cannabis business banking law

Getting Harder For Legal Cannabis To Find Banking.

Even though more and more states are allowing the sale of cannabis at the medical and/or recreational level, it is still a business that deals essentially in cash only. Why? Because most traditional banks refuse to deal with any cannabis businesses.  This forces cannabis businesses to seek alternative financial institutions, smaller banks and credit unions that are willing to work with cannabis businesses so that these businesses can pay their expenses and even taxes in a manner more safe and secure than delivering stacks of $20 bills.

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.

Nevertheless, cannabis companies still operate in a legal grey area because cannabis remains illegal under Federal law. Federal law classifies cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it has “currently no accepted medical use”. Treating cannabis no differently than heroin, the Federal government has entrusted the Treasury Department with the authority and responsibility to monitor bank activity to make sure that activities which are illegal under Federal law are not utilizing the banking channels and functions that are normally available.

Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”)

FinCEN is a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The Director of FinCEN is appointed by the Secretary of the Treasury and reports to the Treasury Under-Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. FinCEN’s mission is to safeguard the financial system from illicit use and combat money laundering and promote national security through the collection, analysis, and dissemination of financial intelligence and strategic use of financial authorities.

FinCEN carries out its mission by receiving and maintaining financial transactions data; analyzing and disseminating that data for law enforcement purposes; and building global cooperation with counterpart organizations in other countries and with international bodies.

FinCEN exercises regulatory functions primarily under the Currency and Financial Transactions Reporting Act of 1970, as amended by Title III of the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001. Under this authority the Secretary of the Treasury is to issue regulations requiring banks and other financial institutions to take a number of precautions against financial crime, including the establishment of AML programs and the filing of reports that have been determined to have a high degree of usefulness in criminal, tax, and regulatory investigations and proceedings, and certain intelligence and counter-terrorism matters. This authority has been delegated to FinCEN.

The basic concept underlying FinCEN’s core activities is “follow the money.” As FinCEN believes that the primary motive of criminals is financial gain, and they leave financial trails as they try to launder the proceeds of crimes or attempt to spend their ill-gotten profits. FinCEN shares the information it receives and analyzes with other law enforcement agencies to investigate and hold accountable a broad range of criminals, including perpetrators of fraud, tax evaders, and narcotics traffickers. More recently, the techniques used to follow money trails also have been applied to investigating and disrupting terrorist groups, which often depend on financial and other support networks.

Reporting Of Cash Payments

The Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”) enacted in 1970 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.

Cannabis-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. 

Why Banks Are Reluctant To Deal With Cannabis Businesses

Under the Obama administration, then-Deputy Attorney General James Cole issued a memo, known as the Cole Memorandum that clarified the Justice Department’s stance on cannabis. The memo, from August 29, 2013, asserted that, for the most part, the Justice Department would not enforce the cannabis ban in states that had legalized it. Following that spirit, on February 14, 2014 the Treasury Department issued its own guidance through FinCEN on how banks could provide services to the cannabis industry without violating Federal Law.  As long as banks complied with this guidance, they could avoid the threat of federal prosecution and make themselves available to provide banking and financial services to cannabis businesses.

But under the Trump administration, the Justice Department led by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole memo, calling marijuana “a dangerous drug” and asserting that “marijuana activity is a serious crime”. The Treasury Department led by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has yet to revoke the FinCEN guidance which although that guidance referenced the Cole memo multiple times, the guidance still remains a part of the framework by which banks and other financial institutions can make themselves available to do business with the cannabis industry.

Today’s Banking Challenge

Despite more states legalizing cannabis, a tiny fraction of banks and alternative financial institutions are willing to work with cannabis companies.  As of September 30, 2020 FinCEN issued a report stating that there were 677 banks and credit unions that filed reports saying they were working with cannabis clients.  Unfortunately this number is down from 695 in the last fiscal quarter ending in June and 711 for the quarter preceding that.

What Should You Do?

It is best to be proactive and engage an experienced board certified tax attorney-CPA in your area who is highly skilled in the different legal, banking and tax issues that cannabis businesses face.  Let the cannabis tax attorneys of the Law Offices of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), the Inland Empire (including Ontario and Palm Springs) and other California locations protect you and maximize your net profits.  Also, if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

 

Federal Court Of Appeals Rules That Cannabis Is Just Like Any Other Industry Subject To IRS Audits

On October 20, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit issued its opinion ruling against a group of Colorado cannabis dispensaries and their affiliates that includes The Green Solution Retail Inc., The Green Solution LLC, Infuzionz, LLC, Green Earth Wellness Inc., TGS Management LLC, S-Type Armored LLC, IVXX Infuzionz LLC, Medicinal Wellness Center LLC, Medicinal Oasis LLC, and other individuals who together and separately brought lawsuits challenging IRS examination action instituted against them.

The IRS has been targeting cannabis businesses for audits and these taxpayers were looking to show that these audits should not proceed by making the following arguments:  (1) that the IRS investigation is quasi-criminal, exceeds the Agency’s authority, and is being conducted for an illegitimate purpose; (2) that even if the investigation had a legitimate purpose, the information sought is irrelevant; and (3) that the investigation is in bad faith and constitutes an abuse of process because (a) the IRS may share the information collected with federal law enforcement agents, (b) the IRS summonses are overly broad and require the creation of new reports, (c) the dispensaries have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the data they tender to state regulatory authorities, and (d) those state authorities cannot provide the requested information without violating Colorado law.

