Retail Liquor Industry Edition

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IRS Tax Audit Manual for the Retail Liquor Industry

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Jurisdiction Of The Retail Liquor Industry
Prohibition was repealed with the adoption of the Twenty-first Amendment in 1933. The Amendment also gave each state the right to restrict the importation of alcoholic beverages. Since then, each state has developed their own statutory framework for regulating the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages within their jurisdiction.

Responsibility for licensing the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages is shared jointly, although not equally, between municipal, state, and federal authorities. Administration of the Federal Alcohol Act is vested in the Treasury Department in the Division of the Federal Alcohol Administration. In some rare instances, a license is required from only one of these authorities. In most cases there are dual license requirements.

The IRS Trains Its Auditors
From Chapter One…

The industry has a three-tiered system for the distribution of alcoholic products. The first tier is the manufacturer, the second tier is the distributor or wholesaler, and the third tier is the retailer. The manufacturer may or may not be located in the state. Each state controls what products may be brought into its borders. The distributor or wholesaler sells and distributes the products to the retailers.

The basic merchandise carried by the stores are wine, liquor and beer. The stores usually carry some, if not all of the following: cigarettes, soda pop, chips, drink mixes, cheeses, and spring water. Many upscale stores have extensive wine departments with a wine expert on hand. Some small liquor stores are more of a grocery store than a traditional package store. The stores chosen for the most recent audits had liquor sales of at least 85% of their gross receipts.

In recent years, total liquor consumption has been steadily declining due to changes in social attitude toward alcohol consumption as well as tougher governmental regulation and enforcement. Because of recent tort cases the usual liquor store will have few assets. The assets will usually consist of equipment needed to operate the business and inventory. Real property is usually held be the shareholder directly or indirectly to protect the assets in a lawsuit. Many stores may not have liability insurance because the premiums are so high.

The Top 12 Issues The Internal Revenue Service Auditor Will Be Looking For In The Retail Liquor Industry –

  • Bottle Redemption Income
  • Lottery Income
  • Inventory
  • Fair Retail Value
  • Amortization Of Liquor Licenses
  • S-Corporation Payments Of Health Insurance
  • Car And Truck Expenses
  • Management Fees To Corporate Officers Are Wages
  • Net Operating Loss Deduction
  • Loans To Shareholders
  • Imputed Interest

How Will Your Knowledge of These Issues Affect Your Tax Liability?

What about the answers to these 7 specific questions?

  1. Does your method of inventory valuations conform to a prescribed method?
  2. How does your inventory balances compare with prior and subsequent year returns?
  3. Do you have unauthorized changes from cost to cost or market?
  4. Do you have any gross profit percentage variations?
  5. Are there notes to financial statements of independent auditors?
  6. Are your year-end purchases included in ending inventory?
  7. Have there been any inventory write-downs to below cost?


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