Consumer Wine Tastings in Jeopardy in California
If the California Board of Equalization (BOE) gets what it wants, some of California’s best consumer wine tastings may find themselves in great jeopardy. One already is.
Pinot Days, the annual tasting of Pinot Noir produced by Lisa and Steve Rigisich’s Bay Area Wine project is all of a sudden, after 1o years conducting this non-profit tasting, being told that they are responsible for paying taxes on their Pinot Days entry tickets (which the BOE calls gate receipts). Lisa and Steve consulted the Board of Equalization back in 2005 and were advised statute 6073.2. for Trade shows applied, as Pinot Days clearly is not selling tangible property nor are the attending exhibitors, but instead are providing a place for wineries to showcase what they produce.
The Rigisiches are appealing this odd decision by the Board of Equalization. But if they lose this battle, the tax bill (tens of thousands of dollars) would devastate the viability of Pinot Days, one of the best wine trade shows in California.
Among the various questions that needs to be asked is which other public wine tastings (which are classified similarly to Pinot Days) will the BOE be coming for next? ZAP? Family Winemakers of California tasting? Pinot On the River? These are just the tip of the iceberg. Those that need in particular to be worried are the wine tastings that operate under 501(c)3 federal tax status.
Pinot Days is one of if not the largest gathering of Pinot Noir producers in the world. Lisa and Steve have expanded from originally gathering Pinot producers just in San Francisco to presenting Pinot Days in Southern California, Chicago and New York. What’s particularly beneficial about Pinot Days is that the event attracts primarily small, family owned Pinot estates, giving us something to taste that is generally very hard to find. The event primarily supports the small guys—which often need the most exposure to succeed.
Other wine event producers who want to better understand the problems and challenges that are besetting Lisa and Steve Rigisch and Pinot Days can contact them at [email protected]. Pinot producers who have benefited from exhibiting at Pinot Days and even consumers who have benefited and been enthralled by the massive display of the heartbreak grape at the Pinot Days events should also contact Lisa Rigisich to find out how they can help.
As Ronald Reagan famously stated, “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. If it stops moving, subsidize it.” All you have to prove is that this festival is a critical part of the California economy and that you can’t afford to continue putting it on thus causing severe economic impact. Then apply for your subsidy.
Less regulation is what this industry needs to bring in more revenue to CA, not more. The less regulation = more companies, products, events = more excise tax, more CA tax on distribution, and more sales tax for the municipalities. If tax is increased on the events = fewer events = lower awareness = fewer participants = smaller market = less product = lower taxes at all levels. The BOE is spending dollars to collect pennies.
I don’t understand why you are defending the Rigisch’s, Tom. The law clearly spells out that whatever funds that do not go directly to charities must be taxed. Lisa and Steve used to have some small African group as their beneficiary (no one knew how much money went to them), then One Brick a group of free floating volunters who are also a 501(c)3. But they got their funds not from the revenue of the event but a raffle of bottles donated by the producers.
Family Winemakers ZAP are 501(c)6 organizations pay only limited if any taxes. Similarly with 501(c)3s. The BOE has it all spelled out.
Sounds to me they need to get a good tax lawyer. It is a commercial event. I assume wineries pay to participate. I assume the promoters are taking a cut for their time. I expect t shirts are sold etched glasses a provided as part of the entry. The higher profile, success as it were brings the gov’t looking for money. This is why the the three tier system will NEVER die because the state and FED’s need an efficient way of collecting taxes
By way of an example: Government mandates better gas mileage. Now cars get better mileage, less fuel taxes for government, now government wants to raise taxes on new things to make up the differences. Wine is a Calif. product and is a target for new taxes. Anyway, trade shows are a strange animal. For example, Las Vegas, Chicago, etc. produce very large trade shows for profit. If a “co-op” produces small food tasting events as a non-profit it seems like the government is overreaching.
What about all the “trade” shows (tasting events) put on in Sonoma and Napa to promote wines-Dry Creek Passport in Sonoma is one that attracts hundreds for a 2 day event with huge fees? Will those now be taxed?
California likes to give away services but will always look for money to keep the give-away going. Unfortunately the consumer pays in the end. What about a free lunch? Sorry, I digress.
It’s silly to say paying taxes on the tickets would jeopardize the event. This event now costs $75. If they have to pay taxes, raise the price. Are you saying people who pay $75 won’t pay $80?
We have to pay taxes on restaurant meals and I don’t see The French Laundry in jeopardy.