"Once or twice I have used the word "shelted." All of New York may now know the feeling."
The link goes to a New York Post story about a new interpretation on New York taxes and fees that were no longer being applied to small in-state brewers, thanks to the outcome of a lawsuit brought by Shelton Brothers, whose beers were liable for the taxes and fees. Quoting from Russia Today (sorry, RT.com...), here's the story in more detail than the Post explained:
Until recently, the first 200,000 barrels of beer produced by a company within New York were exempt from taxes that were imposed on other ale importers. Starting immediately, however, those small-time brewers who only produce a limited number of delicious nectar each year will be taxed on each and every barrel — to the tune of $4.34 apiece.Additionally, brewers in New York that produce fewer than 1,500 barrels will now be forced to pay a $150 label registration fee.First, label registration fees are bullshit, and shouldn't even exist; if they do, there should be some kind of blanket fee for multiple labels. The state should be ashamed for charging these; they're like points on a mortgage; just a fee the state charges because it can.
But the taxes? $4.34 a barrel is 14 cents a gallon, hardly one of the big state excise taxes, but it amounts to a lot of money for a small brewer. A brewer making 5,000 barrels a year will pay an additional $21,700 to New York; a hefty, unplanned chunk. Apparently New York City imposes an additional 12 cents a gallon (shocker, right?), so you're getting into real money here.
But let's take it in a different direction. The Post asked around -- maybe, they're not clear about who they actually asked -- and got this: "It wasn’t clear how much more consumers will pay, but industry workers predicted that the cost of a local beer will rise at least $1 for every pint."
Really? If that's true, then the addition of 26 cents a gallon in tax, which means the brewer is paying an additional 3.25 cents a pint, is going to cost consumers eight friggin' dollars. Which, my friends, is yet another reason why excise taxes are stupid and regressive. You're getting hosed, the state's not even making that much money, and the three-tier system's raking it off. Hell, they're mad at Shelton Brothers? They ought to build them a statue.
But the main point here is this: should New York beer drinkers be pissed at Shelton Brothers for increasing the price of their beer? Or were the brothers Shelton simply getting justice after getting burned by paying taxes New York brewers didn't have to pay? I would say that this is a 21st Amendment issue. If New York wants to charge different taxes on alcohol producers in-state, well, the 21st Amendment gives them the right to do that. And if not, and that means New Yorkers have to pay too much for a glass of beer, they need to tell their legislature that the beer excise tax is too damned high.
But it's the court's fault, and ultimately the law's fault, not Shelton Brothers'. This is not a level playing field, and the laws make it that way. We win by fighting the laws, not each other. Until then, I can't fault a brewer or importer for trying to level things out through the courts.