Tax Relief During COVID-19: How taxpayers struggling with tax debts can benefit.

Tax Relief During COVID-19: How taxpayers struggling with tax debts can benefit.

If you are struggling financially because of the pandemic you should tap into the IRS’ newest program – the “Taxpayer Relief Initiative” – with its expanded taxpayer options for making payments and alternatives to resolve balances owed.

On November 2, 2020 The Internal Revenue Service announced a number of changes designed to help struggling taxpayers impacted by COVID-19 more easily settle their tax debts with the IRS by establishing a new program called the “Taxpayer Relief Initiative”.  This program follows what was previously established by the IRS earlier in 2020, specifically the “People First Initiative”.

Taxpayers who owe always had options to seek help through payment plans and other tools from the IRS, but the new IRS Taxpayer Relief Initiative is expanding on those existing tools even more.

The revised COVID-related collection procedures will be helpful to taxpayers, especially those who have a record of filing their returns and paying their taxes on time.

Among the highlights of the Taxpayer Relief Initiative:

  • Taxpayers who qualify for a short-term payment plan option may now have up to 180 days to resolve their tax liabilities instead of 120 days.
  • The IRS is offering flexibility for some taxpayers who are temporarily unable to meet the payment terms of an accepted Offer in Compromise.
  • The IRS will automatically add certain new tax balances to existing Installment Agreements, for individual and out of business taxpayers. This taxpayer-friendly approach will occur instead of defaulting the agreement, which can complicate matters for those trying to pay their taxes.
  • To reduce burden, certain qualified individual taxpayers who owe less than $250,000 may set up Installment Agreements without providing a financial statement or substantiation if their monthly payment proposal is sufficient.
  • Some individual taxpayers who only owe for the 2019 tax year and who owe less than $250,000 may qualify to set up an Installment Agreement without a notice of federal tax lien filed by the IRS.
  • Additionally, qualified taxpayers with existing Direct Debit Installment Agreements may now be able to use the Online Payment Agreement system to propose lower monthly payment amounts and change their payment due dates.

Additional details on the Taxpayer Relief Initiative

The IRS offers options for short-term and long-term payment plans, including Installment Agreements via the Online Payment Agreement (OPA) system. In general, this service is available to individuals who owe $50,000 or less in combined income tax, penalties and interest or businesses that owe $25,000 or less combined that have filed all tax returns. The short-term payment plans are now able to be extended from 120 to 180 days for certain taxpayers.

Installment Agreement options are available for taxpayers who cannot full pay their balance but can pay their balance over time. The IRS expanded Installment Agreement options to remove the requirement for financial statements and substantiation in more circumstances for balances owed up to $250,000 if the monthly payment proposal is sufficient. The IRS also modified Installment Agreement procedures to further limit requirements for Federal Tax Lien determinations for some taxpayers who only owe for tax year 2019.

In addition to payment plans and Installment Agreements, other solutions for taxpayers who owe taxes include Temporarily Delaying Collection Actions, applying for an Offer in Compromise and Relief from Penalties through penalty abatement.

An Opportunity For Taxpayers Who Owe The IRS

Do not think that if you owe the IRS your tax problem will disappear because of the measures being considered by the government. Instead you should be utilizing this valuable time to get yourself prepared so that when activity in this nation regains momentum, you are ready to make the best offer or proposal to take control of your outstanding tax debts.

As a prerequisite to any proposal to the IRS, you must be in current compliance. That means if you have any outstanding income tax returns, they must be completed and submitted to IRS.

Also, if you are required to make estimated tax payments, you must be current in making those payments. Fortunately, as we are now at the end of 2020, taxpayers who expect to owe for 2020 should have their 2020 income tax returns done as early as possible in 2021 so that the 2020 liability can be rolled over into any proposal and the requirement to make estimated tax payments will start for 2021.

Remember that COVID-19 does not alter the tax laws, so all taxpayers should continue to meet their tax obligations as normal. Individuals and businesses should keep filing their tax returns and making payments and deposits with the IRS, as they are required to do.

Also, the IRS will continue to take steps where necessary to protect all applicable statutes of limitations. In instances where statute expirations might be jeopardized during this period and a taxpayer is not agreeing to extend such, the IRS will issue Notices of Deficiency and pursue other similar actions to protect the interests of the government in preserving such statute.

If you are having a tax issue, don’t go silent. Don’t ignore the notice arriving in your mailbox. Tax problems don’t get better with time.

Click here for the KahnTaxLaw Coronavirus Resource Center for more information on COVID-19 tax relief.

What Should You Do?

You know that at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. we are always thinking of ways that our clients can save on taxes. If you are selected for an audit, stand up to the IRS by getting representation. Tax problems are usually a serious matter and must be handled appropriately so it’s important to that you’ve hired the best lawyer for your particular situation. The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Diego County (Carlsbad) and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income. Also if you are involved in cannabis, check out what a cannabis tax attorney can do for you.  And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

Cannabis Operators Deemed “Essential” in California And Are Eligible To Receive The COVID-19 Vaccine

Cannabis Retailer workers have been moved up to PHASE 1A in Governor Newsom’s COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Guidelines released February 4, 2021.

Updated COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Guidelines

Based on available supply, individuals described below are or will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines:

  • Phase 1A, all tiers
  • Phase 1B, Tier 1:
    • Persons 65 years of age and older
    • Sector populations: Education and Childcare, Emergency Services, Food and Agriculture.

Achieving equity

This age-based framework will be coupled with a vaccine distribution and engagement approach that prioritizes disproportionately impacted communities, settings, and populations to ensure those eligible for vaccines within these communities are more likely to receive it.

Minimizing disuse of scarce COVID-19 vaccine

To avoid wastage or disuse of scarce supplies and maximize their benefit to Californians:

  • Allocations of doses are made on the assumption that immunization will be accepted by some but not all who are offered the vaccine, and then adjust later allocations based on the number of doses that are accepted.
  • After focused and appropriate efforts to reach the groups prioritized at that moment, providers may offer vaccine promptly to persons in lower priority groups when:
    • Demand subsides in the current groups, or
    • Doses are about to expire according to labeling instructions.
  • Providers may temporarily adjust prioritization based on other resource constraints while continuing efforts to immunize higher priority groups as soon as feasible.

