Twelve Illegal Cannabis Retailers Served Tax Warrants in Greater Los Angeles

The California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) oversees the reporting and collection of taxes for the California cannabis industry.  On July 8, 2020 the CDTFA announced that over the past several weeks twelve illegal cannabis retailers in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties were served tax warrants with the assistance of the California Highway Patrol (CHP).

The CDTFA seized nearly a million dollars in illegal cannabis products that will be destroyed and approximately one hundred thousand dollars in cash that will be applied to tax liabilities. The investigation was a joint effort between CDTFA investigators and the CHP.  Section 34016 of the California Revenue and Taxation Code (R&T Code) allows such government and policing officials to conduct inspections at any place at which cannabis or cannabis products are sold to purchasers, cultivated, or stored, or at any site where evidence of activities involving evasion of tax may be discovered.

Penalties For Refusing Inspection.

R&T Code Section 34016 provides that any person who fails or refuses to allow an inspection shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. Each offense shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $5,000, or imprisonment not exceeding one year in a county jail, or both the fine and imprisonment.

Additionally, upon discovery by the board or a law enforcement agency that a licensee or any other person possesses, stores, owns, or has made a retail sale of cannabis or cannabis products, without evidence of tax payment or not contained in secure packaging, the board or the law enforcement agency shall be authorized to seize the cannabis or cannabis products.

Lastly, any person who renders a false or fraudulent report is guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a fine not to exceed $1,000 for each offense, or imprisonment not exceeding one year in a county jail, or both the fine and imprisonment.

Penalties For Selling Cannabis Without A License.

All commercial cannabis activity in California must be conducted on a premises with a valid license issued by the appropriate state cannabis licensing authority. Manufacturing, distributing or selling cannabis goods without a state license or at a location that is not licensed is a violation of state law.

For most defendants, unlicensed sale or transport for sale of cannabis is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. For defendants under 18, it is an infraction. Also, giving away or transporting for sale up to 28.5 grams of cannabis without a license is an infraction.

But the sale/transport for sale of cannabis without a license to do so is a felony for the following defendants:

  1. Defendants who have a prior conviction for one of a list of particularly serious violent felonies, including murder, sexually violent offenses, sex crimes against a child under 14, or gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, or a sex crime that requires them to register as a sex offender;
  2. Defendants who have two or more prior convictions for H&S Code §11360 sale/transportation of cannabis;
  3. Defendants who knowingly sold, attempted to sell, or offered to sell or furnish cannabis to someone under 18; or
  4. Defendants who imported or attempted or offered to import into California, or transported or attempted/offered to transport out of California for sale, more than 28.5 grams of cannabis or more than four grams of concentrated cannabis.

In any of these scenarios, black market sale or transportation for sale of cannabis under H&S Code §11360 is punishable anywhere from two to four years in jail.

Transporting cannabis without intent to sell it, or giving cannabis away, is not a crime in California so long as BOTH of the following are true:

  1. You transport or give away not more than 28.5 grams of cannabis or eight grams of concentrated cannabis, and
  2. Any people you give cannabis to are 21 years of age or older.

How This Impacts The Black Market

The CDTFA Investigations Bureau administers the tax enforcement and criminal investigations program. The Bureau plans, organizes, directs, and controls all criminal investigative activities for the various tax programs administered by the CDTFA. Its goals are to deter tax evasion, identify new tax fraud schemes, and actively investigate and assist in the prosecution of crimes committed by individuals violating the laws administered by the CDTFA.

Any person who willfully evades or attempts to evade the reporting, assessment or payment of the cultivation tax, the cannabis excise tax, or the sales tax that would otherwise be due is guilty of cannabis and sales tax evasion and violators are subject to fines and/or jail time.

CDTFA Director Nick Maduro states that “The CDTFA’s collaboration with the CHP is an important deterrent to tax evasion”.  He further states that “Tax evasion unfairly shifts the burden onto all other taxpayers and makes it tough for those businesses that are playing by the rules to survive.” It should be clear that with the State taking such enforcement action against illegal cannabis operators, the State is hoping to eradicate non-compliant operators.

What Should You Do?

Both civil and criminal penalties will apply to unlicensed operators so it is imperative that anyone cultivating, manufacturing or distributing cannabis on a commercial basis in California seeks a local and state license for their operations immediately, if they have not already done so. Protect yourself and your investment by engaging a cannabis tax attorney at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), the Los Angeles Metro Area 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.

