Distillery industry faces tax hike, calls for help from federal lawmakers

An industry that helped local communities across the nation at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic by making hand sanitizer is now asking for help.
Published: Oct. 21, 2020 at 4:07 PM CDT
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NEAR BRANSON, Mo. (KY3) - An industry that helped local communities across the nation at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic by making hand sanitizer is now asking for help.

Distilleries want tax cuts that would help keep their doors open. Greg Pope is the owner and master distiller at Missouri Ridge Distillery near Branson.

“[We were] the largest producer of hand sanitizer [in the state] at 52,000 gallons,” Pope said.

Now, Pope says it’s distilleries like this that need help preventing big tax hikes.

“We are going to go to $2.70 a proof gallon, which is one volumetric gallon at 100 proof, to $13.50 per proof gallon,” Pope said.

That is, if federal lawmakers don’t pass the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, which would stop a 400 percent tax increase at the start of the new year.

“It may very well cost me my business,” Pope said.

The bill has received bi-partisan support. Still, one of the bills co-sponsors says it’s at a stand-still.

“Frankly, I just don’t understand it at all,” Senator Josh Hawley said.

Senator Hawley says he not only supports this tax reform act, but has also introduced other bi-partisan legislation to help Missouri businesses, especially those in the hospitality industry.

“They ought to get help in hiring their workers back, in making new hires and getting into full recovery,” Senator Hawley said.

However, he says, political roadblocks stand in the way of Missouri businesses needing help.

“Let’s start by getting done what we agree on,” Senator Hawley

Politics aside, Pope says the tax increase wouldn’t only cripple his business, but others as well.

“There’s 29,000 jobs just in the state of Missouri. 2.9 billion dollars of tax revenue generated by the distillery industry, just in Missouri. I mean, it puts all of our heads on the chopping block,” Pope said. “It’s not just me. It’s everybody.”

During the pandemic, many distilleries in Missouri have had to furlough or lay off employees. Pope says getting the tax break would help businesses like his recover from a difficult several months.

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