Phase 1A eligibility

Occupation:  Persons at risk of direct patient exposure in settings included in the Health Care and Public Health Sector from the CA Essential Workforce list. This includes both clinical and non-clinical roles.  In addition, workers who come into direct contact with the virus through research, development, manufacturing or testing are included.  Finally, workers who are manufacturing vaccine, therapeutics, devices, supplies or personal protective equipment supporting the COVID-19 response are included due to the adverse public health impact that delays in production would cause.

Section 7 of the updated guidelines provides that “Cannabis industry employees are included in Phase 1a for medicinal cannabis and Phase 1b Food and Agriculture for growing, production, storage, transport and distribution. Medical cannabis workers should be accommodated as necessary in Phase 1b, Tier 1, by nature of their designations in eligible essential workforce classifications.”

Anyone who qualifies as a worker in Phase 1A or Phase1B should contact the county where the cannabis business is located and request the vaccine.

What Are “Essential Businesses”?

State & local governments designate as “essential businesses” those businesses or firms that perform an essential government function. While the list may vary between different jurisdictions, they typically include:

  • Healthcare operations, including home health workers.
  • Essential infrastructure, including construction of housing and operation of public transportation and utilities.
  • Grocery stores, farmers markets, food banks, convenience stores.
  • Businesses that provide necessities of life for economically disadvantaged individuals and shelter facilities.
  • Pharmacies, healthcare supply stores and healthcare facilities.
  • Gas stations and auto repair facilities.
  • Garbage collection.
  • Hardware stores, plumbers, electricians, pool service, landscape maintenance, exterminators and other service providers necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operation of residences and other essential businesses.
  • Educational institutions, for the purposes of facilitating distance learning.
  • Laundromats, dry cleaners and laundry service providers.
  • Businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food and goods directly to residences.
  • Businesses that supply products needed for people to work from home, including electronic stores, mobile phone stores and office supply stores.
  • Airlines, taxis and other transportation providers offering services needed for essential activities.
  • Home-based care for seniors, adults or children.
  • Childcare facilities providing services that enable essential employees to go to work.
  • Roles required for any essential business to “maintain basic operations,” which include security, payroll and similar activities.
  • Hotels, motels and lawfully permitted vacation rentals and homesharing.

Are Cannabis Businesses “Essential Businesses”?

Again you need to check with your local jurisdiction but at the State level in California the California Department Of Health (CDPH) and the Bureau Of Cannabis Control (BCC) have issued orders making all cannabis retailers and the businesses that support them in the cannabis industry “essential” during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing retailers, cultivators, and manufacturers to stay in operation. However, California cities and counties are able to enact their own rules regarding how patients and others may purchase cannabis so you should still check with your local government to see if any local rules apply.

All licensed cannabis businesses in good standing are included as “Essential Businesses” and must follow the existing terms of any local Order as written. Click here for the Order issued by the CDPH. Such Order typically requires that they, like all other Essential Businesses, establish practices that includes 6-foot distances between individuals, frequent 20-second hand-washing or hand-sanitizing, cough and sneeze covering, regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces, and avoiding all social greetings involving contact (handshaking, etc.). These best practices of authorized curbside pickup and contact-less delivery are expected to protect customers and employees by reducing contact.

State law still has no bearing on Federal law which declares cannabis to be illegal; but until Federal law changes, the cannabis industry will still have to bear the followings risks and challenges:

Higher Taxes Still Remain

It still remains to be seen when favorable changes will be made to the Internal Revenue Code which treats businesses in the marijuana industry differently resulting in such business paying at least 3-times as much in taxes as ordinary businesses.

Generally, businesses can deduct ordinary and necessary business expenses under I.R.C. §162. This includes wages, rent, supplies, etc. However, in 1982 Congress added I.R.C. §280E. Under §280E, taxpayers cannot deduct any amount for a trade or business where the trade or business consists of trafficking in controlled substances…which is prohibited by Federal law. Marijuana, including medical marijuana, is a controlled substance. What this means is that dispensaries and other businesses trafficking in marijuana have to report all of their income and cannot deduct rent, wages, and other expenses, making their marginal tax rate substantially higher than most other businesses.

Reporting Of Cash Payments Still Remain

The Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 (“BSA”) requires financial institutions in the United States to assist U.S. government agencies to detect and prevent money laundering. Specifically, the act requires financial institutions to keep records of cash purchases of negotiable instruments, and file reports of cash purchases of these negotiable instruments of more than $10,000 (daily aggregate amount), and to report suspicious activity that might signify money laundering, tax evasion, or other criminal activities. The BSA requires any business receiving one or more related cash payments totaling more than $10,000 to file

IRS Form 8300, Report of Cash Payments Over $10,000 Received in a Trade or Business.

The minimum penalty for failing to file EACH Form 8300 is $25,000 if the failure is due to an intentional or willful disregard of the cash reporting requirements. Penalties may also be imposed for causing, or attempting to cause, a trade or business to fail to file a required report; for causing, or attempting to cause, a trade or business to file a required report containing a material omission or misstatement of fact; or for structuring, or attempting to structure, transactions to avoid the reporting requirements. These violations may also be subject to criminal prosecution which, upon conviction, may result in imprisonment of up to 5 years or fines of up to $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for corporations or both.

Marijuana-related businesses operate in an environment of cash transactions as many banks remain reluctant to do business with many in the marijuana industry. Like any cash-based business the IRS scrutinizes the amount of gross receipts to report and it is harder to prove to the IRS expenses paid in cash. So it is of most importance that the proper facilities and procedures be set up to maintain an adequate system of books and records.

How Do You Know Which Cannabis Tax Attorney Is Best For You?

Given that cannabis is still illegal under existing Federal law you need to protect yourself and your marijuana business from all challenges created by the U.S. government.  While cannabis is legal in California, that is not enough to protect you.  It’s coming down that the biggest risk is TAXES.  Be proactive and engage an experienced Cannabis Tax Attorney in your area. Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County, Metropolitan Los Angeles (including Long Beach and Ontario) and other California locations protect you and maximize your net profits. And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a Bitcoin Tax Attorney can do for you.

Does Cannabis Use Help Patients With Parkinson’s Disease?

According to an article published on January 26, 2021 in the Journal Of Parkinson’s Disease, a survey in Germany found over 8% of patients with Parkinson’s disease are using cannabis products and more than half (54%) experienced beneficial clinical effects.  Over 40% of users reported that cannabis helped manage pain and muscle cramps, and more than 20% of users reported a reduction of stiffness (akinesia), freezing, tremor, depression, anxiety, and restless legs.

