Craft Beer Brewers: Replace Percentage Tax With Flat Fee

Yazoo owner Linus Hall and Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) address the crowd at Yazoo's taproom Wednesday night. (WPLN/Daniel Potter)

Yazoo owner Linus Hall and Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) address the crowd at Yazoo’s taproom Wednesday night. (WPLN/Daniel Potter)

Craft beer makers in Tennessee want legislators to rework a state tax on their product. They want to get rid of a 17 percent tax on beer sold to wholesalers, and replace it with a flat fee.

A couple hundred people turned out Wednesday night at the downtown taproom of Nashville beer-maker Yazoo, which is leading the campaign, called ‘Fix the Beer Tax.’ Sponsoring the proposal is Germantown Senator Brian Kelsey, who framed it as a matter of cold ones versus taxes.

“We don’t like taxes, do we like taxes?” “NO!”
“Do we like beer taxes?” “NO!!!”
“Are we gonna fix the beer tax?” “YES!”

Finishing a smoke outside, Seth Arkin argues it’s more fair to charge everyone an equal fee based on volume, instead of price. Since craft beer tends to cost more, Arkin figures taxing a percentage hurts microbrews especially.

“Essentially, we’re always talking about tax equality and all this – Well, what about in this case for the producers? They are essentially being penalized for creating a good product.”

The proposal would not necessarily make beer cheaper for consumers. And craft brewers haven’t exactly been struggling in Nashville, with several new ones opening in recent years. Asked if that shows the tax is hardly choking out local brewers, one backer answered, ‘imagine how much better it could be.’

Link: The bill, which currently just has placeholder wording and is expected to be amended later in the session, can be found here.

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