On October 1, 2013, TTB announced a cessation in its operations, citing the lack of government funding as the reasoning. While the TTB website, www.ttb.gov, remains partially accessible, the ability to submit, review, or retrieve Certificate of Label Approvals (“COLAs”), Formula Approvals, or Permits is not permissible. This means that label, formula, and permit applications that were submitted to TTB prior to the shutdown remain at a standstill until government funding is restored. Additionally, the shutdown makes copies of previously approved labels, formulas, and permits inaccessible—and this includes the public COLA database that TTB maintains. Endusers can still, however, file electronic payments and returns for federal excise taxes and operational reports through the U.S. Department of Treasury.
What does the TTB shutdown mean for industry?
TTB is a division of the Department of Treasury and is the federal agency in the United States that—generally speaking—regulates wine, beer, and spirits. It is also the federal agency that grants pre-market approval to labels, formulas, and permits of TTB-regulated beverages and beverage producers, importers, wholesalers, and distributors. The shutdown means that no new labels or formulas can be submitted to TTB for approval and no new alcohol beverage-related permits can be granted. In its announcement, TTB also noted that no personnel will be available to respond to telephone calls, e-mails, faxes, or other communications. Essentially, this means label, formulate, and permit approvals will be backed up for many weeks, if not months, to come.
Some outside publications have noted that the shutdown has been particularly egregious to importers of wine, who need an active COLA for wine imports to be released from Customs ports. See Shutdown Affecting Wine Imports; see also TTB Shutdown Means Wine Label Slowdown. Without a valid COLA, Customs will not release TTB-regulated beverage products from its custody.