Parkinson’s disease (“PD”) is a brain disorder that leads to shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with walking, balance, and coordination. PD’s symptoms usually begin gradually and get worse over time. As the disease progresses, people may have difficulty walking and talking.

Cannabis products containing THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive compound of cannabis) can be prescribed in Germany when previous therapies are unsuccessful or not tolerated, and where cannabis can be expected with not a very unlikely chance to relieve disabling symptoms. CBD (pure cannabidiol, derived directly from the hemp plant, a cousin of the marijuana plant) is available without a prescription from pharmacies and on the internet.

The study’s authors concluded – “Our data confirm that PD patients have a high interest in treatment with medicinal cannabis but lacked knowledge about how to take it and especially the differences between the two main cannabinoids, THC and CBD,” noted Prof. Dr. med. Buhmann. “Physicians should consider these aspects when advising their patients about treatment with medicinal cannabis. The data reported here may help physicians decide which patients could benefit, which symptoms could be addressed, and which type of cannabinoid and route of administration might be suitable.”

Developments like this contradict the basis of classification of cannabis under Federal law which makes cannabis illegal.

The Anti-Federal U.S. Climate

The Federal Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”) 21 U.S.C. § 812 classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance with a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. Although you can still face federal criminal charges for using, growing, or selling weed in a manner that is completely lawful under California law, the federal authorities in the past have pulled back from targeting individuals and businesses engaged in medical marijuana activities. This pull back came from Department of Justice (“DOJ”) Safe Harbor Guidelines issued in 2013 under what is known as the “Cole Memo”.

The Cole Memo included eight factors for prosecutors to look at in deciding whether to charge a medical marijuana business with violating the Federal law:

  • Does the business allow minors to gain access to marijuana?
  • Is revenue from the business funding criminal activities or gangs?
  • Is the marijuana being diverted to other states?
  • Is the legitimate medical marijuana business being used as a cover or pretext for the traffic of other drugs or other criminal enterprises?
  • Are violence or firearms being used in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana?
  • Does the business contribute to drugged driving or other adverse public health issues?
  • Is marijuana being grown on public lands or in a way that jeopardizes the environment or public safety?
  • Is marijuana being used on federal property?

Since 2013, these guidelines provided a level of certainty to the marijuana industry as to what point could you be crossing the line with the Federal government.  But on January 4, 2018, then Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked the Cole Memo.  Now U.S. Attorneys in the local offices throughout the country retain broad prosecutorial discretion as to whether to prosecute cannabis businesses under federal law even though the state that these businesses operate in have legalized some form of marijuana.

Joyce-Blumenauer Amendment (previously referred to as the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment)

Five states (Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota) on November 3, 2020 passed new medical or recreational cannabis laws.  South Dakota voters adopted legalization of both medical and recreational cannabis.  Arizona, Montana and New Jersey voters adopted expansion of cannabis legalization to recreational use.  Mississippi voters adopted legalization of medical cannabis use.  This adds to an existing group of 11 states and Washington, D.C. that have legalized recreational cannabis, and adds to an existing group of 33 states that have legalized it for medical purposes.

Building on the DOJ’s issuance of the Cole Memo, in 2014 the House passed an amendment to the yearly federal appropriations bill that effectively shields medical marijuana businesses from federal prosecution. Proposed by Representatives Rohrabacher and Farr, the amendment forbids federal agencies to spend money on investigating and prosecuting medical marijuana-related activities in states where such activities are legal.

The amendment states that:

NONE OF THE FUNDS MADE AVAILABLE UNDER THIS ACT TO THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE MAY BE USED, WITH RESPECT TO ANY OF THE STATES OF ALABAMA, ALASKA, ARIZONA, ARKANSAS, CALIFORNIA, COLORADO, CONNECTICUT, DELAWARE, FLORIDA, GEORGIA, HAWAII, ILLINOIS, INDIANA, IOWA, KENTUCKY, LOUISIANA, MAINE, MARYLAND, MASSACHUSETTS, MICHIGAN, MINNESOTA, MISSISSIPPI, MISSOURI, MONTANA, NEVADA, NEW HAMPSHIRE, NEW JERSEY, NEW MEXICO, NEW YORK, NORTH CAROLINA, NORTH DAKOTA, OHIO, OKLAHOMA, OREGON, PENNSYLVANIA, RHODE ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA, TENNESSEE, TEXAS, UTAH, VERMONT, VIRGINIA, WASHINGTON, WEST VIRGINIA, WISCONSIN, AND WYOMING, OR WITH RESPECT TO THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, GUAM, OR PUERTO RICO, TO PREVENT ANY OF THEM FROM IMPLEMENTING THEIR OWN LAWS THAT AUTHORIZE THE USE, DISTRIBUTION, POSSESSION, OR CULTIVATION OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA.

This action by the House is not impacted by the change of position by the DOJ. However, unless this amendment gets included in each succeeding federal appropriations bill, the protection from Federal prosecution of medical marijuana businesses will no longer be in place.  Fortunately, Congress has included this amendment but yet has changed any of the tax or banking laws that pose challenges to the cannabis industry.

Clearly, to avail yourself of the protections of the amendment, you must be on the medical cannabis side and you must be in complete compliance with your State’s medical cannabis laws and regulations. You may not be covered under the amendment if you are involved in the recreational cannabis side even if legal in the State you are operating.

What Should You Do?

Given the illegal status of cannabis under Federal law you need to protect yourself and your marijuana business from all challenges created by the U.S. government.  Although cannabis is legal in California, that is not enough to protect you. Be proactive and engage an experienced Cannabis Tax Attorney in your area. Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County, Inland Empire (Ontario and Palm Springs) and other California locations protect you and maximize your net profits.  And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

Recovery Rebate Credit: What you need to know before filing your 2020 income tax returns

Recovery Rebate Credit: What you need to know before filing your 2020 income tax returns

The Recovery Rebate Credit is authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the COVID-related Tax Relief Act. It is a tax credit against your 2020 income tax. Generally, this credit will increase the amount of your tax refund or decrease the amount of the tax you owe.

The Recovery Rebate Credit was eligible to be paid in two rounds of advance payments during 2020 and early 2021. These advanced payments of the Recovery Rebate Credit are referred to as the first and second Economic Impact Payments.