How To Handle Losses Due to Theft To Reduce California Cannabis Taxes and Sales & Use Tax

With the recent wave of break-ins and robberies to local dispensaries in particular, cannabis business should not overlook this opportunity to save taxes.

Cannabis Excise Tax for Cannabis Retailers

As a cannabis retailer, you are required to pay the cannabis excise tax (15%) to your distributor based on the average market price of the cannabis or the cannabis products sold or transferred to you. However, if you already paid the cannabis excise tax to your distributor and the associated cannabis or cannabis products were subsequently stolen from you, you may request a refund of the tax from your distributor, and provide your distributor with documentation substantiating the theft. Examples of documentation include, but are not limited to, police reports, insurance claims, etc. (see additional information below). When a refund is issued to you, your distributor is required to provide you with a receipt that indicates the amount of cannabis excise tax refunded.

Cannabis Excise Tax for Distributors

As a distributor, you are required to collect the cannabis excise tax from cannabis retailers that you supply with cannabis or cannabis products. The cannabis excise tax does not apply to cannabis or cannabis products that you sell or transfer to a cannabis retailer that is subsequently stolen from the retailer. When a theft of cannabis or cannabis products from a retailer occurs, and the cannabis excise tax was already paid to you, the retailer can request a refund from you for the cannabis excise tax paid to you. For your records, and for any claim for refund you may file, you should obtain documentation from the cannabis retailer that supports the theft. You are required to provide the cannabis retailer with a receipt or similar documentation that indicates the amount of the cannabis excise tax returned to the retailer.

For cannabis excise tax that you already reported and paid to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA), and subsequently returned to the cannabis retailer due to theft, you may report the amount returned on your next cannabis tax return, on the line labeled “Less excess excise tax collected, if any”. Alternatively, you may submit a CDTFA-101Claim for Refund, for the excess cannabis excise tax you paid to the CDTFA and later returned to the cannabis retailer. You will need to provide the supporting documentation of the loss that the retailer provided to you.

Cultivation Tax for Distributors

The cultivation tax is due on cannabis that enters the commercial market (that is, it passes the required testing and quality assurance review) even if the cannabis is subsequently lost due to theft. However, the cultivation tax is not due on cannabis stolen before the cannabis entered the commercial market. If you collected the cultivation tax on cannabis that never entered the commercial market, you are required to return the cultivation tax to the originating cultivator. If the cultivation tax cannot be returned to the cultivator, you must report and pay the cultivation tax to the CDTFA.

Sales and Use Tax

You are required to pay sales tax on all taxable sales despite the theft of cash. Losses of merchandise due to theft are not deductible for sales and use tax purposes (as no sale occurred). However, since the loss of merchandise from theft may affect your cost of goods sold, you should maintain documentation in case of an audit.

Documentation

Proper documentation must be kept to support any losses due to theft. Acceptable forms of documentation for sales and use tax, cannabis excise tax, and cultivation tax may include police reports, insurance claims, and/or reports from private investigating agencies. Cannabis inventory losses should be recorded in the California Cannabis Track-and-Trace (CCTT) system.

No Relief For Losses Due To Theft Of Cash

Although the CDTFA is allowing for reimbursements to Distributors for refunds to retailers and operators related to stolen cannabis products, the CDTFA has specifically stated that there is no exemption or deduction of the cannabis excise tax for the loss of proceeds due to theft of cash.  Arguably, under certain circumstances such theft loss should still be available to take for Federal & State income taxes.

What Should You Do?

Start your marijuana 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.

Don’t Think That COVID-19 Masks Illicit Cannabis Operators Or Their Landlords From Enforcement

It is a false sense of security to think that the COVID-19 pandemic will essentially terminate cannabis enforcement initiatives throughout California. 

Anyone conducting business in cannabis surely knows that 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. So the risk is apparent that at any time Federal authorities could come and shut you down but don’t think that just because cannabis is legal in California, you do not have to worry about the State.

California law mandates that you can only sell cannabis if you have obtained a license to do so. These licenses being issued by the BCC. If you don’t have a license, then selling cannabis or transporting it in order to sell it is still a crime under H&S Code §11360.

