Category Archives: Wine Compliance

When is a red blend not a red wine? In the TTB label approval process!
Posted on 2016-02-22 by Ann Reynolds

This week’s blog post comes to you courtesy of a recent contact I had with a  winery compliance colleague. Their request was for a post on a topic related to wine label requirements, and specifically what the TTB calls a wine’s “class and type”. This is a required item on all wine labels but many wineries were getting it wrong on the label files that they sent to my colleagues office.

One of the common services that offices like mine and others provide to winery clients is to submit their labels for TTB approval. (COLAs)  As a part of that process we regularly need to request the wineries to make edits to their label files before they meet the requirements for submitting them to the TTB.

The issue my colleague was having:  wineries that list “red blend” (as their class & type) on their wine’s front label. The winery’s intent is to use “red blend” instead of listing a single varietal name (pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, etc) which is the other most commonly used class & type on wine labels. The problem with this is “red blend” is not on the TTB’s approved class & type list. A wine label that is submitted to the TTB for label approval that only lists “red blend” on it would come back marked “correction requested”, specific to the “red blend” class & type being insufficient.

What term is on the TTB’s approved class & type list?

Red wine. (along with white wine and rose wine by the way!)

Wineries - you can't leave out the wine in your red, white or rose blends! Click To Tweet

As winery compliance consultants when we receive label files that list “red blend” or “white blend” or “Rose” we have to get back to the winery and request them to edit their wine label to instead list “red wine” or “red wine blend” or “white wine blend” or “white wine” or “rose wine” before he can go ahead and submit for TTB label approval. By the way if your wine is below 14% alcohol you can also list “red table wine” or “white table wine” or “rose table wine” on the label as the class and type & you would NOT need to list an alcohol percent.

While we’re on the topic of wine blends and their labels- there are two options that wineries have if they desire to elaborate a bit further about the varietals that make up their “red wine blend”. (or white wine or rose wine)

Option 1. They may list the varietals in the blend on the wine’s front (brand) label. They list the varietals along with their percentage in descending order and the percentages must total to 100%. 

Option 2. A winery can list “red wine blend” (or white wine or rose wine) on their front (brand) label and then elaborate on that further by listing the varietals in the wine’s blend in the back label text. If a winery chooses this option they must list in descending order any varietals in the blend that account for 5% or more. There is no requirement to list their percentages with this option. This option fits if your wine blend has several varietals in it and they won’t all fit on your front label along with their percentages but  you’d like to be able to share all those details with your wine drinking public.

US wineries: Does your winery qualify for the Small Producers Tax Credit? (part 1)
Posted on 2016-02-08 by Ann Reynolds

My most recent blog posts have been about the currently hot topic of TTB wine bonds. In today’s post I’m covering some in depth specifics on what the purpose of a TTB wine bond is all about: excise taxes. Within the topic of TTB excise taxes I’ll review the first part behind qualifying to pay those required TTB taxes under the Small Producer’s Tax Credit, or SPC. The majority of US wineries qualify for the SPC, however this credit is also very misunderstood and commonly misused on TTB excise tax returns. So this part 1 post is focused on “how to walk your winery permit” through determining the first step in qualifying for the SPC, which is whether or not your winery ownership qualifies.

This is a multi part question and answer process to determine if your answer is yes.

To start you first need to take a look at your TTB permit application file for your winery. If the ownership of your winery also owns other winery sites (this includes as an alternating proprietor at another site) you’ll need to reference those TTB permit application files as well. You will also need to make sure you reference the most current TTB permit application file (for all sites if applicable) that matches your current ownership details. (i.e. If you’ve changed from one entity type to another or if you’ve changed the ownership on your LLC for example) What you are looking at specifically in your TTB application file is all the individuals listed as the owners/officers. This is because the first qualification for filing under the SPC is that if any owner or officer above 50% ownership on your TTB permit is also listed as an owner/officer above 50% ownership on another TTB winery permit then the annual wine production gallons and the amount of tax paid wine removals per year must be summed together for both sites. This is what the IRS refers to as a control group The total amount of annual production for all sites cannot be more than 150,000 gallons in order to qualify for the tax credit at the full 0.90 per gallon amount, and the credit can only be taken on up to 100,000 gallons for a year’s worth of wine removals from all sites on your TTB excise tax reports.

In layman’s terms what could this look like you ask? For example, if Sue Z. is listed as the CEO with 60% ownership of  ABC Cellars LLC at a winery site in Napa, CA and ABC Cellars LLC also has a second TTB permit as an alternating proprietor (AP) at a site in Sonoma CA then they would need to be summing their wine production gallons and their wine removal amounts together each year to determine whether or not they qualify to file and pay their TTB excise taxes under the SPC.