Individuals who received the full amounts of both Economic Impact Payments do not need to complete any information about the Recovery Rebate Credit on their 2020 tax returns. They already received the full amount of the Recovery Rebate Credit as Economic Impact Payments. You received the full amounts of both Economic Impact Payments if:

  • Your first Economic Impact Payment was $1,200 ($2,400 if married filing jointly for 2020) plus $500 for each qualifying child you had in 2020; and.
  • Your second Economic Impact Payment was $600 ($1,200 if married filing jointly for 2020) plus $600 for each qualifying child you had in 2020.

Who can claim the Recovery Rebate Credit?

Eligible individuals who did not receive the full amounts of both Economic Impact Payments may claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on their 2020 Form 1040 or 1040-SR. To determine whether you are an eligible individual or the amount of your Recovery Rebate Credit, complete the Recovery Rebate Credit Worksheet in the Instructions for Form 1040 and Form 1040-SR.

Generally, you are eligible to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit if you were a U.S. citizen or U.S. resident alien in 2020, cannot be claimed as a dependent of another taxpayer for tax year 2020, and have a Social Security number valid for employment that is issued before the due date of your 2020 tax return (including extensions).

You must file Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit even if you are normally not required to file a tax return.

Form 1040 and 1040-SR Instructions – Recovery Rebate Credit Worksheet

If eligible, you can claim the Recovery Rebate Credit when you file your 2020 tax return (Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR) electronically using tax software or on paper. The 2020 tax return instructions include a recovery rebate credit worksheet you can use to figure the amount of any Recovery Rebate Credit for which you are eligible. The recovery rebate credit worksheet requires you to know the amounts of your Economic Impact Payments.

Your Recovery Rebate Credit amount will be phased out if your adjusted gross income for 2020 exceeds:

$150,000 if you are married filing a joint return or filing as a qualifying widow or widower,

$112,500 if you are using the head of household filing status, or

$75,000 if you are using any other filing status.

How do I find the amounts of my Economic Impact Payments?

You should have received IRS Notice 1444 for the first Economic Impact Payment, and you should receive Notice 1444-B for the second Economic Impact Payment.  Refer to them when completing your 2020 tax return. If eligible for the Recovery Rebate Credit, you will use the information from these letters to determine the amounts to include on the recovery rebate credit worksheet or in your tax preparation software to help you calculate your credit amount.

What If I Received More Than What I Was Entitled To?

If you received more than you were entitled to, the IRS does not require you to pay the money back nor is any such ineligible amount added on to your 2020 taxes.  Taxpayers whose incomes increased in 2019 or 2020 compared with their earlier tax returns which the IRS relied on to determine whether they qualified for the payments, may be in this situation.

Will I owe taxes on the stimulus checks?

No, because the stimulus checks are not considered income by the IRS but instead are prepaid tax credits for your 2020 tax return, authorized by the (CARES) Act and the COVID-related Tax Relief Act.

My income changed since I last filed my taxes. What should I do?

Taxpayers who might not have qualified for the full stimulus checks if their earnings were above the income cutoff based on their 2018 or 2019 tax returns, should complete the recovery rebate credit worksheet to calculate how much they are owed and claim that amount on Line 30 on their 2020 tax return. They will receive the stimulus payments in their refund check.

How will the stimulus checks impact my tax refund – and when will I get it?

If you are owed more money from the two rounds of stimulus payments, the IRS will provide the additional payments with your refund check. Because the stimulus payments aren’t considered income by the IRS, it will not impact your refund by increasing your adjusted gross income or putting you in a higher tax bracket.

Beware Of New IRS Scam!

You get a call from someone claiming to be working for the IRS claiming:

 “We need your personal information in order for you to claim the coronavirus stimulus money.”

This appears to be an identity theft scheme to obtain recipients’ personal and financial information so the scammers can provide the IRS with their banking information to get your economic impact payment deposited into their account.  In reality, the IRS WILL NOT CALL YOU! Federal aid will either be deposited via account information the IRS already has from your tax filings or they will send you a check.

Where can I get more information?

The IRS has established a special section focused on steps to help taxpayers, businesses and others affected by the coronavirus and as information becomes available, the IRS will be updating this special page on its website.  You can also check out the KahnTaxLaw Coronavirus Resource Center.

An Opportunity For Taxpayers Who Owe The IRS

Do not think that if you owe the IRS your tax problem will disappear because of the measures being considered by the government. Instead you should be utilizing this valuable time to get yourself prepared so that when activity in this nation regains momentum, you are ready to make the best offer or proposal to take control of your outstanding tax debts.

As a prerequisite to any proposal to the IRS, you must be in current compliance. That means if you have any outstanding income tax returns, they must be completed and submitted to IRS.

Also, if you are required to make estimated tax payments, you must be current in making those payments. Fortunately, as we are now at the end of 2020, taxpayers who expect to owe for 2020 should have their 2020 income tax returns done as early as possible in 2021 so that the 2020 liability can be rolled over into any proposal and the requirement to make estimated tax payments will start for 2021.

Remember that COVID-19 does not alter the tax laws, so all taxpayers should continue to meet their tax obligations as normal. Individuals and businesses should keep filing their tax returns and making payments and deposits with the IRS, as they are required to do.

Also, the IRS will continue to take steps where necessary to protect all applicable statutes of limitations. In instances where statute expirations might be jeopardized during this period and a taxpayer is not agreeing to extend such, the IRS will issue Notices of Deficiency and pursue other similar actions to protect the interests of the government in preserving such statute.

What Should You Do?

You know that at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. we are always thinking of ways that our clients can save on taxes. If you are selected for an audit, stand up to the IRS by getting representation. Tax problems are usually a serious matter and must be handled appropriately so it’s important to that you’ve hired the best lawyer for your particular situation. The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), Los Angeles (including Long Beach and Ontario) and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income. Also if you are involved in cannabis, check out what a cannabis tax attorney can do for you.  And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

Tips For Cannabis Businesses To Prepare for the 2020 Tax Filings

On January 15, 2021, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that it will process 2020 tax returns beginning February 12, 2021.

April 15th Filing Deadline.

The filing deadline to submit 2020 tax returns is Thursday, April 15, 2021.

Since the IRS will begin processing tax returns on February 12th there is no advantage to filing tax returns on paper in January instead of waiting for the IRS to begin accepting e-filed returns.  Nevertheless, it makes sense to start organizing your information early and so when the IRS filing systems open on February 12th, you are ready to submit your tax return right away.