Enforcement in Los Angeles

Reducing the number of illicit cannabis sellers and growers in Los Angeles has long been a top priority for licensed businesses, which say they cannot compete on pricing since legal recreational sales took effect in January 2018.

Los Angeles provides a legal framework for the city to prevent access to a property where unlawful activity occurs, including unlicensed commercial cannabis activity. The city’s existing administrative nuisance abatement procedures, codified in Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC) Sections 12.27.1 and 91.9003.3, establishes a process known as the “padlock ordinance” by which the Department of Building and Safety (DBS) may padlock, barricade, and/or fence a property following a violation of an abatement order issued by the Department of City Planning (DCP).

Under LAMC Section 12.27.1, “nuisance activity” includes illegal drug activity, any activity that adversely affects public health, peace or safety, or violations of other City and state law. Conducting commercial cannabis activity without authorization from the Department of Cannabis Regulation (DCR) would in most circumstances constitute nuisance activity under Section 12.27.1.

The property cannot be reoccupied until the required permits and/or clearances are obtained from DBS and DCP. (LAMC Sec. 91.9003.2.5.) Additionally, the business operator or property owner is responsible for all costs incurred by DBS, and any business operator, property owner or person in control of the property who fails to comply, or who fails to vacate, is guilty of a misdemeanor. (LAMC Sec. 91.9003.3.1; 91.9003.3.3.)

A push to enforce a new padlock ordinance targeting landlords and property owners of unlicensed cannabis shops has been on hold since March 2020. That’s when many city services and offices were shuttered to mitigate the proliferation of COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County.  However, as Los Angeles “re-opens” you should expect a resumption and increase in enforcement.

Penalties For Selling Cannabis Without A License.

For most defendants, unlicensed sale or transport for sale of cannabis is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. For defendants under 18, it is an infraction.

Also, giving away or transporting for sale up to 28.5 grams of cannabis without a license is an infraction.

But the sale/transport for sale of cannabis without a license to do so is a felony for the following defendants:

  1. Defendants who have a prior conviction for one of a list of particularly serious violent felonies, including murder, sexually violent offenses, sex crimes against a child under 14, or gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, or a sex crime that requires them to register as a sex offender;
  2. Defendants who have two or more prior convictions for H&S Code §11360 sale/transportation of cannabis;
  3. Defendants who knowingly sold, attempted to sell, or offered to sell or furnish cannabis to someone under 18; or
  4. Defendants who imported or attempted or offered to import into California, or transported or attempted/offered to transport out of California for sale, more than 28.5 grams of cannabis or more than four grams of concentrated cannabis.

In any of these scenarios, black market sale or transportation for sale of cannabis under H&S Code §11360 is punishable anywhere from two to four years in jail.

Transporting cannabis without intent to sell it, or giving cannabis away, is not a crime in California so long as BOTH of the following are true:

  1. You transport or give away not more than 28.5 grams of cannabis or eight grams of concentrated cannabis, and
  2. Any people you give cannabis to are 21 years of age or older.

What Should You Do?

You can count on State and local authorities coordinating resources and making comprehensive strikes on unlicensed and illegal cannabis operations for the safety of the public.

Both civil and criminal penalties will apply to unlicensed operators so it is imperative that anyone cultivating, manufacturing or distributing cannabis on a commercial basis in California seeks a local and state license for their operations immediately, if they have not already done so. Protect yourself and your investment by engaging a cannabis tax attorney 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 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.

California Responding To COVID-19 With Relief For Cannabis Businesses

California Responding To COVID-19 With Relief For Cannabis Businesses

On May 14, 2020 the three State Of California cannabis licensing authorities (The Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC), California Department of Food & Agriculture (CDFA) and California Department of Public Health (CDPH)) announced that businesses with state commercial cannabis licenses expiring between now through June 30, 2020 may request 60-day deferrals of their license fee payments.

The license fee deferrals are intended to provide immediate financial assistance to state cannabis licensees impacted by COVID-19.  License fee deferrals may be requested by those with a state cannabis license expiring between now and June 30, 2020. With a deferral, the license fee will be due 60 days from the date of the license expiration. Refunds will not be given for fees that have already been paid.