The Court which has jurisdiction over Colorado is familiar with these arguments as over the last several years, multiple Colorado cannabis dispensaries have challenged the IRS’s ability to investigate and impose tax consequences upon them.  The Court’s ruling was completely in favor of the IRS as the Court struck down each of the plaintiffs’ arguments especially noting that plaintiffs failed to show any evidence contradicting the IRS’ rationale for investigating, and noted that the agency had so far not made any recommendations for prosecution.

IRS Releases Tax Guidance For The Cannabis Industry

The Internal Revenue Service released updated guidance on tax policy for the cannabis industry.  The new guidance briefly covers the rules for income reporting, cash payment options, estimating tax payments and keeping financial records.

Under Federal law (Controlled Substances Act 21 U.S.C. 801) marijuana is designated as a Schedule I controlled substance due to the historical belief that it has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.  Although cannabis remains federally illegal, taxpayers in this business activity must still report this income and still have an obligation to pay taxes and properly report transactions.

The IRS guidance states “A key component in promoting the highest degree of voluntary compliance on the part of taxpayers is helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities while also enforcing the law with integrity and fairness to all.”

This update appears to be in response to a Treasury Department report that was released in April 2020 where the Treasury Department’s Inspector General For Tax Administration had criticized IRS for failing to adequately advise taxpayers in the marijuana industry about compliance with federal tax laws. And it directed the agency to “develop and publicize guidance specific to the marijuana industry.”

Cannabis Businesses Face Higher Taxes

A topic of interest to the cannabis industry is that it is largely deprived of tax benefits extended to businesses in other industries. 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.

  • 280E does not, however, prohibit a participant in the marijuana industry from reducing its gross receipts by its properly calculated cost of goods sold to determine its gross income. The IRS guidance acknowledges that “taxpayers who sell marijuana may reduce their gross receipts by the cost of acquiring or producing marijuana that they sell, and those costs will depend on the nature of the business.” However, the guidance affirms that “a marijuana dispensary may not deduct, for example, advertising or selling expenses. It may, however, reduce its gross receipts by its cost of goods sold, as calculated pursuant to Internal Revenue Code section 471.”

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.

Cannabis Businesses Face Reporting Of Cash Payments

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.  So it is best to be proactive and engage an experienced cannabis tax attorney in your area who is highly skilled in the different legal and tax issues that cannabis businesses face.  Let the cannabis tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), Northern California (San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento) 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.

 

California Keeping Cannabis Taxes Steady In 2021

The California Department Of Tax And Fee Administration (CDTFA) which oversees the reporting and collection of taxes for the California cannabis industry under Emergency Regulation 3700 established a new category and tax rate for the cannabis cultivation tax that took effect January 1, 2018, along with the other existing cultivation tax rates. Every six months the CDTFA re-determines the cannabis markup rate. An analysis of statewide market data is used to determine the average mark-up rate between the wholesale cost and the retail selling price of cannabis and cannabis products. The CDTFA set the mark-up rate at 80% starting, January 1, 2020, and the CDTFA announced on May 13, 2020 that the mark-up rate for the last six months of 2020 shall remain unchanged at 80%.

Governor Newsom Signs AB 1872 Insuring No Tax Increases In 2021

On September 18, 2020 California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1872 (Committee on Budget). Specifically, AB 1872 suspends for one year, beginning January 1, 2021, the CDTFA’s authority to raise the cannabis cultivation tax and the wholesale mark-up rate for purposes of calculating the excise tax. Considering the fact that cannabis businesses don’t qualify for federal relief like other businesses have been able to secure during the COVID-19 pandemic, this tax relief should be welcomed by the industry.

Cannabis Excise Tax

The 15% cannabis excise tax is based on the average market price of the cannabis or cannabis products sold in a retail sale. The mark-up rate is used when calculating the average market price to determine the cannabis excise tax due in an arm’s length transaction. In an arm’s length transaction, the average market price is the retailer’s wholesale cost of the cannabis or cannabis products plus, the mark-up rate determined by the CDTFA. In a non-arm’s length transaction, the average market price is the cannabis retailer’s gross receipts from the retail sale of the cannabis or cannabis products.

Cannabis Cultivation Tax

As required by the Cannabis Tax Law, effective January 1, 2020, the cultivation tax rates reflect an adjustment for inflation. The adjusted rates for each category shown below will be reflected on the monthly and quarterly cannabis tax returns beginning January 1, 2020.

Cannabis Category 2021 Rate [follows 2020] 2020 Rate
Flower per dry-weight ounce $9.65 $9.65
Leaves per dry-weight ounce $2.87 $2.87
Fresh cannabis plant per ounce $1.35 $1.35

 

  • The 2020 rates apply to cannabis that a cultivator sells or transfers to a manufacturer or distributor on or after January 1, 2020.
  • All fresh cannabis plants must be weighed within two hours of harvesting.

 

If you are a cannabis retailer, you are required to collect the cannabis excise tax from your customers on each retail sale of cannabis or cannabis products starting January 1, 2018, and pay the excise tax to a distributor. Distributors are liable for paying the cannabis taxes to the CDTFA.

Invoice Requirements

Retailers are required to provide purchasers with a receipt or other similar document that includes the following statement – “The cannabis excise taxes are included in the total amount of this invoice.”

Recordkeeping

Every sale or transport of cannabis or cannabis products must be recorded on an invoice or receipt. Cannabis licensees are required to keep invoices for a minimum of seven years.