Yes – Cannabis Businesses Have to Report Income To IRS And Pay Taxes!

While the sale of cannabis is legal in California as well as in a growing number of states, cannabis remains a Schedule 1 narcotic under Federal law, the Controlled Substances Act. As such businesses in the cannabis industry are not treated like ordinary businesses. Despite state laws allowing cannabis, it remains illegal on a federal level but cannabis businesses are obligated to pay federal income tax on income because I.R.C. §61(a) does not differentiate between income derived from legal sources and income derived from illegal sources.

Additionally, while businesses can deduct ordinary and necessary business expenses under IRC Sec. 162, Under IRC Sec. 280E, taxpayers cannot deduct any amount for a trade or business where the trade or business consists of trafficking in controlled substances…which is prohibited by Federal law. What this means is that dispensaries and other businesses trafficking in cannabis have to report all of their income and cannot deduct rent, wages, and other expenses, making their marginal tax rate substantially higher than most other businesses.

A cannabis business can still deduct its Cost Of Goods Sold (“COGS”). Cost of goods sold are the direct costs attributable to the production of goods. For a marijuana reseller this includes the cost of cannabis itself and transportation used in acquiring cannabis. To the extent greater costs of doing business can be legitimately included in COGS that will that result in lower taxable income.

I.R.C. Section 280E IRS Tax Audits

It is no surprise that cannabis businesses are proliferating as more States legalize cannabis and make available licenses to grow, manufacture, distribute and sell cannabis. The IRS recognizes this and it is making these cannabis businesses face Federal income tax audits. IRC Sec. 280E is at the forefront of all IRS cannabis tax audits and enforcement of Sec. 280E could result in unbearable tax liabilities.

Proving deductions to the IRS is a two-step process:

  • First, you must substantiate that you actually paid the expense you are claiming.
  • Second, you must prove that an expense is actually tax deductible.

Step One: Incurred And Paid The Expense.

For example, if you claim a $5,000 purchase expense from a cannabis distributor, offering a copy of a bill or an invoice from the distributor (if one is even provided) is not enough. It only proves that you owe the money, not that you actually made good on paying the bill. The IRS accepts canceled checks, bank statements and credit card statements as proof of payment. But when such bills are paid in cash as it typical in a cannabis business, you would not have any of these supporting documents but the IRS may accept the equivalent in electronic form.

Step Two: Deductibility Of The Expense.

Next you must prove that an expense is actually tax deductible. For a cannabis businesses this is challenging because of the I.R.C. §280E limitation; however a cannabis business can still deduct its Cost Of Goods Sold (“COGS”). Cost of goods sold are the direct costs attributable to the production of goods.

For a cannabis reseller this includes the cost of cannabis itself and transportation used in acquiring cannabis. To the extent greater costs of doing business can be legitimately included in COGS that will that result in lower taxable income. You can be sure the IRS agents in audits will be looking closely at what is included in COGS.

Tips For Cannabis Tax Return Preparation

Here are some tips for cannabis businesses to follow in the preparation of their 2019 tax returns.

  • Reconcile Your Books Before Closing Your Books. Incomplete books can cause delays and add unnecessary complexities.
  • Utilize A Cannabis Tax Professional. Engage a tax professional who has experience in the cannabis industry. Such a professional would be familiar with the intricacies of IRC Sec. 280E and relevant cases to make the proper presentation on the tax return in a manner that would support the smaller tax liability possible.
  • Justify Your Numbers As If An IRS Audit Is A Certainty. Don’t wait to receive a notice from IRS that the tax return is selected for examination.  That can be one or two years away.  Instead make it a point to put together the backup to you numbers now while everything is fresh.

Time Limits For Keeping Your Tax Records

Even though your 2020 income tax return is processed by the IRS and a refund is issued, that does not mean the IRS can later question or audit the tax return,  In fact the Statute Of Limitations allows the IRS three years to go back and audit your tax return.  That is why it’s a good idea to keep copies of your prior-year tax returns and supporting backup documentation for at least three years.

What Should You Do?

You know that at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. we are always thinking of ways that our cannabis clients can save on taxes, minimize the impact of IRC Sec. 280E and limit audit risk. The cannabis tax attorneys and professionals at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), Northern California (including San Francisco and Sacramento) and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling cannabis tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies. Also if you are involved in crypto-currency, check out what a Bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

Does Cannabis Use Increase The Risk Of Cardiovascular Disease?

According to a report published on January 23, 2021 by the U.S. National Library Of Medicine National Institutes Of Health, in a study involving over 57,000 adults who consumed cannabis in any form researchers found there is no link to cannabis use and an increase in cardiovascular disease.  In addition researchers found no link to cannabis use and an increase in diabetes, dyslipidemia, acute myocardial infarction or stroke.

The study recognized that cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide of which two of the biggest contributing factors is an unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity.  Foods that are high in fat, cholesterol, and sugar contribute to people being overweight, having high blood pressure, and/or diabetes, all of which raise the risk of developing the heart disease.  A lack of physical activity goes hand-in-hand with an increased risk of someone being obese, which in turn, also increases the chances of someone developing the disease.  Additionally, the consumption of tobacco and/or excessive alcohol consumption can contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease.

The study’s authors concluded – “Our study found that there is no link to marijuana use and an increase in cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, while there may be a link between marijuana use and lowered risk of cardiovascular disease … future studies with other methods and/or larger sample sizes are needed to provide more insight into this potential association.”

Developments like this contradict the basis of classification of cannabis under Federal law which makes cannabis illegal.

The Anti-Federal U.S. Climate

The Federal Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”) 21 U.S.C. § 812 classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance with a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. Although you can still face federal criminal charges for using, growing, or selling weed in a manner that is completely lawful under California law, the federal authorities in the past have pulled back from targeting individuals and businesses engaged in medical marijuana activities. This pull back came from Department of Justice (“DOJ”) Safe Harbor Guidelines issued in 2013 under what is known as the “Cole Memo”.

The Cole Memo included eight factors for prosecutors to look at in deciding whether to charge a medical marijuana business with violating the Federal law:

  • Does the business allow minors to gain access to marijuana?
  • Is revenue from the business funding criminal activities or gangs?
  • Is the marijuana being diverted to other states?
  • Is the legitimate medical marijuana business being used as a cover or pretext for the traffic of other drugs or other criminal enterprises?
  • Are violence or firearms being used in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana?
  • Does the business contribute to drugged driving or other adverse public health issues?
  • Is marijuana being grown on public lands or in a way that jeopardizes the environment or public safety?
  • Is marijuana being used on federal property?

