Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How to Bee Legal

If you've been following our latest adventures you'll know that we're getting into this beekeeping thing. It seems that the government has its hand on just about every facet of our lives and beekeeping is no different.

To be a beekeeper you have to...keep bees. So the first regulation you should check is your municipal code for any regulations limiting or prohibiting bees on your property. Luckily there are none for our city. If there are for your city you might consider keeping your bees at a friends house in a city without these restrictions. Many farmers would be willing to keep them on their property (some even pay for the benifit). Or if you are one of those that are always looking for a fight, you could always rally the troops and fight city hall...

Once you're a beekeeper, you've found a location for your bees, and you have more than one hive (what self respecting beekeeper only has one hive?), you're more than likely going to have more honey than you can use. If you're like me, you probably have more honey than friends to gift it to.

What to do with all this honey and other be by products? Sell or barter with it!

Bartering honey for babysitting, veggies, or farm fresh eggs are all possibilities. NOTE: According to the IRS bartering is a taxable action ( http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc420.html ). I don't know how to report it on a form and I'm not sure how many people they go after that barter items.

Most want to sell their honey. If you're selling 20 bottles a year to people you know, you probably don't have to worry with the rest of this...but technically you should. There is more to selling honey and bee by products than you would think.

You will need a DBA (Doing Business As) name that is registered with the county courthouse to get your tax permit. Your DBA is your business name so choose it wisely. It also seems to be the first thing you need if you really plan on getting any other permit or license; so figure your name out and get your DBA ASAP.

To get your DBA take a trip in the car to the county clerks office with several business names; in case, the one you want is taken. If you live in a small county it might not take long, if you live in Dallas county take a book with you. Cost $14-$20. ( http://www.dallascounty.org/department/countyclerk/faq-assumed.html )

The Federal tax ID or Employee Identification Number (EIN) is next on the list. Super easy to get and free!(they'll get their money from you later...)( http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=97860,00.html )

While honey is a food product and (in Texas) it's not taxed; you should still get your Sales and Use Tax permit. If you plan on selling any non-food bee by products it is required and many Farmers Markets and Trade Days require one (even for just honey). ( http://www.window.state.tx.us/taxinfo/sales/ )

Food Manufacturer license is next on the list. Why do you need to have a food manufacturer’s license when it's actually the bees that manufacture the food? Umm, because the state would like to keep everyone as safe as possible... and they want their money. So $104 goes to the state to keep you safe. ( http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/foods/foodmangen.shtm , http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/fdlicense/PDF/PDFfoods/FoodMFGInitial.pdf )

The next is possibly the hardest requirement. You must extract, strain, and bottle in a commercial kitchen. To build a basic commercial kitchen could cost between $4k-5k. Not something feasible for the hobbyist or even a side business. How do you get around this??? Well, for starters there are people that have commercial kitchens that rent them out starting at about $25/hr. While $25/hr sounds a little steep, it's down right cheap compared to trying to find $5,000 and space to put the commercial kitchen. Heck, if you were worth your salt you would barter honey for the rental. ( http://www.commercialkitchenforrent.com/ )

This may seem like a lot to do an a lot of extra expense, but when it comes down to it, a little leg work and less than $200 will keep you legal and out of trouble. Beekeepers are usually a pretty reputable bunch…lets keep it that way.

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