Distributors (or in some cases manufacturers) are responsible for collecting the cannabis cultivation and excise taxes, and the invoices they provide must include, among other specified requirements, the amount of tax collected.

Retailers, cultivators, and manufacturers must keep these invoices as verification that the appropriate tax was paid.

How This Impacts The Black Market

Legal California cannabis businesses have been complaining about taxes, which in parts of the state are among the highest in the nation. Many believe that these taxes on compliant cannabis operators while still mandating compliance with State and local regulations will widen the price disparity gap between cannabis products sold in the black market vs. cannabis products sold in the legal market. But with the State stepping up its enforcement efforts to uncover and prosecute illegal cannabis operators, the State is hoping to eliminate this discrepancy by eradicating non-compliant operators.

What Should You Do?

Start your cannabis business on the right track.  Protect yourself and your investment by engaging the cannabis tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), Los Angeles County 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.

 

Why Taxpayers Involved In Offshore Accounts, Crypto Currency Or Cannabis Should Be Filing An Extension For Their 2019 Income Tax Returns

Why Taxpayers Involved In Offshore Accounts, Crypto Currency Or Cannabis Should Be Filing An Extension For Their 2019 Income Tax Returns

If you did not report your offshore accounts, crypto currency income or cannabis income earned before 2019, you should hold off on filing your 2019 taxes and instead file an extension.

An extension is your way of asking the IRS for additional time to file your tax return. The IRS will automatically grant you an additional time to file your return. While State Tax Agencies will also provide the same extension period, you need to check with your State to see if an extension must be filed with the State as well.  For example, California does not require that a State extension be filed as long as you timely file the Federal extension AND you will not owe any money to the State.

The deadline to file your 2019 individual income tax returns or request an extension of time to file the tax return is Wednesday, July 15, 2020 (normally would have been April 15th but extended due to COVID-19).  A timely filed extension will extend the filing deadline to Thursday, October 15, 2020 thus giving you an extra three months to meet with tax counsel and determine how to address your pre-2019 tax reporting delinquencies and/or exposure and how to present your situation on your 2019 tax return.

While an extension gives you extra time to file your return, an extension does not give you extra time to pay your tax and if you do not pay what you owe with the extension, you will still be ultimately charged with late payment penalties when you file your tax return.

Offshore Accounts

Where a taxpayer does not come forward voluntarily though a Voluntary Disclosure Program and has now been targeted by IRS for failing to file the Foreign Bank Account Reports (FBAR), the IRS may now assert FBAR penalties that could be either non-willful or willful.  Both types have varying upper limits, but no floor.  The first type is the non-willful FBAR penalty.  The maximum non-willful FBAR penalty is $10,000.  The second type is the willful FBAR penalty.  The maximum willful FBAR penalty is the greater of (a) $100,000 or (b) 50% of the total balance of the foreign account.  In addition, the IRS can pursue criminal charges with the willful FBAR penalty.  The law defines that any person who willfully attempts in any manner to evade or defeat any tax under the Internal Revenue Code or the payment thereof is, in addition to other penalties provided by law, guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, can be fined not more than $100,000 ($500,000 in the case of a corporation), or imprisoned not more than five years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution (Code Sec. 7201).

For the non-willful penalty, all the IRS has to show is that an FBAR was not filed.  Whether the taxpayer knew or did not know about the filing of this form is irrelevant.  The non-willful FBAR penalty is $10,000 per account, per year and so a taxpayer with multiple accounts over multiple years can end up with a huge penalty.

Since 2009, the IRS Criminal Investigation has indicted 1,545 taxpayers on criminal violations related to international activities, of which 671 taxpayers were indicted on international criminal tax violations.

Crypto Currency

Many taxpayers think that their crypto transactions would remain a secret forever.  Digital exchanges are not broker-regulated by the IRS. Digital exchanges are not obligated to issue a 1099 form, nor are they obligated to report to the IRS calculate gains or cost basis for the trader. But that is now all changing sooner than you think!

As of March 16, 2018, the IRS has received information from Coinbase located in San Francisco which is the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the United States disclosing the names, addresses and tax identification numbers on 14,355 account holders. Coinbase pursuant to a Court Order issued by a Federal Magistrate Judge (United States v. Coinbase, Inc., United States District Court, Northern District Of California, Case No.17-cv-01431) had to produce the following customer information over the period of 2013 to 2015: (1) taxpayer ID number, (2) name, (3) birth date, (4) address, (5) records of account activity, including transaction logs or other records identifying the date, amount, and type of transaction (purchase/sale/exchange), the post transaction balance, and the names of counterparties to the transaction, and (6) all periodic statements of account or invoices (or the equivalent).

Furthermore, Coinbase starting with the 2017 tax years will be issuing 1099-K tax forms for some of its U.S. clients.  The IRS will receive copies of these forms.

With only several hundred people reporting their crypto gains each year, the IRS suspects that many crypto users have been evading taxes by not reporting crypto transactions on their tax returns.

Cannabis

With the proliferation of licensed cannabis businesses sprouting in the State Of California since 2018, a continued stream of cannabis business will be filing tax returns with the IRS.  But beware, the IRS is well aware that successful cannabis businesses don’t just sprout overnight and now that your business is on the radar screen you can bet that the IRS will be inquiring how you accumulated all that cash before 2019.