Since 2013, these guidelines provided a level of certainty to the marijuana industry as to what point could you be crossing the line with the Federal government.  But on January 4, 2018, then Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked the Cole Memo.  Now U.S. Attorneys in the local offices throughout the country retain broad prosecutorial discretion as to whether to prosecute cannabis businesses under federal law even though the state that these businesses operate in have legalized some form of marijuana.

Joyce-Blumenauer Amendment (previously referred to as the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment)

Five states (Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota) on November 3, 2020 passed new medical or recreational cannabis laws.  South Dakota voters adopted legalization of both medical and recreational cannabis.  Arizona, Montana and New Jersey voters adopted expansion of cannabis legalization to recreational use.  Mississippi voters adopted legalization of medical cannabis use.  This adds to an existing group of 11 states and Washington, D.C. that have legalized recreational cannabis, and adds to an existing group of 33 states that have legalized it for medical purposes.

Building on the DOJ’s issuance of the Cole Memo, in 2014 the House passed an amendment to the yearly federal appropriations bill that effectively shields medical marijuana businesses from federal prosecution. Proposed by Representatives Rohrabacher and Farr, the amendment forbids federal agencies to spend money on investigating and prosecuting medical marijuana-related activities in states where such activities are legal.

The amendment states that:

NONE OF THE FUNDS MADE AVAILABLE UNDER THIS ACT TO THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE MAY BE USED, WITH RESPECT TO ANY OF THE STATES OF ALABAMA, ALASKA, ARIZONA, ARKANSAS, CALIFORNIA, COLORADO, CONNECTICUT, DELAWARE, FLORIDA, GEORGIA, HAWAII, ILLINOIS, INDIANA, IOWA, KENTUCKY, LOUISIANA, MAINE, MARYLAND, MASSACHUSETTS, MICHIGAN, MINNESOTA, MISSISSIPPI, MISSOURI, MONTANA, NEVADA, NEW HAMPSHIRE, NEW JERSEY, NEW MEXICO, NEW YORK, NORTH CAROLINA, NORTH DAKOTA, OHIO, OKLAHOMA, OREGON, PENNSYLVANIA, RHODE ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA, TENNESSEE, TEXAS, UTAH, VERMONT, VIRGINIA, WASHINGTON, WEST VIRGINIA, WISCONSIN, AND WYOMING, OR WITH RESPECT TO THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, GUAM, OR PUERTO RICO, TO PREVENT ANY OF THEM FROM IMPLEMENTING THEIR OWN LAWS THAT AUTHORIZE THE USE, DISTRIBUTION, POSSESSION, OR CULTIVATION OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA.

This action by the House is not impacted by the change of position by the DOJ. However, unless this amendment gets included in each succeeding federal appropriations bill, the protection from Federal prosecution of medical marijuana businesses will no longer be in place.  Fortunately, Congress has included this amendment but yet has changed any of the tax or banking laws that pose challenges to the cannabis industry.

Clearly, to avail yourself of the protections of the amendment, you must be on the medical cannabis side and you must be in complete compliance with your State’s medical cannabis laws and regulations. You may not be covered under the amendment if you are involved in the recreational cannabis side even if legal in the State you are operating.

What Should You Do?

Given the illegal status of cannabis under Federal law you need to protect yourself and your marijuana business from all challenges created by the U.S. government.  Although cannabis is legal in California, that is not enough to protect you. Be proactive and engage an experienced Cannabis Tax Attorney in your area. Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County, Inland Empire (Ontario and Palm Springs) and other California locations protect you and maximize your net profits.  And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

How Is The IRS Jumping On Board The Age Of Improving Customer Experience?

How Is The IRS Jumping On Board The Age Of Improving Customer Experience?

Earlier in January 2021, the IRS delivered to Congress the Taxpayer First Act Report as a response to legislation passed in July 2019.  The report includes recommendations to improve IRS operations.

As part of a larger effort related to the Taxpayer First Act Report, the IRS announced on January 26, 2021 the creation of a new Chief Taxpayer Experience Officer position to help unify and expand efforts across the IRS to serve taxpayers. Ken Corbin, currently the IRS Wage and Investment commissioner, will take on this new role while also continuing to serve in his position overseeing the Service’s largest operating division.

The Taxpayer Experience Office, led by the Chief Taxpayer Experience Officer, reporting directly to the Commissioner, is one of the new roles envisioned in the multi-year plan.  The position will work with business units and offices across the IRS, including Chief Counsel, the Independent Office of Appeals and the National Taxpayer Advocate. The role is envisioned as working in coordination with the National Taxpayer Advocate, which is an independent organization inside the agency that helps taxpayers with issues that can’t be resolved with the IRS.

An Opportunity For Taxpayers Who Owe The IRS.

Now while this announcement may be the catalyst to promote more efficient operation of the IRS, do not think that a more efficient IRS will make your tax problem disappear.  If anything, future changes will make it easier for the IRS to enforce the tax laws using less manpower and resources.  That is why you should be utilizing this valuable time to get yourself prepared so that when IRS is ready to start or resume action against you, you are ready to make the best offer or proposal to take control of your outstanding tax debts.

As a prerequisite to any proposal to the IRS, you must be in current compliance.  That means if you have any outstanding income tax returns, they must be completed and submitted to IRS.  Also, if you are required to make estimated tax payments, you must be current in making those payments.  Fortunately, as we are now in 2021, taxpayers who expect to owe for 2020 should have their 2020 income tax returns done now so that the 2020 liability can be rolled over into any proposal and the requirement to make estimated tax payments will now start for 2021.

Remember that the tax laws remain the same regardless of whether the IRS makes changes to its operations, so all taxpayers should continue to meet their tax obligations as normal. Individuals and businesses should keep filing their tax returns and making payments and deposits with the IRS, as they are required to do by law.

The take away from this – use the Federal government’s lag time to your advantage to prepare for the future.

What Should You Do?

You know that at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. we are always thinking of ways that our clients can save on taxes. If you are selected for an audit, stand up to the IRS by getting representation. Tax problems are usually a serious matter and must be handled appropriately so it’s important to that you’ve hired the best lawyer for your particular situation. The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), Metropolitan Los Angeles (Long Beach and Ontario) and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income.  Also if you are involved in cannabis, check out what our cannabis tax attorneys can do for you.