Be aware this is just one example of a multi site ownership that is an example of a control group. There are other types as well so if you are wondering about your site please feel free to contact my office to discuss further.

If you are reading this and you know that your winery is owned by an individual, partnership, LLC or corporation and that none of the owners or officers are listed on any other TTB winery or wine cellar permits then you pass this first small producer’s tax credit qualification test. (Congratulations!)  

Stay tuned next week for part 2: Does your wine qualify for the small producer’s tax credit?


Does your winery qualify to cancel your TTB wine bond?
Posted on 2016-02-02 by Ann Reynolds

This is post number three following up on the TTB’s announcement related to updates in their wine bond requirements. This post is designed to help answer the question, will my winery qualify to no longer need a TTB wine bond? As is the case with winery compliance each TTB winery permit holder has their own details that determine how their TTB compliance works, in this instance specific to their TTB wine bond.

Here is a path to follow to determine whether your winery will qualify. 

  1. TTB excise tax payments are made on cased wines. (In almost all situations) Does your winery use an off site wine storage warehouse for your cased wines? If yes then your first step is to refer to one or two years of invoices from them, specifically looking for all the TTB excise tax payments they billed you back for. Sum those up (ideally 2 years worth is best for comparison) and if the total for either year is not more than $50,000 your winery likely qualifies to cancel your wine bond come the end of 2016.
  2. If you ship your cased wines directly from your winery this means you are responsible for filing and paying your TTB excise taxes under your own bonded winery permit. Here again reference your TTB excise tax reports for at least 2 years worth and compare each year’s total amounts to determine whether or not you’re over the $50,000  per year amount.

To give you an idea on what these excise tax calculations look like here are some examples of amounts of wine shipments per year that would be less than $50,000 due in TTB excise taxes.

  1. Up to 13,390 cases of over 14% wine @ $1.57/gallon (the full tax rate)
  2. Up to 6,700 cases of over 14% wines @ $1.57/gallon and 9,300 cases of below 14% wine @ $1.07/gallon
  3. Up to 21,030 cases of over 14% wine & 21,030 cases of below 14% wine both @ 0.90/gallon (under the small producers tax credit)
  4. Up to 42,060 cases of below 14% wines @ 0.90/gallon 

As you see the excise taxes that your winery owes per year are based for one on the alcohol content (tax class) of the wines you ship out to customers each year. This ratio may or may not be a steady one year to year for your winery. However the majority (79%) of US wineries make less than 5,000 cases per year and the next group up from that (18%) makes less than 50,000 cases per year. See chart here.  As long as your winery and your wines qualify for the small producers tax credit, your winery can ship out up to 42,060 cases of wine per year and owe less than $50,000 in excise taxes. (more details to come on this in a future blog)  Based on the above, more than likely the majority of US wineries will qualify to cancel their TTB wine bond come the end of 2016.

TTB wine bond update part 2: No wine bond does not mean no TTB permit
Posted on 2016-01-26 by Ann Reynolds

In last week’s blog post I explained the details behind the TTB’s recent announcement that starting in January of 2017 many US wineries will no longer be required to maintain their TTB wine bond. Not surprisingly I received a lot of follow up questions. There is no shortage of confusion around just this one topic of winery compliance. So I’ll be continuing to follow up with additional blog posts to explain exactly what a TTB wine bond is and how to determine whether or not your winery will qualify to no longer need one. Today’s post however is meant to clarify a possible misunderstanding. Simply because your winery may no longer need to maintain a TTB wine bond does NOT mean that you won’t still need your TTB basic permit as a winery.

All businesses that desire to make and sell wine in the US will still be required to obtain (or maintain) a TTB basic permit as a winery. I underlined make in that sentence because as a “producing and blending” TTB winery permit holder that means your winery must actually ferment either grapes or juice (Or both) on a regular basis. TTB code breaker: ferment = make or produce! I always suggest to winery clients that they ferment at least some gallons every year. (Which would then show up on their TTB 5120.17 report as “produced by fermentation”) If your winery has not or is not showing some “produced by fermentation” gallons on this required TTB report then in the eyes of the TTB your site is not “acting like a winery” and your TTB permit can be downgraded from a winery type to a wine cellar type. I also remind my clients that qualify to file under the small producers tax credit for their TTB excise taxes that they must show “produced by fermentation” gallons every year in order to file for this credit on their TTB excise tax reports. 

