During all the chaos that has been 2020, alcohol beverage licensees and third party providers may have missed the enactment of a new law that actually went into effect near the end of 2019. The Marketplace Facilitator Act (the “Act”) has changed the rules and regulations regarding which businesses must collect and remit sales tax for transactions occurring on third party “marketplaces,” which include electronic platforms, apps or websites where a marketplace seller  or third party provider sells or offers for sale tangible merchandise for delivery in California   In brief, the Act provides that third party providers, referred to as marketplace facilitators, must collect and remit the sales tax for each sale facilitated through the third party provider’s website. The Act applies to marketplace facilitators that either (1) have physical presence in California or (2) have economic nexus with California (i.e. annual sales of tangible personal property delivered to California consumers greater than $500,000).

This new regulation may seem unusual and contrary to ABC requirements for alcohol beverage licensees, who are the actual seller of the alcohol beverage products on a third party provider website. Typically, where alcoholic beverages are sold on a third party provider’s website or marketplace, the third party provider of alcohol beverages does not hold a license from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (“ABC”).  Because only licensees may sell alcoholic beverages and exercise license privileges, including sales and controlling all funds arising from such transactions, the third party provider would not be considered the seller of the alcoholic beverages since it does not hold a license.  All sales of alcoholic beverages are made by the licensee.  This is problematic since the  Act defines the third party provider as the seller.

The ABC recently addressed this contradiction in an industry advisory. Finding that the collection and remittance of sales tax does not constitute sharing in the profits or revenue from the sale of alcoholic beverages, the ABC stated that the third party provider could be the seller for tax purposes, while  the licensee would  be the seller of the alcoholic beverages for purposes of exercising license privileges, ABC licensees must continue to keep control over the revenue from sales facilitated by the marketplace facilitator on the marketplace, but may segregate the sales tax component of the transaction and provide those funds directly to the marketplace facilitator for remittance.

As the seller under the Act, a third party marketer either located in California or with nexus in California must therefore register with the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (“CDTFA”) for a Seller’s Permit or Certificate of Registration, and report and pay sales tax on all retail sales of alcoholic beverages sold on its platform for delivery to California customers.  A licensee selling alcohol on a third party marketplace for delivery to consumers in California will also report such sales as part of its total sales to the CDTFA, but would claim an “other” deduction since no tax is owed. Note that these new provisions only apply to sales made for delivery in California, and thus a third party provider would not collect and remit taxes for sales made by alcohol beverage licensees for delivery outside of California.

For more information, please contact Bahaneh Hobel, head of DP&F’s Alcohol Beverage Group or Elizabeth Lance.