Getting Ready For The 2021 Tax Filing Season

Getting Ready For The 2021 Tax Filing Season

On January 15, 2021, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that it will process 2020 tax returns beginning February 12, 2021.

Last year the opening date was January 27, 2020; however, for the 2021 tax filing season this had to be extended to allow the IRS time to do additional programming and testing of IRS systems following the December 27, 2020 tax law changes that provided a second round of Economic Impact Payments and other benefits.

April 15th Filing Deadline.

The filing deadline to submit 2020 tax returns is Thursday, April 15, 2021.

Since the IRS will begin processing tax returns on February 12th there is no advantage to filing tax returns on paper in January instead of waiting for the IRS to begin accepting e-filed returns.  Nevertheless, it makes sense to start organizing your information early and so when the IRS filing systems open on February 12th, you are ready to submit your tax return right away.

Refunds in 2021.

Choosing e-file and direct deposit for refunds remains the fastest way to file an accurate income tax return and receive a refund.  The IRS still anticipates issuing at least 90%of tax refunds in less than 21 days, but there are some important factors to keep in mind for taxpayers that could cause delay.  Under the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act, the IRS is required to hold refunds for tax returns which include a claim of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) until the first week of March 2021. Also consider that it would still take several days for these refunds to be released and processed through financial institutions, and factoring in weekends, and the President’s Day holiday, taxpayers claiming these credits may not have actual access to their refunds until the first week of March.

The status of your tax refund can be checked directly with IRS by using the Where’s My Refund? ‎on IRS.gov and the IRS2Go phone app.

Time Limits For Keeping Your Tax Records

Even though your 2020 income tax return is processed by the IRS and a refund is issued, that does not mean the IRS can later question or audit the tax return,  In fact the Statute Of Limitations allows the IRS three years to go back and audit your tax return.  That is why it’s a good idea to keep copies of your prior-year tax returns and supporting backup documentation for at least three years.

What Should You Do?

You know that at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. we are always thinking of ways that our clients can save on taxes. If you are selected for an audit, stand up to the IRS by getting representation. Tax problems are usually a serious matter and must be handled appropriately so it’s important to that you’ve hired the best lawyer for your particular situation. The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), the San Francisco Bay Area (including San Jose and Walnut Creek) and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income. Also if you are involved in cannabis, check out what a cannabis tax attorney can do for you and if you are involved in crypto-currency, check out what a Bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

How COVID-19 And Underfunding Impacts IRS Operations And Increases Tax Problems For Taxpayers.

How COVID-19 And Underfunding Impacts IRS Operations And Increases Tax Problems For Taxpayers.

As required by law, once a year the Taxpayer Advocate’s Office (an independent Federal government department that monitors the Internal Revenue Service) must send a report to Congress describing challenges the IRS is facing, problems experienced by taxpayers in dealing with the IRS and recommendations to resolve these problems.

On January 13, 2021, National Taxpayer Advocate Chief Erin M. Collins released her 2020 Annual Report to Congress focusing on the unprecedented challenges taxpayers faced in filing their tax returns and receiving refunds and stimulus payments during a year consumed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The report also finds that the underfunding of the IRS over the last decade has resulted in the IRS still using antiquated technology and inadequate staffing levels to meet taxpayers’ needs.

Ms. Olson also released the fourth edition of the National Taxpayer Advocate’s “Purple Book” which presents 66 legislative recommendations designed to strengthen taxpayer rights and improve tax administration.

Impact of COVID-19 on tax administration

Ms. Olson cited in her report that: “During 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic affected almost all facets of our lives, and U.S. tax administration was no exception. Taxpayers could not meet in person with their tax return preparers. IRS personnel who open and process tax returns and answer the toll-free telephone lines had to follow social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders, limiting their ability to assist taxpayers. And Congress assigned the IRS the task of issuing two rounds of stimulus payments, stretching its resources even further.”

  • Unprocessed Returns: As of November 24, 2020, the IRS indicated there were still 7.1 million unprocessed individual returns and 2.3 million unprocessed business returns, and that some unprocessed returns dated back to April 15, 2020.
  • Missing Or Inaccurate Economic Impact Payments (“EIP”): In accordance with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the IRS issued more than 160 million EIPs. However, millions of eligible individuals did not receive some or all of the EIPs for which they were eligible despite a statutory directive that the IRS issue the payments “as rapidly as possible.”
  • Late Notices: During 2020, taxpayers were sent more than 20 million notices bearing dates that had passed and, in many cases, response or payment deadlines that also had passed.

An Opportunity For Taxpayers Who Owe The IRS.

Do not think that if you owe the IRS your tax problem will disappear because the IRS is under challenges from COVID-19 or from underfunding.  Instead you should be utilizing this valuable time to get yourself prepared so that when IRS is resuming action against you, you are ready to make the best offer or proposal to take control of your outstanding tax debts.

As a prerequisite to any proposal to the IRS, you must be in current compliance.  That means if you have any outstanding income tax returns, they must be completed and submitted to IRS.  Also, if you are required to make estimated tax payments, you must be current in making those payments.  Fortunately, as we are now in 2021, taxpayers who expect to owe for 2020 should have their 2020 income tax returns done now so that the 2020 liability can be rolled over into any proposal and the requirement to make estimated tax payments will now start for 2021.

Remember that COVID-19 does not terminate the tax laws, so all taxpayers should continue to meet their tax obligations as normal. Individuals and businesses should keep filing their tax returns and making payments and deposits with the IRS, as they are required to do by law.

The take away from this – use the Federal government’s downtime to your advantage to prepare for the future.

What Should You Do?

You know that at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. we are always thinking of ways that our clients can save on taxes. If you are selected for an audit, stand up to the IRS by getting representation. Tax problems are usually a serious matter and must be handled appropriately so it’s important to that you’ve hired the best lawyer for your particular situation. The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), Metropolitan Los Angeles (Long Beach and Ontario) and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income.  Also if you are involved in cannabis, check out what our cannabis tax attorneys can do for you.  And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

 

Why In 2021 Is Taxation Related To Cannabis Businesses So Complicated?

Beware 2021 Could Be A Banner Year For IRS Audits Of Cannabis Businesses.