Here are some other thoughts on the TTB’s elimination of the wine bond for qualifying wineries. What will happen to the use of the phrase “bonded winery” for example? We love that phrase, and it is often used incorrectly from my readings in the winery compliance world. For example I’ve often seen the phrase “virtual winery” used to describe what are technically a “bonded winery” type of business, something that is an ongoing annoyance. Plain and simple a bonded winery is a business that holds a basic permit with the TTB as a winery. Who holds this type of TTB basic permit? Stand alone winery sites are one group, alternating proprietors or APs are another, and then sites which house more than one type of alcohol beverage production facility, such as a brewery which also makes cider on the same site will hold both a TTB brewery permit as well as a TTB winery basic permit. (for the cider production)

Also a “bonded winery” has a “BWN” number. We often refer to this as the TTB permit number, which is also inaccurate. If you look at your winery’s TTB permit up in the top right corner you’ll see 4 numbered boxes. Box # 1 is titled “permit number” and will list your state TTB permit number. Such as CA-W-12345. This is NOT your “bonded winery” number. Your winery’s “bonded winery” number is the one listed in box #3. This is your BWN #, such as BWN-CA-54321. The TTB calls this your registry number. That however is the correct number to use on all your TTB reports, what is required to be listed on the bill of lading for a shipment of bulk wine, and is also listed on any TTB label approvals that are submitted for wines bottled at your winery site. 

US wineries: Will you need a TTB wine bond starting in 2017?
Posted on 2016-01-19 by Ann Reynolds

As a winery compliance consultant it makes sense that I’m signed up for the TTB’s email updates. Some of these announcements are useful, while some have no effect on me at all. Yesterday’s was a rare breed in that I was surprised by what I read. What was so surprising? Starting in Q1 of 2017 holders of a TTB winery basic permit that meet the requirements to file their TTB excise taxes on either an annual or a quarterly basis will no longer be required to maintain a TTB wine bond. 

That’s big news! What does that mean for thousands of US wineries? (& for those about to start a new TTB winery application) They will no longer need to apply for or maintain their TTB wine bond, which for most businesses is an annual insurance policy. All wineries that owe up to $50,000 per year in TTB excise taxes can qualify for this “no TTB wine bond necessary” status. 

Next question, do you know what your winery’s current TTB wine bond amount is? This is the form that you are looking for in your records OR you can call your winery’s insurance office as they are likely who the TTB wine bond was set up through, as well as who you’ll contact come the end of 2016 to cancel the policy if your winery qualifies. 

Their are currently well over 8,000 wineries in the US and closer to 80% of those produce less than 5,000 cases of wine per year. That means they likely qualify to cancel their TTB wine bond. (as long as their winery isn’t part of a larger winery “portfolio” held by the same umbrella ownership) By the way if your winery ships out up to 23,000 cases of wine per year & qualifies for the small producers tax credit than you also likely qualify for this “No TTB wine bond necessary” status. 

If you are still wondering about your winery’s TTB wine bond status and whether you’ll qualify to cancel it come the end of this year please reach out to my office here to discuss further.

See the full text of the TTB’s announcement here.


California wineries: Have you filed your 2015 reports?
Posted on 2016-01-12 by Ann Reynolds

It’s the beginning of a new year and with that in the world of winery compliance it also means for many wineries the required filing of one federal (TTB) and one state (CA BOE) report related to their 2015 winemaking activities. Has your winery filed? They are both due by Friday, January 15th. Does your winery qualify to file each of these reports on an annual basis? See my previous blog post here about qualifying to file the TTB report, the 5120.17 on an annual basis. For the CA BOE Winegrower tax return if your winery qualifies to file the report annually it will be mailed to you on an annual basis and be filled in with the full calendar year as the reporting period.  See an example here of the CA BOE report. You also need to be aware that the CA BOE report is required to be sent in even if you list all zeros on the first page. There is a late fee and your CA ABC license can be suspended if this report is not sent in.

If you’re reading this and wondering about how to complete either of these reports for your winery I invite you to sign up for a brief “Compliance check in” call. 

There are a lot of what I refer to as moving parts in any winery’s compliance systems. And each of those moving parts are connected in one way or another to the others, but if you or someone at your winery isn’t aware of these connections it can lead to issues such as audits, fines, and in some cases permit cancellation. To further clarify some of these moving parts I discuss some of them in another recent blog post. A summary I called “year end compliance wrap up” tips. See that post here.

For all you annual filers out there, here’s hoping you’ve already checked these two report filings off your to do list.

