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New York’s Hard Cider Tax

  • Dec 12, 2013 | Gail Cole

 Not a New York cider.

Remember Johnny Appleseed? In the early 1800s, John Chapman headed west, planting apple orchards to provide apple seeds for the hardy men and women settling the frontier. The fruit of his labor was never intended to be eaten. Johnny Appleseed planted apple trees so he and others could make apple cider. Hard cider, as we call it in America today.

Cider was a popular drink in Colonial America, as it was and is in Great Britain. It was a beverage of choice—a staple from New England homesteads to Virginia plantations. John Adams, one of the nation’s most respected founding fathers, began each day “with a draft of hard cider.”

Today, cider consumption still thrives in British pubs. It is the preferred accompaniment to crepes in France and it is enjoyed in many areas of the world.  Yet its popularity in the United States dropped dramatically even prior to prohibition, and by the mid 20th century it was all but forgotten by Americans.

But now cider is having something of a comeback. Perhaps it began with homebrewers and the rise of micro-breweries. It could be that the spread of gluten intolerance has had something to do with cider’s comeback—cider is gluten free.

Whatever the reason, cider is back. And as states realize this, they want to regulate it. Once regulated, it can be sold and taxed. There’s a long, sometimes ugly history of taxing alcohol, and if those taxes are never popular, they can be lucrative

New York’s definition of cider, expanded

Last October, New York Assembly Bill 8047 was signed into law that takes effect January 15, 2014. It provides “a defined place in the market” for cider and is expected to benefit existing cider producers and encourage others to enter the field.

The law expands the definition of cider in New York’s alcohol control law, amending it to include “…the partially or fully fermented juice of… other pome fruits…” The alcohol level was raised to eight and one half per centum alcohol by volume…;” and “with the usual cellar treatments and necessary additions to correct defects due to climate, saccharine levels and seasonal conditions.” The definition of cider was also expanded to include cider sweetened or flavored after fermentation with fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, maple syrup, honey, spices or other agricultural products. Sugar was already included in the list.

The amendment includes a provision explaining what to do “in the event that an alcoholic beverage meets the definition of both a cider… and a wine… the brand or trade name label owner” shall determine how the beverage is to be sold—as wine or cider.

Cidery and farm cidery licenses available January 15, 2014

Another provision expands licenses to those operating a cidery (“any place or premises wherein cider is manufactured for sale”) and farm cideries (“any place or premises, located on a farm in New York State, in which New York State labelled cider is manufactured, stored and sold, or any other place or premises in New York State in which New York State labelled cider is manufactured, stored and sold.”) In short, like producers of wine, beer and spirits, cider makers now know what they can and can’t do under the law.

Licensed cider producers may conduct tastings (limited to three samples per person per day) and sell cider “for consumption off the premises at the state fair, at recognized county fairs and at farmers markets operated on a not-for-profit basis.” There are also provisions for selling cider elsewhere, such as at other businesses on the premises of the cidery or farm cidery (think restaurants, inns, etc). The amended law describes who may or may not pour the cider, who must be present, and so forth.  It explains that bulk sales of cider (think keg, casks and barrels) may be sold during outdoor gatherings such as clambakes and picnics. Even the type of apples used in New York State cider is delineated (NY apples first and foremost, barring “a natural disaster, act of God or continuing adverse weather….”

Not subject to sales and use tax requirements

Effective January 15, 2104, properly licensed farm cideries are not “subject to any of the requirements” of the final subdivision of the law, which outlines sales and use tax requirements. Holders of New York State farm brewery licenses and farm winery licenses are already exempt from these tax requirements.

The New York State tax rate for cider is $0.0379 per gallon. There is no additional New York City tax rate for cider.

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photo credit: Aaron Landry via photopin cc

Sales tax rates, rules, and regulations change frequently. Although we hope you'll find this information helpful, this blog is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal or tax advice.
Gail Cole
Avalara Author
Gail Cole
Gail Cole
Avalara Author Gail Cole
Gail began researching and writing about sales tax in 2012 and has been fascinated with it ever since. She has a penchant for uncovering unusual tax facts, and endeavors to make complex sales tax laws more digestible for both experts and laypeople.