Although cannabis businesses are deemed to be an “essential business” under Executive Order N-33-20, the cannabis industry is excluded from federal or banking-dependent assistance for small businesses, due to cannabis’ status as a Schedule I controlled substance. However, in addition to this financial relief from the state cannabis licensing authorities, cannabis businesses may be eligible for tax assistance offered by the California Department of Tax & Fee Administration (CDTFA) and the Franchise Tax Board (FTB).

CDTFA Coronavirus Tax Relief

The CDTFA is offering a 90-day extension for tax returns and tax payments for all businesses filing a return for less than $1 million in taxes. That means small businesses will have until July 31, 2020 to file their first-quarter returns.  Additionally, the statute of limitations to file a claim for refund is extended by 60 days to accommodate tax and fee payers.

FTB Coronavirus Tax Relief

Extension Of Filing And Payment Deadlines

FTB is postponing until July 15, 2020 the filing and payment deadlines for all individuals and business entities for:

  • 2019 tax returns
  • 2019 tax return payments
  • 2020 1st and 2nd quarter estimated tax payments
  • 2020 LLC taxes and fees
  • 2020 Non-wage withholding payments

“The COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting life for people and businesses statewide,” said State Controller Betty T. Yee, who serves as chair of FTB. “We are further extending tax filing deadlines for all Californians to July 15. Hopefully, this small measure of relief will help allow people to focus on their health and safety during these challenging times.”

To give taxpayers a deadline consistent with that of the IRS without the federal dollar limitations, FTB is following the federal relief described in Notice 2020-17

Since California conforms to the underlying code sections that grant tax postponements for emergencies, FTB is extending the relief to all California taxpayers. Taxpayers do not need to claim any special treatment or call FTB to qualify for this relief.

But if you are due a refund you should file as soon as possible.

Extension Of Deadlines For Filing Tax Protests, Appeals, and Refund Claims

FTB is postponing until July 15, 2020 the pending filing deadlines for:

  • Claims for refunds with FTB
  • Protests of proposed tax assessments with FTB
  • Appeals to the Office of Tax Appeals of Notices of Action denying claims for refund or affirming tax assessments

Furthermore, the FTB has until July 15, 2020, to issue a proposed tax assessment for years where the statute of limitations expires during the March 12 to July 15, 2020, postponement period.

Opportunity For Taxpayers Who Owe Taxes

Do not think that if you owe any State tax agency 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 State 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 FTB, you must be in current compliance. That means if you have any outstanding income tax returns, they must be completed and submitted to FTB.

Also, if you are required to make estimated tax payments, you must be current in making those payments. Fortunately, as we are now in 2020, taxpayers who expect to owe for 2019 should have their 2019 income tax returns done now so that the 2019 liability can be rolled over into any proposal and the requirement to make estimated tax payments will now start for 2020.

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 FTB, as they are required to do.

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

Click here for COVID-19 Tax Relief measures instituted by the IRS in “The IRS People First Initiative” that can benefit you.

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. 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 cannabis 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. And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

Attention Cannabis Businesses Dealing With Cash – Beware Of IRS Required Filings That If Not Followed Could Lead To Penalties And Jail-time

Attention Cannabis Businesses Dealing With Cash – Beware Of IRS Required Filings That If Not Followed Could Lead To Penalties And Jail-time

While there is no law making it illegal to transact business with cash, the IRS has an interest in requiring parties to report cash transactions to deter those who evade taxes, profit from the drug trade and engage in terrorist financing and other criminal activities. The government can often trace money from these illegal activities through the payments reported on this and other cash reporting forms.  This is particularly true as more and more states are allowing the sale of cannabis at the medical and/or recreational level.

Bank Secrecy Act – Reporting Of Cash Payments.

Since 1970, the Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”) requires financial institutions in the United States to assist U.S. government agencies to detect and prevent money laundering. Specifically, the BSA 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.

Electronic Filing Of Form 8300, Report of Cash Payments Over $10,000.

Although businesses have the option of filing Form 8300, Report of Cash Payments Over $10,000, on paper, there is the option to e-filing this form especially since the deadline to file the form is 15 days after a reportable cash transaction occurs.Businesses that file Form 8300 electronically get free, automatic acknowledgment of receipt when they file and since the reporting involves no IRS personnel interaction, it could arguably lower scrutiny by the IRS. To file Form 8300 electronically, a business must first set up an account with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s BSA E-Filing System.

