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Williams backs bill preserving lower tax for breweries and wineries

U.S. Rep. Roger Williams

U.S. Rep. Williams supports House Resolution 1175, The Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, which would keep federal excise taxes low for small breweries, wineries, and distilleries. Staff photo by Alex Copeland

The political landscape might be divided now more than ever, but one thing that can unite parties, it seems, is lower taxes for breweries and wineries.

U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, a Republican who represents Texas’ 25th District, co-authored a bipartisan letter with 136 other House members asking leaders from both parties to allow a vote on permanently preserving tax breaks for craft distilleries, breweries, small wineries, and cideries as many businesses try to recover from the COVID-19 shutdown. 

“Both sides agree to it,” Williams said. “So, we’re working hard for that. We’re fighting for them. Hopefully, we can get that done. It is one of the few bipartisan things we’ve got going here in Washington.”

Craft beverage businesses have been hit hard as tasting rooms and in-person sales — which contribute nearly half of total revenue — slumped during state shutdowns.

“In our district, which you’re aware, we’ve got quite a few craft beverage producers,” said Williams, whose district includes Burnet, Bosque, Coryell, Hamilton, Hill, Johnson, Lampasas, and Somervell counties as well as parts of Bell, Erath, Hays, Tarrant, and Travis counties. “They’re small businesses and they’re doing great and they’ve chosen our area to get into it. One of the problems they had was excise tax, which just chews them up.” 

The legislation proposed in the letter, House Resolution 1175, The Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, would make permanent the recalibrated federal excise tax rates that were passed in 2017, extended in 2019, and now set to expire December 31, 2020. If the rates expire, taxes for some businesses could rise by up to 400 percent.

“It’s an industry in our district that we need to protect,” Williams said. “It’s a good industry. These are entrepreneurs. They’re risk takers. We want to help them all we can, and it would be a big benefit to them if we could get this passed and get that excise tax reduced for them. Make that reduction permanent.”

The letter notes that as restaurant and bar closures decimated sales, many distilleries and breweries redirected their resources to the production of hand sanitizer and donated it to local first responders and nonprofits. 

“It reminds me of when you watch the history of World War II, how General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford switched from production of cars to tanks and airplanes. It’s the same thing. Nobody asked them to do it, they did it because of the greatness of America,” Williams said. “That’s one of the reasons, too, that I want to help them. They are part of the greatness of our country.”