If not and you’d like some guidance feel free to reach out:

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Wineries: How to electronically file your TTB Report of wine premise operations
Posted on 2015-12-29 by Ann Reynolds

This post is part 3 of a series on the most common TTB required report that all US wineries must file, the 5120.17 (or 702) Report of wine premise operations. The last two blog posts have both been building up to this one. The first told you about qualifying to file this report on an annual basis and the second detailed specific wine production numbers all wineries are required to be reporting on an annual basis.

This week’s post is about the actual filing of this TTB report, and specifically on filing it using their online system, I’ve been using this online system since 2009 for clients and continually recommend it. The primary advantages of using are: 

(1) You know the TTB received your report! (No snail mail issues)

(2) The system won’t allow you to send in an incomplete or out of balance report. I will clarify that when I mention incomplete by that I mean for example, if you list gallons on line 2, “produced by fermentation” it then requires that numbers are also listed in part 4, Summary of materials received and used, specifically line 5. 

Want to know more about how to file your winery’s TTB reports?

Here are the details for getting started with filing this TTB report on the site.

  1. Sign up for an account. The person who signs up for the account MUST have either signing authority or power of attorney for the winery’s TTB permit. 
  2. Once your account is set up you’ll receive your logon and initial password and can begin submitting reports. The system is available for submitting the 5120.17 Report of wine premise operations as well as 5000.24 Excise tax report and payments.
  3. All your reports submitted online will be available moving forward, and any necessary amendment filings that come up for your winery down the road can also be submitted on your account. 

This required TTB report is often the source of audit issues for US wineries, some of which are that they are filed late, incorrectly or not at all. By having and using the system on the filing schedule that best matches their wine making numbers winery staff can gain some peace of mind that they are covered.

Not sure that your winery is covered for required TTB reporting?

Wineries: Requirements for showing wine production numbers on your TTB report
Posted on 2015-12-22 by Ann Reynolds

This week’s blog post is the 2nd in a series I’m posting for winery staff to help them understand and be aware of how they need to be reporting some specific numbers annually (at least) on their required TTB Report of wine premise operations, or 5120.17 (702) filing(s). In assisting wineries with this report I regularly see that they are either completed incorrectly or are missing numbers on specific lines that any US bonded winery must list per TTB regulations. If these numbers are not listed on these required reports it can lead to issues such as TTB audits, wine label issues, and potentially loss of your permit.

The specific report numbers I’m referring to are lines 2 & 5 in part 4, Summary of material received and used, and line 2 in part 1, section A, Bulk wines.  (See TTB report template here)

Part 4, summary of materials received and used is the “harvest” section of a winery’s report. This is where your wine making numbers will start on this report for all grapes or juice you receive and process at your site. Line 2 is for the pounds of all grapes or gallons of juice (if they came onto your site as juice not grapes) received at your site and line 5 is for when those pounds or gallons have finished fermentation (either alcoholic and/or malo-lactic) and your winery thus “declares” them finished wine which is when they “graduate” to line 2 of part 1 section A, “produced by fermentation”.

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The problems I commonly see with this report specific to the above report lines are:

  1. Numbers are listed on line 2 “produced by fermentation” but no numbers listed in part 4
  2. No numbers listed in either part 4 or on line 2, “produced by fermentation”
  3. Numbers listed in part 4 are listed incorrectly or are incomplete

What are the potential end results that can come from sending your TTB reports with the above issues:

  1. If like #2 above your reports never list numbers in part 4 or on line 2 in part 1 of section A then your winery would not qualify to file your TTB excise taxes under the small producers tax credit AND in the event of a TTB audit your basic permit could be in jeopardy because in the TTB’s eyes you are not acting like a winery. What does that mean? As part of holding a TTB basic permit as a winery (you know, that BWN # we’re always referring to?) you are actually required to conduct some amount of fermentation activity. At a minimum that would show up on your TTB report as some juice gallons received (line 2, column C in part 4), then the resulting finished wine gallons from fermenting that juice on line 4, column C in part 4 and lastly those finished wine gallons on line 2, produced by fermentation in either column a or b depending on the wine’s alcohol content.
  2. Wine labeling issues. If your wine label lists “produced and bottled by” on it, then per TTB requirements at least 75% of the wine blend must have at least finished fermentation at your winery site. Meeting this requirement backs directly into gallons that appear on line 2, produced by fermentation of the TTB report. 

 Still feeling lost or concerned about this TTB report for your winery?

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Wineries: How to file your annual TTB Report of wine premise operations
Posted on 2015-12-14 by Ann Reynolds

Not only is it the end of yet another calendar year, but in the winemaking world this time of the year also tends to coincide with the “end” of the winemaking life cycle. That end I refer to is the completion of alcoholic (& for some wines malo-lactic) fermentation of the most recent vintage’s finished wines. US wineries do you know how that translates onto your most common required TTB report, the Report of wine premise operations? 