For more information about the reporting requirement, you can check out the fact sheet put out by IRS at FS-2019-1 which among other things includes reporting scenarios for specific businesses, such as automobile dealerships, taxi companies, landlords, colleges and universities, homebuilders and bail-bonding agents.

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.

What Should You Do?

The IRS scrutinizes in any cash-based business the amount of gross receipts to report and it is harder to prove to the IRS expenses paid in cash.  However, this should not undermine the importance that the proper facilities and procedures be set up to maintain an adequate system of books and records which even in an environment of running a business without a traditional bank is possible.

Start your cannabis business on the right track.  Protect yourself and your investment by engaging a cannabis tax attorney 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.

https://cannabistaxattorney.com/how-some-cbd-companies-are-getting-millions-in-federal-aid-through-a-loophole-in-the-cares-act/

On March 27, 2020 President Trump signed the $2 trillion Stimulus Bill formally known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security [CARES] Act (the “CARES Act”) to provide assistance to workplaces and employees. The CARES Act provides many benefits intended to deliver cash into the hands of individuals and businesses, as well as many other tax provisions … but if you are in the cannabis business, you need to look elsewhere for relief. 

CARES Act Relief For Businesses 

The CARES Act offers the following two major “stimulus” provisions for businesses: the Employee Retention Credit and the Paycheck Participation Program. 

Employee Retention Credit 

Eligible employers are allowed a credit against employment taxes for each calendar quarter equal to 50% of qualified wage (including health benefits) paid to employees.  This amount is limited to $10,000 of wages paid to an employee for all calendar quarters.

An eligible employer is one which is in a trade or business:

  1. Whose operation is fully or partially suspended due to orders from an appropriate governmental authority limiting commerce, travel or group meetings due to COVID-19; or
  2. Who has a “significant decline” in gross receipts (i.e., there is a decrease to less than 50% of the gross receipts for the same quarter in the prior year).

 

Different rules apply as to the covered wages depending upon the number of employees the employer had in 2019. Tax exempt entities are also able to take advantage of this credit.  However, this credit is not available to employers receiving a Small Business Interruption Loan under section 1102 of the Act or if a Work Opportunity Tax Credit is allowed for the employee.

Unfortunately, this credit is not be available for state-licensed cannabis businesses as cannabis is a Schedule I controlled substance under Federal law. 

Paycheck Participation Program (“PPP”)

Under this program, small businesses with 500 or fewer employees including not-for-profits, veterans’ organizations, tribal concerns, self-employed individuals, sole proprietorships, and independent contractors are eligible for loans to pay up to eight weeks of payroll costs including benefits as well as other costs.

 

PPP funds can be used to pay payroll costs including benefits (with salaries being under $100,000 per employee), interest on mortgages, rent payments, and utility bills; however, no more than 25% of the funds can be used for non-payroll costs.

 

The loan of the PPP funds will be forgiven if you maintain your pre-existing employees at their pre-existing salary levels.  Also, that you do not pay out more than 25% of the PPP funds for non-payroll costs specifically limited to: interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities.

 

The application can be found here on the United States Treasury website, along with details for borrowers and lenders.  After completing the application you would then go to any existing SBA lender or through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union, and Farm Credit System institution that is participating. Other regulated lenders will be available to make these loans once they are approved and enrolled in the program. You should consult with your local lender as to whether it is participating. Visit www.sba.gov for a list of Small Business Administration (SBA) lenders.

 

Unfortunately, the SBA is prohibited from administering any loans to cannabis businesses as cannabis is a Schedule I controlled substance under Federal law (Controlled Substances Act 21 U.S.C. 801). 

But What About The Hemp And CBD Products Market? 

Well because of the Federal government’s enactment into law of the 2018 Farm Bill which removed cannabis containing less than 0.3% THC from the list of controlled substances, hemp and CBD companies qualify for SBA’s relief programs.

According to VICE News who reviewed SEC filings of CBD products companies, they found three CBD companies that successfully secured funds under the PPP, specifically:

 

 

Together these three large online CBD products retailers have received more than $4 million in PPP money and it is very likely that many other smaller CBD products companies and Hemp companies also were successful in getting PPP funds.  Thus, leaving state-legal medical and recreational cannabis businesses to fend for themselves.

Given That COVID-19 Tax Relief is not available for state-licensed cannabis businesses, U.S. Senators Are Urging Change. 