Cannabis is categorized as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. While more than half of the states in the U.S. have legalized some form of medicinal marijuana, and several others have passed laws permitting recreational cannabis use, under federal drug laws the sale of cannabis remains illegal.

Despite the disparity and Federal and State law, marijuana businesses still have to pay taxes.

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.

A cannabis business that has not properly reported its income and expenses and not engaged in the planning to minimize income taxes can face a large liability proposed by IRS reflected on a Notice Of Deficiency or tax bill.  Likewise, where a taxpayer over the years has accumulated cash from cannabis sales and never reported any income to the IRS, you are looking at a serious problem.

Penalties For Filing A False Income Tax Return Or Under-reporting Income 

Failure to report all the money you make is a main reason folks end up facing an IRS auditor. Carelessness on your tax return might get you whacked with a 20% penalty. But that’s nothing compared to the 75% civil penalty for willful tax fraud and possibly facing criminal charges of tax evasion that if convicted could land you in jail.

Criminal Fraud – The law defines that any person who willfully attempts in any manner to evade or defeat any tax under the Internal Revenue Code or the payment thereof is, in addition to other penalties provided by law, guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, can be fined not more than $100,000 ($500,000 in the case of a corporation), or imprisoned not more than five years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution (Code Sec. 7201).

The term “willfully” has been interpreted to require a specific intent to violate the law (U.S. v. Pomponio, 429 U.S. 10 (1976)). The term “willfulness” is defined as the voluntary, intentional violation of a known legal duty (Cheek v. U.S., 498 U.S. 192 (1991)).

And even if the IRS is not looking to put you in jail, they will be looking to hit you with a big tax bill with hefty penalties.

Civil Fraud – Normally the IRS will impose a negligence penalty of 20% of the underpayment of tax (Code Sec. 6662(b)(1) and 6662(b)(2)) but violations of the Internal Revenue Code with the intent to evade income taxes may result in a civil fraud penalty. In lieu of the 20% negligence penalty, the civil fraud penalty is 75% of the underpayment of tax (Code Sec. 6663). The imposition of the Civil Fraud Penalty essentially doubles your liability to the IRS!

What Should You Do?

Individual taxpayers can file an extension using Form 4868. Extensions can also be filed online, which has the benefit that you’ll receive a confirmation code from the IRS notifying you that your extension was received.  Then you should promptly contact tax counsel.  Don’t delay because once the IRS has targeted you for investigation – even if it is a routine random audit – it will be too late voluntarily come forward. Let the tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Francisco Bay Area (including San Jose and Walnut Creek) and offices elsewhere in California get you set up with a plan that may include being qualified into a voluntary disclosure program to avoid criminal prosecution, seek abatement of penalties, and minimize your tax liability. If you are involved in cannabis, check out what else a cannabis tax attorney can do for you. Also, if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a Bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

When Facing An IRS Tax Audit, How Do Marijuana Businesses Explain To IRS A Cash Stash Accumulated From The Past?

With the proliferation of licensed cannabis businesses sprouting in the State Of California and a growing number of States, a lot of cannabis business will be filing tax returns with the IRS for the first time. But beware, the IRS is well aware that successful cannabis businesses don’t just sprout overnight and now that your business is on the radar screen you can bet that the IRS will be inquiring how you accumulated all that cash before 2019. We refer to this accumulation of cash as “legacy cash”.

Legacy Cash Is A Big Problem For Successful Cannabis Businesses

In the early days of cannabis operations, the biggest issue was what to do with all the cash? Cash is bulky and risky, but you have to do something with it and cannabis entrepreneurs can’t just take it to their local bank and make a deposit like every other kind of business can. So what have cannabis entrepreneurs been doing for all these years? For the most part they are keep the cash and where that income was never reported on prior tax returns, they now run the risk of being caught by IRS and prosecuted for tax evasion.

Yes – Marijuana 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.

The Sixteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits the Federal government from taxing “gross receipts”. In Edmondson vs. Commissioner, 42 T.C.M. (CCH) 1533 (T.C. 1981), the Tax Court decided that Jeffrey Edmonson, self-employed in the trade or business of selling amphetamines, cocaine, and cannabis, was permitted to deduct his business expenses resulting from his trade. Discomforted by this outcome, the following year Congress enacted I.R.C. §280E, disallowing all deductions and credits for amounts paid or incurred in the illegal trafficking in drugs listed in the Controlled Substances Act.

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 cannabis, is a controlled substance. While I.R.C. §280E disallows cannabis-related businesses to deduct “ordinary and necessary” business expenses, it would be unconstitutional for the IRS to disallow businesses to deduct Cost Of Goods Sold when calculating gross income. This concept was first applied in the Tax Court case of Olive vs. Commissioner Of Internal Revenue, 139 T.C. 19 (2012).

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 §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 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.

Appealing An I.R.C. Section 280E IRS Tax Audit

Now if your cannabis IRS tax audit is not resolved, the results may be challenged. After the Revenue Agent has concluded the tax examination, the agent will issue a copy of the examination report explaining the agent’s proposed changes along with notice of your appeals rights. Pay attention to the type of letter that is included as it will dictate the appeals process available to you.

The “30-day letter”

The “30-day letter” gives you the right to challenge the proposed adjustment in the IRS Office Of Appeals. To do this, you need to file a Tax Protest within 30 days of the date of the notice. The Appeals Office is the only level of appeal within the IRS and is separate from and independent of the IRS office taking the action you disagree with. Conferences with Appeals Office personnel are held in an informal manner by correspondence, by telephone, or at a personal conference.