Most US wineries qualify to file this required report on an annual basis, which means they must submit it to the TTB by January 15th of each year, reporting the previous year’s numbers. There are two requirements that  a winery must meet in order to qualify to file this report on an annual basis. The first is related to your ongoing gallon amounts that sit at your winery site throughout the year. You can have up to 20,000 gallons of wine sitting in tanks, barrels, drums, etc at your winery site and you meet the first qualification. (I should also mention that if your winery stores “in bond” cased wines at your site then you need to include their gallons in that number. “In bond” refers to wines that have not had TTB excise taxes paid)

The second qualification for annual submission of this TTB report is that your winery also must qualify (& does) file an annual TTB Excise tax report. In order to qualify to file the TTB excise tax report on an annual basis you can owe no more than $1,000 in excise tax payments for a year’s worth of your wine shipments. By the way your winery can ship up to about 630 cases of over 14% wine per year and you’d be within this $1,000 total excise tax bill amount. I based that calculation using the small producer’s tax credit amount, which means I deducted 0.90 cents per gallon off the full TTB excise tax rate. (This case amount would be higher if some of your wines are below the 14% alcohol level)

Once you’ve determined that your winery meets both qualifications to submit the Report of wine premise operations on an annual basis the next suggestion to be aware of and sign up for is online filing of the report via the TTB’s site. This is their electronic platform which any winery can use to file both this report as well as file and pay their TTB excise tax reports. A winery representative must apply to set up an account, and that person must also have either signing authority or power of attorney with the TTB offices.

Here is a link to some more information on annual, quarterly and monthly reporting requirements as well as further information on completing the TTB Report of wine premise operations.         TTB Reporting

Confused or concerned about your winery’s reporting?  You’re a candidate for one of my “Compliance check in” calls!    

 Sign up for one here:       Compliance Check In


Year end winery compliance wrap up tips
Posted on 2015-12-08 by Ann Reynolds

2016 is quickly approaching and 2015 is quickly winding to a close. From a wine making compliance perspective there are some specific areas that are in the best interest of all wineries to give attention to before the year ends.

  1. Wine “production”. We reference this term a lot in the wine making world but what I’m referring to specifically here is the TTB’s definition of wine production, and making sure that production numbers are reported every year if you are a TTB winery permit holder. This includes all stand alone wineries AND all alternating proprietorship, or APs. (both of which are wineries in the TTB’s eyes) These production numbers that wineries need to list every year appear on the TTB 5120.17 (“702”) report on line 2, “produced by fermentation”.
  2. There are two main reasons why a winery will want to make sure it lists numbers on line 2 of their TTB 5120.17 report(s) each year. The first is related to their filing for the small producers tax credit when filing their TTB excise tax reports. A winery may only file for this credit if they have shown production in the previous year. The scenario looks like this. Harvest of 2015 winery A did not ferment any grapes or juice, therefore it never listed any numbers on line 2 of it’s TTB 5120.17 reports for all of 2015. In 2016 when it ships out wine to customers and then must file and pay the TTB excise tax it would NOT qualify to file for the small producers tax credit.
  3. The other reason for wineries to pay attention to their production numbers every year on line 2 of the TTB 5120.17 report is those numbers listed there tie directly to the use of “produced and bottled by” on their wine labels. In order to list “produced and bottled by” on a wine label at least 75% of the blend of that wine must have been “produced” at the site that bottled it. Here again “produced” meaning numbers that were listed on line 2 of their TTB 5120.17 reports.
  4. California Grape Crush report preparation or filing. If your winery site holds a California weighmaster license, or if you are an AP and grow, buy or sell grapes then you are required to complete this report to the CDFA every year. It is due by January 10th, but right now is the best time to be preparing it. 
  5. Napa County use permit holders with a 75% grape reporting requirement. The 75% Napa county grape source requirement has been in effect since post 1990 and creation of the Winery definition ordinance. (WDO). In more recent years when the county planning office has issued winery use permits it has made annual grape summary reporting a requirement. If your winery’s use permit (in Napa county) was approved in the last few years take a look at your list of conditions attached to your use permit approval letter. That is where it would list whether or not your winery is required to submit an annual report to the county planning office by December 31st which summarizes all grapes received at your site by appellation, which would prove that you are meeting the (at least) 75% grapes from within Napa county requirement.

If after reading all of this you are confused or unclear as to your winery’s compliance you are a perfect candidate for a “Compliance Check in Call”

You can sign up for one here: Compliance Check in Call