gallons or beer barrels and the tax quantities being assigned to the specific importer. Foreign producers can assign all of their credits to one importer or allocate in any way they choose to their various importers, should they have more than one.

  As a side note, it is strongly recommended that the allocation of tax credits is addressed in the negotiating process between the importer and foreign supplier and memorialized in any import agreement that may come into being between the parties. Obviously, this will help avoid future confusion and potential strains on the business relationship.

  Importers are also required to register on my.ttb.com on the importer interface and submit their refund claims electronically, which they may be eligible for as a result of the reduced rate. All that said, below is a quick and dirty reference guide for importers to refer to when navigating the CBMA process, which will assist both the foreign supplier and the importer.

For the Foreign Producer

•   Foreign producers must assign tax benefits to the US importer for importer to be eligible for the benefit.

•   Foreign producers may assign all or a limited tax benefit based on commodity type.

•   Foreign producers must first register with TTB using the link: ohttps://my.ttb.gov/.    

•   Producer will receive a foreign producer ID.

•   After the producer receives the ID, they will be able to assign the benefit to the importer on the on-line portal with TTB.

•   The foreign producer will need to provide TTB with the following information:

            o Calander year for which the benefit is being assigned.

            o The importer to whom it is being assigned using the importers TTB permit number.

            o Commodity type (wine, beer, spirits).

            o The reduced tax rate being assigned.

            o Total proof gallons that the benefit is being assigned to.

 The Importer

•   Importers pay full tax rate to Customs and Border Protection (CPB) at the time of importation.

•   To use the CBMA reduced rate, the importer must:

            o File a refund claim (online) with TTB at the close of each calendar quarter covering the entries made in that quarter.

•   At the time of entry (likely using your customs broker), importer must submit in their customs entry filings, the identity of the products that will be subject to the claim which includes:

            o Commodity type.

            o TTB Foreign Producer ID

            o The rate or credit assigned to the

             imported quantity.

            o The above information is submitted on CBP ACE system.

            **The authors advise trying to use a customs broker that is familiar with the above process.

            o Importer or its broker must file the TTB “Message Set” electronically in the ACE system.

•   Once again, the importer files its claim with TTB on a quarterly basis and once processed, TTB will pay the difference between the tax paid at entry and the credits assigned by the foreign producer.

  The CBMA offers an opportunity for importers to take advantage of reduced tax rates under the CBMA. Navigating the process is challenging and will greatly assist importers to understand the reporting processes up front so as not to leave valuable tax dollars on the table.

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