The “Notice Of Deficiency”

If the IRS does not adopt your position, it will send a notice proposing a tax adjustment (known as a statutory notice of deficiency). The statutory notice of deficiency gives you the right to challenge the proposed adjustment in the United States Tax Court before paying it. To do this, you need to file a petition within 90 days of the date of the notice (150 days if the notice is addressed to you outside the United States). If you filed your petition on time, the court will eventually schedule your case for trial at the designation place of trial you set forth in your petition. Prior to trial you should have the opportunity to seek a settlement with IRS Area Counsel and in certain cases, such settlement negotiations could be delegated to the IRS Office Of Appeals. If there is still disagreement and the case does go to trial, you will have the opportunity to present your case before a Tax Court judge. The judge after hearing your case and reviewing the record and any post-trial briefs will render a decision in the form of an Opinion. It could take as much as two years after trial before an Opinion issued. If the Opinion is not appealed to a Circuit Court Of Appeals, then the proposed deficiency under the Opinion is final and your account will be sent to IRS Collections.

IRS Area Counsel are experienced trial attorneys working for the IRS whose job is to litigate cases in the U.S. Tax Court and look out for the best interests of the Federal government. So to level the playing field, it would be prudent for a taxpayer to hire qualified tax counsel as soon as possible to seek a mutually acceptable resolution without the need for trial, and if that does not happen, to already have the legal expertise in place to vigorously defend you at trial.

Dealing With The Cash Legacy Problem

The IRS has not yet announced a specific tax amnesty for people who failed to report their income from cannabis but coming forward under Voluntary Disclosure could result in non-compliant taxpayers avoiding criminal prosecution and lower penalties.

What Should You Do?

While more States are legalizing cannabis, risks to the cannabis industry still exist. Considering the risks of cannabis 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 (including Ontario and Palm Springs) and other California locations. We can come up with solutions and strategies to these risks and protect you and your business to maximize your net profits. And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

cannabis business banking law

Federal Government Opens Up Banking For Hemp-Related Businesses

On December 3, 2019 Four federal agencies (the Federal Reserve Board, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency) in conjunction with the state bank regulators announced new policy clarifying the legal status of hemp growth and production and the relevant requirements under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) for banks providing services to hemp-related businesses.

Under Federal law (Controlled Substances Act 21 U.S.C. 801) cannabis is designated as a Schedule I controlled substance due to the historical belief that it has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. Hemp was included in this class but with the legalization of Hemp in the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill), it was a matter of time before Federal government regulators would catch up.

Changes To Grant Banking Access To Hemp Businesses

The new policy emphasizes that banks are no longer required to file Suspicious Activity Reports (SAR) for customers solely because they are engaged in the growth or cultivation of hemp in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. For hemp-related customers, banks are expected to follow standard SAR procedures, and file a SAR if indicia of suspicious activity warrants.

This new policy provides banks with background information on the legal status of hemp, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) interim final rule on the production of hemp, and the BSA considerations when providing banking services to hemp-related businesses.

This new policy also indicates that FinCEN will issue additional guidance after further reviewing and evaluating the USDA interim final rule.

The full text of the new policy statement can be read here.

BSA Considerations

Because hemp is no longer a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act, banks are not required to file an SAR on customers solely because they are engaged in the growth or cultivation of hemp in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. For hemp-related customers, banks are expected to follow standard SAR procedures, and file an SAR if indicia of suspicious activity warrants.

Still, it may be awhile before banks readily open business to hemp as it is generally a bank’s business decision as to the types of permissible services and accounts to offer, and banks must have a BSA/AML compliance program commensurate with the level of complexity and risks involved. When deciding to serve hemp-related businesses, banks must comply with applicable regulatory requirements for customer identification, suspicious activity reporting, currency transaction reporting, and risk-based customer due diligence, including the collection of beneficial ownership information for legal entity customers.

Higher Taxes Still Remain

While the developments listed above are favorable for hemp-related business, it still remains to be seen when favorable changes will be made to the Internal Revenue Code which treats businesses in the cannabis 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. Cannabis, including medical cannabis, 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.

Reporting Of Cash Payments Still Remain

The BSA enacted in 1970 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.

Cannabis-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.  So it is best to be proactive and engage an experienced cannabis tax attorney in your area who is highly skilled in the different legal and tax issues that cannabis businesses face.  Let the cannabis tax attorneys of 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 protect you and maximize your net profits. Also, if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

Cannabis Legalization Bills

MORE Act Approved By The House Judiciary Committee To End Cannabis Prohibition – If You Can’t Beat Them, Then Join Them!

Under Federal law (Controlled Substances Act 21 U.S.C. 801) marijuana is designated as a Schedule I controlled substance due to the historical belief that it has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.

 

The federal penalties for possession of any amount of marijuana are as follows:

  • First Offense – Misdemeanor involving up to one year of incarceration and $1,000 in fines
  • Second Offense – Misdemeanor punishable by 15 days to 2 years behind bars and $2,500 in fines
  • Third and subsequent offenses – Misdemeanor or felony punishable by 90 days to 3 years of incarceration and fines of up to $5,000.

