Wyden Backs Tax Break For Craft Beverage Makers

By Emily Cureton (OPB)
Bend, Ore. Feb. 11, 2019 9:24 p.m.

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden has introduced a bill to permanently reduce federal taxes on the craft alcohol industry.

Staggered to benefit smaller brewers, vintners and distillers the most, some $4.2 billion in temporary tax breaks were introduced in 2017. Wedged into the GOP's Tax Cut and Jobs Act, the reforms were first championed by the Democratic Senator in 2015.


Taxing alcohol as a sin goes back to the 1700s, and excise taxes are still levied on things deemed harmful to society — such as pornography, tobacco and alcohol.

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“The excise tax and all the other taxes added up are about 16 percent the cost of a bottle of beer,” said Deschutes Brewery CEO Michael LaLonde.

The Bend-based brewery is part of broad industry support for enshrining the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act into permanent law. LaLonde said the federal tax breaks saved Deschutes Brewery $700,000 last year. Oregon already has some of the lowest state taxes on beer.

Wyden said in a press release: “People around the world enjoy Oregon wine, craft beer, cider and spirits — providing not only a serious source of home state pride but also a huge boon to our state’s economy.”

The bill would increase funding for regulation. It proposes more money for the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to streamline its formula and label processing, and beef up enforcement of fair trade practices violations.

“By modernizing burdensome rules and taxes for craft beverage producers, this legislation will level the playing field and allow these innovators to further grow and thrive,” Wyden said in a press release.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the introduction of  SB 1562 in 2015.