A coalition of U.S. Senators are urging leadership to permit licensed cannabis operators to qualify for loans and other forms economic assistance available from the SBA.  In a March 26, 2020 letter addressed to the Chairman and Vice-Chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, the senators urge “the Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government to include language in … forthcoming legislation to help extend SBA loan programs to legal cannabis businesses.”

Senators Michael Bennett (), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Edward Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeffrey Merkley (D-OR), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) signed on to the letter.

Emergency Cannabis Small Business Health and Safety Act Introduced April 23, 2020

On April 23, 2020, Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) introduced the Emergency Cannabis Small Business Health and Safety Act in the House of Representatives. This legislation would allow legal cannabis businesses to be eligible for the SBA services provided in the CARES Act. Query if this even passes whether cannabis businesses will receive any benefit in the PPP as a vast majority of the funds administered by the SBA have already been allocated to qualified businesses.

But until Federal law changes, the cannabis industry will still have to bear the followings risks and challenges: 

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.

 

FDA Warns Companies Illegally Selling CBD Products to Treat Medical Conditions, Opioid Addiction

FDA Warns Companies Illegally Selling CBD Products to Treat Medical Conditions, Opioid Addiction

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on April 23, 2020 that it has sent warning letters to two companies for illegally selling unapproved products containing cannabidiol (CBD) in ways that violate the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act). This action is a continuation of the FDA’s efforts to pursue companies that illegally market CBD products with claims that they can treat medical conditions, including opioid addiction or as an alternative to opioids. The two warning letters were issued to BIOTA Biosciences, LLC and Homero Corp DBA Natures CBD Oil Distribution.

Under the FD&C Act, any product intended to treat a disease or otherwise have a therapeutic or medical use, and any product (other than a food) that is intended to affect the structure or function of the body of humans or animals, is a drug. The FDA has not approved any CBD products other than one prescription human drug product (Epidiolex) to treat rare, severe forms of epilepsy which we reported in a previous blog.

In another previous blog we stated that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and FDA sent warning letters to companies allegedly selling unapproved products that may violate federal law by making deceptive or scientifically unsupported claims about their ability to treat or cure coronavirus (COVID-19).

As of yet no substantiated clinical data supporting either the prophylactic or therapeutic use of cannabis products in the treatment of COVID-19.

DEA Taking Action To Improve Access To Cannabis Research

The Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) announced on August 26, 2019 that it is moving forward to facilitate and expand scientific and medical research for marijuana in the United States. The DEA is providing notice of pending applications from entities applying to be registered to manufacture marijuana for researchers.

DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon stated: “the DEA is making progress in the program to register additional marijuana growers for federally authorized research, and will work with other relevant federal agencies to expedite the necessary next steps. We support additional research into marijuana and its components, and we believe registering more growers will result in researchers having access to a wider variety for study.”

Since 1968, only the University of Mississippi has been allowed to cultivate and provide cannabis to medical researchers across the country. The DEA anticipates that registering additional qualified marijuana growers will increase the variety of marijuana available for these purposes.

DEA’s Position Runs Against The General 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, former 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.

House Appropriations Bill Amendment

The Blumenauer McClintock Amendment sponsored by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Tom McClintock (R-CA) that was included in the appropriations bill to fund parts of the federal government for Fiscal Year 2020, states that:

“None of the funds made available under this House Appropriations Bill to the Department of Justice may be used to prevent to any State, territory or D.C. from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana.”

In the past such amendment (starting in 2014) was limited to medical marijuana state-licensed business but this expansion is huge given that nearly one in four Americans reside in a jurisdiction where the adult use of cannabis is legal under state statute.

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 11 states.

Eleven 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, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington and the territory of Guam.
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.

This action by the House is not impacted by former Attorney General Sessions’ change of position with the DOJ. This means that the DOJ is precluded from spending funds to circumvent any of the foregoing states from implementing their medical cannabis laws.

Clearly, to avail yourself of the historical 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.

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 (Irvine), Metropolitan Los Angeles (including Long Beach and Ontario) and other California locations protect you and maximize your net profits. By the way – if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

Emergency Cannabis Small Business Health and Safety Act Introduced In Congress – If You Can’t Beat Them, Then Join Them!

Emergency Cannabis Small Business Health and Safety Act Introduced In Congress – If You Can’t Beat Them, Then Join Them!