 

The penalties for the sale of marijuana depend on the amount of marijuana you have been accused of selling or attempting to sell:

  • Less than 50 kilograms – Felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or up to $250,000 in fines
  • 50 to 99 kilograms – Felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or fines of up to $1,000,000
  • 100 to 999 kilograms – Felony involving 5 to 40 years incarceration and/or fines of up to $2,000,000
  • 1000 kg and up – Felony carrying a sentence of 10 years to life in prison and/or up to  $4,000,000 in fines

 

As for the cultivation of marijuana, the federal authorities punish it on the basis of the number of plants you were caught growing:

  • Less than 50 plants – Felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or up to $250,000 in fines
  • 50 to 99 plants – Felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or up to $1,000,000 in fines
  • 100 to 999 plants – Felony carrying a 5 to 40-year prison sentence and/or fines of up to $5,000,000
  • 1,000 plants or more – Felony involving 10 years to life in prison and/or fines of up to $10,000,000

 

With aggravating factors such as a trafficking activity that results in an injury or death, a sale within 1,000 feet of a school, or a case involving five grams sold to a minor, the above penalties may increase dramatically.

 

How things have changed –  

Medical marijuana is legal in 33 states.

The medical use of cannabis is legal (with a doctor’s recommendation) in 33 states and Washington DC. Those 33 states being Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia. The medical use of cannabis is also legal in the territories of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and Puerto Rico.

 

Recreational marijuana is legal in 10 states. 

Ten states and Washington DC, have legalized marijuana for recreational use — no doctor’s letter required — for adults over the age of 21. Those ten states being Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington and the territory of Guam.

 

Department Of Justice preferring cannabis legalization. 

Attorney General William Barr stated that he would prefer that Congress enact legislation allowing states to legalize marijuana instead of continuing the current approach under which a growing number of states have ended cannabis prohibition in conflict with federal law.

 

Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act Approved By The House Judiciary Committee On November 20, 2019

 

The MORE Act (H.R. 3884), sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-New York), would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and set aside funding to begin repairing the damage of the war on drugs, which has been disproportionately waged against communities of color.  Among other things, the MORE Act would also provide for resentencing and expungement of records for people previously convicted of cannabis offenses and would shield immigrants from being denied citizenship status over marijuana.

 

Chairman Nadler issued a press release stating “Our marijuana laws disproportionately harm individuals and communities of color, leading to convictions that damage job prospects, access to housing, and the ability to vote.  Recognizing this, many states have legalized marijuana.  It’s now time for us to remove the criminal prohibitions against marijuana at the federal level. That’s why I introduced the MORE Act, legislation which would assist communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of these laws. I am grateful for the leadership of Rep. Barbara Lee and Rep. Blumenauer, as well as other Members of Congress who have helped pave the way for this important measure. I look forward to moving this legislation out of the House Judiciary Committee, making it one step closer to becoming law.”

 

The House Judiciary Committee approved the MORE Act on a bipartisan vote of 24-10.  This marks the first time that a congressional committee has ever passed a bill to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act.  The bill still must go to a vote to the full floor of the House before moving on to the Senate.

 

Higher Taxes Still Remain

While the developments listed above are favorable for cannabis business, 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.

Keep in mind that a change in the tax law could result only in prospective relief and have no impact on prior tax years.

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.  So it is best to be proactive and engage an experienced cannabis tax attorney in your area who is highly skilled in the different legal and tax issues that cannabis businesses face.  Let the cannabis tax attorneys of 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 protect you and maximize your net profits. Also, if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

SAFE Banking Act Passes The House To End Cannabis Banking Prohibition – If You Can’t Beat Them, Then Join Them!

Under Federal law (Controlled Substances Act 21 U.S.C. 801) marijuana is designated as a Schedule I controlled substance due to the historical belief that it has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.

The federal penalties for possession of any amount of marijuana are as follows:

  • First Offense – Misdemeanor involving up to one year of incarceration and $1,000 in fines
  • Second Offense – Misdemeanor punishable by 15 days to 2 years behind bars and $2,500 in fines
  • Third and subsequent offenses – Misdemeanor or felony punishable by 90 days to 3 years of incarceration and fines of up to $5,000.

The penalties for the sale of marijuana depend on the amount of marijuana you have been accused of selling or attempting to sell:

  • Less than 50 kilograms – Felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or up to $250,000 in fines
  • 50 to 99 kilograms – Felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or fines of up to $1,000,000
  • 100 to 999 kilograms – Felony involving 5 to 40 years incarceration and/or fines of up to $2,000,000
  • 1000 kg and up – Felony carrying a sentence of 10 years to life in prison and/or up to $4,000,000 in fines

As for the cultivation of marijuana, the federal authorities punish it on the basis of the number of plants you were caught growing:

  • Less than 50 plants – Felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or up to $250,000 in fines
  • 50 to 99 plants – Felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or up to $1,000,000 in fines
  • 100 to 999 plants – Felony carrying a 5 to 40-year prison sentence and/or fines of up to $5,000,000
  • 1,000 plants or more – Felony involving 10 years to life in prison and/or fines of up to $10,000,000

With aggravating factors such as a trafficking activity that results in an injury or death, a sale within 1,000 feet of a school, or a case involving five grams sold to a minor, the above penalties may increase dramatically. 

How things have changed –  

Medical marijuana is legal in 33 states.

The medical use of cannabis is legal (with a doctor’s recommendation) in 33 states and Washington DC. Those 33 states being Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia. The medical use of cannabis is also legal in the territories of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and Puerto Rico.

Recreational marijuana is legal in 10 states. 

Ten states and Washington DC, have legalized marijuana for recreational use — no doctor’s letter required — for adults over the age of 21. Those ten states being Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington and the territory of Guam. 

