After a long campaign road, the Tennessee General Assembly voted April 10 to approve the Beer Tax Reform Act of 2013. The near unanimous vote in both the House and Senate only added to the excitement surrounding a campaign deemed a legislative sensation.
The reform proposal to fix the highest beer tax in the nation has drawn statewide support from every level of Tennessee’s beer industry, from large brewers to craft brewers and beer wholesalers. As the spotlight heated up on state lawmakers, it also caught the support and attention of a national audience.
“This tax reform makes Tennessee more appealing to business,” said Rich Foge, president of the Tennessee Malt Beverage Association. “It will attract new brewers to the state, as well as help those already here to expand and create additional jobs.”
Senate Bill 422 and House Bill 999, sponsored by Representative Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) and Representative Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), will convert Tennessee’s outdated price-based tax to a more business-friendly volume based tax. Currently, Tennessee has the highest beer tax rate in the nation, propelling higher and higher every year with inflation.
“When it came down to it,” said Senator Ken Yager (R- Harriman) on the Senate floor Monday, “this vote was about whether or not Tennessee would become competitive in one of the country’s fastest-growing industries.”
Tennessee leads all other states’ beer tax rate by a 12 percent margin. In comparison to its neighbors, Arkansas’ tax per barrel rings up at $7.51 and Mississippi’s at $13.23, while Tennessee tops out at a whopping $37 per barrel.
“In a historically low tax state, Tennessee’s 1950s era triple-layer beer tax has been no friend to businesses,” Sexton said. “Whether you are a small brewery or a large scale operation, the tax has hindered expansion and recruitment as well as punished growth. It was simply time for a change in the tax structure and everyone involved is honored to have enjoyed such sweeping support.”
Since the bill’s introduction, more than 2,000 supporters of the grassroots Fix the Beer Tax Campaign rallied in Chattanooga, Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis and Tri-Cities, resulting each time in a flurry of social media and support from local businesses.
“This is also a victory for Tennessee consumers who will benefit from more selection in the marketplace as more beer brands become available as a direct result of this new tax structure,” Foge added.
The bill will now head to the Governor’s desk for a signature, as the statewide sound of clinking glasses swells in a toast to Tennessee’s brighter future.