On March 27, 2020 President Trump signed the $2 trillion Stimulus Bill formally known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security [CARES] Act (the “CARES Act”) to provide assistance to workplaces and employees. The CARES Act provides many benefits intended to deliver cash into the hands of individuals and businesses, as well as many other tax provisions … but if you are in the cannabis business, you need to look elsewhere for relief.

CARES Act Relief For Businesses

The CARES Act offers the following two major “stimulus” provisions for businesses: the Employee Retention Credit and the Paycheck Protection Program. 

Employee Retention Credit 

Eligible employers are allowed a credit against employment taxes for each calendar quarter equal to 50% of qualified wage (including health benefits) paid to employees.  This amount is limited to $10,000 of wages paid to an employee for all calendar quarters.

An eligible employer is one which is in a trade or business:

  1. Whose operation is fully or partially suspended due to orders from an appropriate governmental authority limiting commerce, travel or group meetings due to COVID-19; or
  2. Who has a “significant decline” in gross receipts (i.e., there is a decrease to less than 50% of the gross receipts for the same quarter in the prior year).

Different rules apply as to the covered wages depending upon the number of employees the employer had in 2019. Tax exempt entities are also able to take advantage of this credit.  However, this credit is not available to employers receiving a Small Business Interruption Loan under section 1102 of the Act or if a Work Opportunity Tax Credit is allowed for the employee.

Unfortunately, this credit is not be available for state-licensed cannabis businesses as cannabis is a Schedule I controlled substance under Federal law (Controlled Substances Act 21 U.S.C. 801). 

Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”)

Under this program, small businesses with 500 or fewer employees including not-for-profits, veterans’ organizations, tribal concerns, self-employed individuals, sole proprietorships, and independent contractors are eligible for loans to pay up to eight weeks of payroll costs including benefits as well as other costs.

PPP funds can be used to pay payroll costs including benefits (with salaries being under $100,000 per employee), interest on mortgages, rent payments, and utility bills; however, no more than 25% of the funds can be used for non-payroll costs.

The loan of the PPP funds will be forgiven if you maintain your pre-existing employees at their pre-existing salary levels.  Also, that you do not pay out more than 25% of the PPP funds for non-payroll costs specifically limited to: interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities.

The application can be found here on the United States Treasury website, along with details for borrowers and lenders.  After completing the application you would then go to any existing SBA lender or through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union, and Farm Credit System institution that is participating. Other regulated lenders will be available to make these loans once they are approved and enrolled in the program. You should consult with your local lender as to whether it is participating. Visit www.sba.gov for a list of Small Business Administration (SBA) lenders.

Unfortunately, the SBA is prohibited from administering any loans to cannabis businesses as cannabis is a Schedule I controlled substance under Federal law.

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 11 states. 

Eleven 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, Illinois, 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.

Given That COVID-19 Tax Relief is not available for state-licensed cannabis businesses, U.S. Senators Are Urging Change.

A coalition of U.S. Senators are urging leadership to permit licensed cannabis operators to qualify for loans and other forms economic assistance available from the SBA.  In a March 26, 2020 letter addressed to the Chairman and Vice-Chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, the senators urge “the Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government to include language in … forthcoming legislation to help extend SBA loan programs to legal cannabis businesses.”

Senators Michael Bennett (), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Edward Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeffrey Merkley (D-OR), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) signed on to the letter.

Emergency Cannabis Small Business Health and Safety Act Introduced April 23, 2020

On April 23, 2020, Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) introduced the Emergency Cannabis Small Business Health and Safety Act in the House of Representatives. This legislation would allow legal cannabis businesses to be eligible for the SBA services provided in the CARES Act.

But until Federal law changes, the cannabis industry will still have to bear the followings risks and challenges:

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.

DEA Releases Its Report Card On 2019 Illegal Cannabis Eradication Activity

DEA Releases Its Report Card On 2019 Illegal Cannabis Eradication Activity

Anyone conducting business in cannabis surely knows that 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. So the risk is apparent that at any time Federal authorities could come and shut you down but don’t think that just because cannabis is legal in California and in other States, you do not have to worry about being shut down.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is aggressively striving to halt the spread of cannabis cultivation in the United States.  To accomplish this, the DEA initiated the Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program (DCE/SP), which is the only nationwide law enforcement program that exclusively targets Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTO) involved in cannabis cultivation.