Department Of Justice preferring cannabis legalization. 

Attorney General William Barr stated that he would prefer that Congress enact legislation allowing states to legalize marijuana instead of continuing the current approach under which a growing number of states have ended cannabis prohibition in conflict with federal law.

SAFE Banking Act (HR 1595)

Federal law currently defines all marijuana-related endeavors as criminal enterprises, including those commercial activities that are licensed and legally regulated under state laws. Therefore, almost no state-licensed cannabis businesses can legally obtain a bank account, process credit cards, or provide loans to small businesses and entrepreneurs.

On March 26, 2019, committee chairwoman, Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA), remarked, the SAFE Banking Act “addresses an urgent public safety concern for legitimate businesses that currently have no recourse but to operate with just cash.”  The SAFE Banking Act was first introduced in both chambers of Congress in 2017, re-introduced in the House in March of 2019, and amended this past June, the SAFE Banking Act has garnered bipartisan support as a necessary solution to the dilemma created by conflicting federal and state cannabis law regimes, particularly as it relates to financial service providers.

On September 25, 2019 the SAFE Banking Act was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives by a 321 to 103 vote. Read the bill’s text here. The bill now goes to the Senate for approval and then to the President to sign into law.

Higher Taxes Still Remain

While the developments listed above are favorable for cannabis business, 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.  So it is best to be proactive and engage an experienced cannabis tax attorney in your area who is highly skilled in the different legal and tax issues that cannabis businesses face.  Let the cannabis tax attorneys of 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 protect you and maximize your net profits. Also, if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

cannabis business file for tax return extension with the IRS

Why Taxpayers Involved In Offshore Accounts, Crypto-Currency Or Cannabis Should Be Filing An Extension For Their 2018 Income Tax Returns.

Why Taxpayers Involved In Offshore Accounts, Crypto-Currency Or Cannabis Should Be Filing An Extension For Their 2018 Income Tax Returns.

If you did not report your offshore accounts, crypto currency income or cannabis income earned before 2018, you should hold off on filing your 2018 taxes and instead file an extension.

An extension is your way of asking the IRS for additional time to file your tax return. The IRS will automatically grant you an additional six months to file your return. While State Tax Agencies will also provide the same extension period, you need to check with your State to see if an extension must be filed with the State as well.  California does not require that a State extension be filed as long as you timely file the Federal extension AND you will not owe any money to the State.

The deadline to file your 2018 individual income tax returns or request an extension of time to file the tax return is Monday, April 15, 2019 (although this year taxpayers in Maine and Massachusetts have until April 17th given legal holidays followed in those States).  A timely filed extension will extend the filing deadline to Tuesday, October 15, 2019 thus giving you an extra six months to meet with tax counsel and determine how to address your pre-2018 tax reporting delinquencies and how to present your situation on your 2018 tax return.

While an extension gives you extra time to file your return, an extension does not give you extra time to pay your tax and if you do not pay what you owe with the extension, you will still be ultimately charged with late payment penalties when you file your tax return.

Offshore Accounts

The IRS announced on March 13, 2018 that it will begin to ramp down the 2014 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) and close the program on September 28, 2018. OVDP enabled U.S. taxpayers to voluntarily resolve past non-compliance related to unreported foreign financial assets and failure to file foreign information returns.

Where a taxpayer does not come forward into OVDP and has now been targeted by IRS for failing to file the Foreign Bank Account Reports (FBAR), the IRS may now assert FBAR penalties that could be either non-willful or willful.  Both types have varying upper limits, but no floor.  The first type is the non-willful FBAR penalty.  The maximum non-willful FBAR penalty is $10,000.  The second type is the willful FBAR penalty.  The maximum willful FBAR penalty is the greater of (a) $100,000 or (b) 50% of the total balance of the foreign account.  In addition the IRS can pursue criminal charges with the willful FBAR penalty.  The law defines that any person who willfully attempts in any manner to evade or defeat any tax under the Internal Revenue Code or the payment thereof is, in addition to other penalties provided by law, guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, can be fined not more than $100,000 ($500,000 in the case of a corporation), or imprisoned not more than five years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution (Code Sec. 7201).

For the non-willful penalty, all the IRS has to show is that an FBAR was not filed.  Whether the taxpayer knew or did not know about the filing of this form is irrelevant.  The non-willful FBAR penalty is $10,000 per account, per year and so a taxpayer with multiple accounts over multiple years can end up with a huge penalty.

Since 2009, the IRS Criminal Investigation has indicted 1,545 taxpayers on criminal violations related to international activities, of which 671 taxpayers were indicted on international criminal tax violations.

Crypto-Currency

Many taxpayers think that their crypto transactions would remain a secret forever.  Digital exchanges are not broker-regulated by the IRS. Digital exchanges are not obligated to issue a 1099 form, nor are they obligated to report to the IRS calculate gains or cost basis for the trader. But that is now all changing sooner than you think!

As of March 16, 2018, the IRS has received information from Coinbase located in San Francisco which is the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the United States disclosing the names, addresses and tax identification numbers on 14,355 account holders. Coinbase pursuant to a Court Order issued by a Federal Magistrate Judge (United States v. Coinbase, Inc., United States District Court, Northern District Of California, Case No.17-cv-01431) had to produce the following customer information over the period of 2013 to 2015: (1) taxpayer ID number, (2) name, (3) birth date, (4) address, (5) records of account activity, including transaction logs or other records identifying the date, amount, and type of transaction (purchase/sale/exchange), the post transaction balance, and the names of counterparties to the transaction, and (6) all periodic statements of account or invoices (or the equivalent).

