U-vints and u-brew operations – when homebrew enthusiasts hire the store to brew the product on site – came under scrutiny last year when the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission attempted legal action to shut down two businesses in the province allowing in-store brewing. The Crown Corporation was later ordered by the government to stand down and promised to study the laws in other promises and come up with recommendations and guidelines for the practice.
Now the government is circulating those recommendations to homebrew suppliers in the province and, according to the owners of a local home brew operation, it includes a proposed tax.
“The suggestion is a tax of 35-cents a litre,” Amherst Home Brew owner Cheryl Dandurand said. “People aren’t too impressed with that. There’s an opinion out there the government hasn’t been able to tax it [homebrew] up until now and this is how they’ll do it.”
Dandurand says each kit produces 23-litres, which would add approximately another eight dollars in taxes on the customer.
The recommendations come largely from the guidelines being used in Prince Edward Island, which was the most recent province to bring in u-vint regulations and are the most up to date, communication advisor Andrew Preeper with the province’s finance department said.
“PEI does charge a tax on u-vints, and while I can’t speak for their government, our staff understand this tax is related to their Health Act and a PEI Liquor Control Commission levy,” Preeper said.
Presently, things are still at the consultation phase, meaning a tax on per litre prepared is not written in stone and homebrew supply owners have the opportunity to weigh-in on the recommendations.
“For the purpose of our consultation, we asked stakeholders to give us their thoughts on this tax, as we have asked them to provide comment on other areas of PEI’s regulations,” Preeper said. “When Minister [Diana] Whalen dropped off a consultation package to the Wine Kits in Halifax, she was asked the same question [about the tax] and told reporters that we’re consulting with stakeholders to get their opinions and no decision has been made on this, or any area of the regulations.”
Producing untaxed spirits in return for the time, investment and effort has long been a calling card for home brewers and the reasoning of allowing customers to brew a batch in-store, Dandurand said, is two-fold. It introduces newcomers to the hobby to the process without buying all of the equipment up-front and getting experience, or allowing a customer with a passion for a homemade product who is unable to do the physical work anymore or doesn’t have the space at home. For the stores, it expands their customer base and presents new revenue stream within the niche industry.
“It’s something we wanted for a long time,” Dandurand said. “Other provinces have been doing it and we’ve been fighting for it up till now.”
Progressive Conservative leader and Cumberland South MLA Jamie Baillie lauded the government in 2013 when it said it would come up with regulations but is disappointed with the proposed tax.
“I supported the review. The NDP were suffocating these small business, so I’m glad to see the new government is creating a legal environment for them to work in,” Baillie said. “I don’t with to this become another tax grab by the Liberals. It will be a test to see if they are all about taxes or want to help these entrepreneurs.”
The u-vint consultation information can be found online at http://www.novascotia.ca/finance/en/home/publications/uvintconsultation.aspx.