DEA History On Cannabis Eradication

The DEA announced the funding of eradication programs in Hawaii and California in 1979.  The eradication program rapidly expanded to include eradication programs in 25 states by 1982.  By 1985, all 50 states were participating in the DCE/SP.  In 2019, the DEA continued its nation-wide cannabis eradication efforts, providing resources to support the 130 state and local law enforcement agencies that actively participate in the program.  This assistance allows the enhancement of already aggressive eradication enforcement activities throughout the nation.  In 2020, the DEA continued its nation-wide cannabis eradication efforts, providing resources to support the 127 state and local law enforcement agencies that actively participate in the program. This assistance allows the enhancement of already aggressive eradication enforcement activities throughout the nation.  In 2019, the DCE/SP was responsible for the eradication of 3,232,722 cultivated outdoor cannabis plants and 770,472 indoor plants for a total of 4,003,194 marijuana plants.  In addition, the DCE/SP accounted for 4,718 arrests and the seizure in excess of 29.0 million dollars of cultivator assets.  The program also removed 3,210 weapons from cannabis cultivators.

Here Are The 2019 Stats –

According to figures published in the 2019 Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Statistical Report issued by the DEA, the DEA and its law enforcement partners confiscated an estimated four million marijuana plants in 2019 – up from 2.8 million in 2018.

By contrast, marijuana-related marijuana arrests compiled by the DEA fell to 4,718 in 2019 – a decrease of 16% from 2018’s totals. It was the second-lowest number of arrests reported by the DEA in the past decade. In 2011, for instance, the DEA seized over 8.7 million marijuana plants and made over 8,500 annual arrests as part of its nationwide Eradication/Suppression activities.

State Of California Commitment To Enforcement

California law mandates that you can only sell cannabis if you have obtained a license to do so. These licenses being issued by the BCC. If you don’t have a license, then selling cannabis or transporting it in order to sell it is still a crime under H&S Code §11360.

In a previous blog we wrote about Governor Gavin Newsom’s promise made in February 2019 to deploy the California National Guard against marijuana grows in California. Multijurisdictional task forces have long been deployed against marijuana grows in California as we noted in the following blogs:

  • Click here on a raid that occurred in Riverside County.
  • Click here on a raid that occurred in Kern County
  • Click here on a raid that occurred in the City of Santa Rosa in Sonoma County.
  • Click here on a raid that occurred in the City of Carpinteria in Santa Barbara County.
  • Click here on a raid that occurred in Riverside County.
  • Click here on a raid that occurred in the City of Buellton.

California Penalties For Selling Cannabis Without A License.

For most defendants, under California law the unlicensed sale or transport for sale of cannabis is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. For defendants under 18, it is an infraction. Also, giving away or transporting for sale up to 28.5 grams of cannabis without a license is an infraction.

But the sale/transport for sale of cannabis without a license to do so is a felony for the following defendants:

  1. Defendants who have a prior conviction for one of a list of particularly serious violent felonies, including murder, sexually violent offenses, sex crimes against a child under 14, or gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, or a sex crime that requires them to register as a sex offender;
  2. Defendants who have two or more prior convictions for H&S Code §11360 sale/transportation of cannabis;
  3. Defendants who knowingly sold, attempted to sell, or offered to sell or furnish cannabis to someone under 18; or
  4. Defendants who imported or attempted or offered to import into California, or transported or attempted/offered to transport out of California for sale, more than 28.5 grams of cannabis or more than four grams of concentrated cannabis.

In any of these scenarios, black market sale or transportation for sale of cannabis under H&S Code §11360 is punishable anywhere from two to four years in jail.

Transporting cannabis without intent to sell it, or giving cannabis away, is not a crime in California so long as BOTH of the following are true:

  1. You transport or give away not more than 28.5 grams of cannabis or eight grams of concentrated cannabis, and
  2. Any people you give cannabis to are 21 years of age or older.

What Should You Do?

You can count on State and local governments coordinating resources with the Federal government and making comprehensive strikes on unlicensed and illegal cannabis operations for the safety of the public.

Both civil and criminal penalties will apply to unlicensed operators so it is imperative that anyone cultivating, manufacturing or distributing cannabis on a commercial basis in California seeks a local and state license for their operations immediately, if they have not already done so. Protect yourself and your investment by engaging a cannabis tax attorney 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 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.