Furthermore, Coinbase starting with the 2017 tax years will be issuing 1099-K tax forms for some of its U.S. clients.  The IRS will receive copies of these forms.

With only several hundred people reporting their crypto gains each year, the IRS suspects that many crypto users have been evading taxes by not reporting crypto transactions on their tax returns.

Cannabis

With the proliferation of licensed cannabis businesses sprouting in the State Of California in 2018, a lot of cannabis business will be filing tax returns with the IRS starting this year.  But beware, the IRS is well aware that successful cannabis businesses don’t just sprout overnight and now that your business is on the radar screen you can bet that the IRS will be inquiring how you accumulated all that cash before 2018.

Cannabis is categorized as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. While more than half of the states in the U.S. have legalized some form of medicinal marijuana, and several others have passed laws permitting recreational cannabis use, under federal drug laws the sale of cannabis remains illegal.

Despite the disparity and Federal and State law, marijuana businesses still have to pay taxes.

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.

A cannabis business that has not properly reported its income and expenses and not engaged in the planning to minimize income taxes can face a large liability proposed by IRS reflected on a Notice Of Deficiency or tax bill.  Likewise, where a taxpayer over the years has accumulated cash from cannabis sales and never reported any income to the IRS, you are looking at a serious problem.

Penalties For Filing A False Income Tax Return Or Under-reporting Income 

Failure to report all the money you make is a main reason folks end up facing an IRS auditor. Carelessness on your tax return might get you whacked with a 20% penalty. But that’s nothing compared to the 75% civil penalty for willful tax fraud and possibly facing criminal charges of tax evasion that if convicted could land you in jail.

Criminal Fraud – The law defines that any person who willfully attempts in any manner to evade or defeat any tax under the Internal Revenue Code or the payment thereof is, in addition to other penalties provided by law, guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, can be fined not more than $100,000 ($500,000 in the case of a corporation), or imprisoned not more than five years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution (Code Sec. 7201).

The term “willfully” has been interpreted to require a specific intent to violate the law (U.S. v. Pomponio, 429 U.S. 10 (1976)). The term “willfulness” is defined as the voluntary, intentional violation of a known legal duty (Cheek v. U.S., 498 U.S. 192 (1991)).

And even if the IRS is not looking to put you in jail, they will be looking to hit you with a big tax bill with hefty penalties.

Civil Fraud – Normally the IRS will impose a negligence penalty of 20% of the underpayment of tax (Code Sec. 6662(b)(1) and 6662(b)(2)) but violations of the Internal Revenue Code with the intent to evade income taxes may result in a civil fraud penalty. In lieu of the 20% negligence penalty, the civil fraud penalty is 75% of the underpayment of tax (Code Sec. 6663). The imposition of the Civil Fraud Penalty essentially doubles your liability to the IRS!

What Should You Do?

Individual taxpayers can file an extension using Form 4868. Extensions can also be filed online, which has the benefit that you’ll receive a confirmation code from the IRS notifying you that your extension was received.  Then you should promptly contact tax counsel.  Don’t delay because once the IRS has targeted you for investigation – even if its is a routine random audit – it will be too late voluntarily come forward. Let the tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Francisco Bay Area (including San Jose and Walnut Creek) and offices elsewhere in California get you set up with a plan that may include being qualified into a voluntary disclosure program to avoid criminal prosecution, seek abatement of penalties, and minimize your tax liability. If you are involved in cannabis, check out what else a cannabis tax attorney can do for you.

cannabis business banking law

Federal Cannabis Banking Bill Moving Through Congress – If You Can’t Beat Them, Then Join Them!

Under Federal law (Controlled Substances Act 21 U.S.C. 801) marijuana is designated as a Schedule I controlled substance due to the historical belief that it has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. This status has prompted banks to prevent and block banking access to legal cannabis businesses.

Secure And Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act – HR 1595

The Secure And Fair Enforcement Banking Act (the “SAFE Banking Act”) was introduced just less than two weeks ago by Representatives Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Denny Heck (D-WA), Steve Stivers (R-OH) and Warren Davidson (R-OH). The SAFE Banking Act would prevent federal banking regulators from punishing banks for working with cannabis related businesses that are obeying state laws or halting their services, taking action on loans made to those businesses, or limiting a depository institution’s access to the Deposit Insurance Fund. The SAFE Banking Act would also protect ancillary businesses that work with the cannabis industry from being charged with money laundering and other financial crimes, and requires the Financial Institution Examination Council to develop guidance to help credit unions and banks understand how to lawfully serve cannabis businesses.

On March 28, 2019, the House Financial Services Committee approved an updated version of the SAFE Banking Act, which would provide safe harbor and guidance to financial institutions that wish to work with legal cannabis businesses. The vote was 45-15 in support of cannabis banking which supporters included 11 Republicans. Now, the legislation will go back to the House for further consideration and should be approved for a full floor vote. It will then move on to the Senate for consideration. Stay tuned for further developments.

While this development is favorable for cannabis business, the enactment of the SAFE Banking Act into law will not solve all the problems and challenges of legal cannabis businesses.

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 and the enactment of the SAFE Banking Act will not solve all your problems 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, Inland Empire (Ontario and Palm Springs) and other California locations protect you and maximize your net profits.