We previously reported in our blog that the Trump Administration organized a committee of federal agencies from across the government to combat public support for marijuana and cast state legalization measures in a negative light while attempting to portray the drug as a national threat. The IRS appears to be following the agenda of the Trump Administration when it comes to Cannabis and has formed special audit groups that are tasked with conducting cannabis tax audits on medical and recreational cannabis businesses.

But there is so much confusion in this area that on March 30, 2020, the Treasury Inspector General For Tax Administration (TIGTA) released a report to the IRS pointing them toward targeting the state-licensed cannabis industry for lost tax revenue.  The IRS has said it will implement certain recommendations in this report, specifically:

  • Develop a comprehensive compliance approach for the cannabis industry, including a method to identify businesses in this industry and track examination results;
  • Leverage publically available information at the State level and expand the use of existing Fed/State agreements to identify nonfilers and unreported income in the cannabis industry; and
  • Increase educational outreach towards unbanked taxpayers making cash deposits regarding the unbanked relief policies available.

Yes – Cannabis Businesses Have to Report Income To IRS And Pay Taxes!

While the sale of cannabis is legal in California as well as in a growing number of states, cannabis remains a Schedule 1 narcotic under Federal law, the Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”) 21 U.S.C. § 812. As such businesses in the cannabis industry are not treated like ordinary businesses. Despite state laws allowing cannabis, it remains illegal on a federal level but cannabis businesses are obligated to pay federal income tax on income because I.R.C. §61(a) does not differentiate between income derived from legal sources and income derived from illegal sources.

I.R.C. § 280E

Generally, businesses can deduct ordinary and necessary business expenses under I.R.C. §162. This includes wages, rent, supplies, etc. However, in 1982 Congress added I.R.C. §280E. Under I.R.C. §280E, taxpayers cannot deduct any amount for a trade or business where the trade or business consists of trafficking in controlled substances…which is prohibited by Federal law. Cannabis, including medical marijuana, is a controlled substance. What this means is that dispensaries and other businesses trafficking in cannabis have to report all of their income and cannot deduct rent, wages, and other expenses, making their marginal tax rate substantially higher than most other businesses.

IRS Guidance On Cannabis.

The IRS issued a memo to provide guidance to its agents on conducting audits of cannabis businesses addressing whether an IRS agent can require a taxpayer trafficking in a Schedule 1 controlled substance to change its tax accounting to conform to I.R.C. §280E.

Not surprisingly that the IRS ruled that IRS agents have the authority to change a cannabis business’ method of accounting so that pursuant to I.R.C. §280E costs which should not be included in inventory are not included in Costs Of Goods Sold (“COGS”) and remain non-deductible for income tax purposes.

Cannabis Tax Audits & Litigation.

It is no surprise that cannabis businesses are proliferating as more States legalize cannabis and make available licenses to grow, manufacture, distribute and sell cannabis. The IRS recognizes this and it is making these cannabis businesses face Federal income tax audits. IRC §280E is at the forefront of all IRS cannabis tax audits and enforcement of §280E could result in unbearable tax liabilities.

Proving deductions to the IRS is a two-step process:

  •  First, you must substantiate that you actually paid the expense you are claiming.
  •  Second, you must prove that an expense is actually tax deductible.

Step One: Incurred And Paid The Expense.

For example, if you claim a $5,000 purchase expense from a cannabis distributor, offering a copy of a bill or an invoice from the distributor (if one is even provided) is not enough. It only proves that you owe the money, not that you actually made good on paying the bill. The IRS accepts canceled checks, bank statements and credit card statements as proof of payment. But when such bills are paid in cash as it typical in a cannabis business, you would not have any of these supporting documents but the IRS may accept the equivalent in electronic form.

Step Two: Deductibility Of The Expense.

Next you must prove that an expense is actually tax deductible. For cannabis businesses this is challenging because of the I.R.C. §280E limitation. Recall that under I.R.C. §280E, taxpayers cannot deduct any amount for a trade or business where the trade or business consists of trafficking in controlled substances…which is prohibited by Federal law. What this means is that dispensaries and other businesses trafficking in cannabis have to report all of their income and cannot deduct rent, wages, and other expenses, making their marginal tax rate substantially higher than most other businesses.

A cannabis business can still deduct its Cost Of Goods Sold (“COGS”). Cost of goods sold are the direct costs attributable to the production of goods. For a cannabis reseller this includes the cost of cannabis itself and transportation used in acquiring cannabis. To the extent greater costs of doing business can be legitimately included in COGS that will that result in lower taxable income. You can be sure the IRS agents in audits will be looking closely at what is included in COGS. Working with a cannabis tax attorney can ensure that you receive the proper treatment of COGS versus ordinary and necessary expenses resulting in the lowest possible income tax liability.

In addition to IRS audits, state cannabis audits are also complex and thorough and generally include all taxes specific and nonspecific to the cannabis business. Potentially at risk is the cannabis license that enables the business to operate. State audits will focus on records regarding sales and use tax, excise taxes, and seed-to-sale tracking records.

Now if your cannabis IRS tax audit is not resolved, the results may be challenged and litigated in the U.S. Tax Court or Federal District Court. The U.S. Tax Court has jurisdiction to hear disputes over federal income taxes before final assessment and collections while the Federal District Court generally requires taxpayers to first pay the liability then seek repayment through a refund request.

Tips For Cannabis Tax Return Preparation

Here are some tips for cannabis businesses to follow in the preparation of their 2019 tax returns.

  • Reconcile Your Books Before Closing Your Books. Incomplete books can cause delays and add unnecessary complexities.
  • Utilize A Cannabis Tax Professional. Engage a tax professional who has experience in the cannabis industry. Such a professional would be familiar with the intricacies of IRC Sec. 280E and relevant cases to make the proper presentation on the tax return in a manner that would support the smaller tax liability possible.
  • Justify Your Numbers As If An IRS Audit Is A Certainty. Don’t wait to receive a notice from IRS that the tax return is selected for examination.  That can be one or two years away.  Instead make it a point to put together the backup to you numbers now while everything is fresh.

What Should You Do?

Ultimately it is the tax risk with IRS that could put any cannabis business “out of business” so you need to protect yourself and your investment. Level the playing field and gain the upper hand by engaging the cannabis tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), the Inland Empire (Ontario and Palm Springs) and other California locations. We can come up with tax solutions and strategies and protect you and your business and to maximize your net profits.  Also, if you are involved in crypto-currency, check out what a Bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.