2019 ABL Annual Meeting | March 24-26, 2019 | Las Vegas, Nevada
American Beverage Licensees (ABL) is returning to Las Vegas, Nevada for the 2019 ABL Annual Meeting, taking place March 24-26, 2019. The meeting will be held at Bally’s Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, and will include a program full of informative speakers, topical issue discussions, industry networking and a series of hospitality events. Marking the association’s 17th anniversary, the meeting program will examine the key issues of the day facing independent beverage retailers and explore what lies ahead in the ever-evolving beverage alcohol marketplace.
Additional information – including registration and room rates, speakers, schedules, and hospitality events – will be announced in the coming weeks and months. For the latest updates and information on the 2019 ABL Annual Meeting, be sure to visit the ABL website (www.ablusa.org). The latest updates can also be found by following the #ABLMeeting19 hashtag on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Tax Reform 2.0
In an effort to emphasize their primary policy achievement of the 115th Congress and in advance on the upcoming midterm elections, House Republican legislators have introduced a package of tax legislation that would make 2017 tax cuts for individuals permanent and bolster GOP messaging in the midterms. The package includes:
H.R. 6760, the Protecting Family and Small Business Tax Cuts Act of 2018, sponsored by Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) H.R. 6757, the Family Savings Act of 2018, sponsored by Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) H.R. 6756, the American Innovation Act of 2018, sponsored by Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL)
Despite this development, House Republicans are in a challenging political environment that could see them lose their majority in the House in the elections. Complicating matters is the GOP-controlled Senate, which has shown little interest in taking up “Tax 2.0” should it pass the House. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) has not committed to a timeframe for the committee to vote on the legislation, though House Speaker Paul Ryan has said the legislation will get a vote on the House floor before the end of the month.
For beverage licensees, many of which are structured as pass-through businesses (S-corps), the tax reform bill from 2017 provided only temporary tax relief, with tax cut permanency going to corporations. Part of the intent of this legislation is to address what some have deemed an unfair and anticompetitive change to the tax code.
In August, the U.S. Treasury Department gave notice of proposed rulemaking that would apply the new 20% tax deduction to thousands of U.S. businesses organized as pass-throughs. These S-corps, sole proprietorships, and partnerships comprise 95% of all businesses and employ the majority of American workers. The Treasury Department also proposed rules that would allow many business owners to aggregate their business units for purposes of the deduction, putting them a step closer to equal footing with public companies.
The Senate is considering legislation that could form a roadmap for banks to provide services to cannabis industry businesses. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) inserted his own legislation legalizing the production of industrial hemp into the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (S. 3042), thus allowing farmers that grow hemp and the businesses that sell it to have access to the banking system.
There are currently 40+ bills in Congress that address cannabis reform in some fashion. One bill that has garnered attention (though is unlikely to pass) is the “Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act” (or STATES Act) (S. 3032; text PDF), introduced on June 7, 2018 by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO).
The STATES Act would permanently legalize the possession, manufacture, and distribution of marijuana when those activities have been authorized by a state, while banning sales at truck stops and to individuals under 21 years of age. The bill does not go so far as to repeal the federal cannabis prohibition outright, thus keeping the federal government involved in regulation to some degree, but it also falls short of specifying a federal role for issues such as testing, labeling, revenue collection and other important aspects surrounding cannabis regulation.
e-Fairness/Online Sales Tax
Following the Supreme Court’s June ruling in South Dakota v. Wayfair, which gave states the green light for the sales tax collections on remote sellers, federal legislative efforts to address online sales tax laws may be all but dead as states take the lead to set up their own tax regimes. Michigan, Illinois and Washington are among nine states that say October 1 is the start date for companies to collect online sales taxes. North Carolina will follow on November 1. E-retailers and some trade associations say small and medium-sized companies will be particularly hard-pressed to meet the deadlines.
The four federal online sales tax bills remain active, but it remains to be seen if their champions will be able to garner much momentum for them in the waning days of the 115th Congress. One trigger that could invite Congress to act would be states attempting to retroactively tax online sales. The national Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) maintains a good tracking mechanism for the latest developments on this issue.
Following the Senate Judiciary Committee approval of the Music Modernization Act (MMA) (S. 2823) in late June, the upper body has yet to vote on the bill, which now counts 73 cosponsors and is similar to a version that passed the House unanimously earlier this spring. The Senate bill requires the Department of Justice (DOJ) to consult with Congress before filing a motion to terminate a consent decree between the United States and a performing rights society such as ASCAP or BMI. If the Senate passes its MMA bill, the House will need to approve the updated language, and time is now fleeting with the midterm elections (and a potential lame-duck session) in the offing.
For its part, ABL joined with other licensee stakeholders to highlight the threat posed by consent decree terminations, and has worked the MIC Coalition to gather nearly 2,000 bars, hotels, restaurants and wineries in a bipartisan push to make sure the DOJ preserves the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees in order to avoid substantial marketplace chaos. The decrees were initially implemented because DOJ suspected ASCAP and BMI of antitrust violations.