california tax relief

California Cannabis Tax Relief Coming? Check Out Assembly Bill 37.

A bill was introduced in the California legislature that would give legal cannabis businesses a tax break to help them thrive and level the playing field with cannabis businesses that continue to operate in the grey and black markets.

Assembly Bill 37 Was First Introduced December 3, 2018

The proposed legislation, which is sponsored by Assembly Member Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D) provides that for each taxable year beginning on or after January 1, 2019, Section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code, relating to expenditures in connection with the illegal sale of drugs, shall not apply to the carrying on of any trade or business that is commercial cannabis activity by a licensee. The full text of the Bill can be viewed here.

If this Bill becomes law, it would mean that under the California Tax Code, cannabis businesses can deduct their operating expenses to arrive at California State taxable income. It still would not change the manner that the IRS taxes cannabis businesses.

Even though 33 states have legalized cannabis for medical or adult use, banks and financial institutions are hesitant to provide services to cannabis businesses because federal law still classifies cannabis as an illegal Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act.

Higher Federal Taxes Still Remain

While the developments listed above are favorable for California 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.

Federal Reporting Of Cash Payments Still Remain

The Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 (“BSA”) requires financial institutions in the United States to assist U.S. government agencies to detect and prevent money laundering. Specifically, the act requires financial institutions to keep records of cash purchases of negotiable instruments, and file reports of cash purchases of these negotiable instruments of more than $10,000 (daily aggregate amount), and to report suspicious activity that might signify money laundering, tax evasion, or other criminal activities. The BSA requires any business receiving one or more related cash payments totaling more than $10,000 to file IRS Form 8300, Report of Cash Payments Over $10,000 Received in a Trade or Business.

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

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

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

Given that cannabis is still illegal under existing Federal law you need to protect yourself and your marijuana business from all challenges created by the U.S. government.  While cannabis is legal in California, that is not enough to protect you.  It’s coming down that the biggest risk is TAXES.  Be proactive and engage an experienced Cannabis Tax Attorney in your area. Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County, Inland Empire (Ontario and Palm Springs) and other California locations protect you and maximize your net profits.

Cannabis Legalization Bills

More Cannabis Legalization Bills Introduced In 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.

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 now legal in 33 states plus the District Of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands and recreational marijuana is legal in 10 states plus the District Of Columbia and the Northern Mariana Islands. The ten states legalizing recreational marijuana being Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
  • According to a 2017 Yahoo News/Marist Poll survey, 83% of Americans support legalization of marijuana.
  • Republican Congressman John Boehner has joined the advisory board of Acreage Holdings, a company that cultivates, processes and dispenses cannabis in 11 U.S. states.
  • Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein now says the federal government should not interfere in California’s legal marijuana market. Feinstein’s office said her views changed after meetings with constituents, particularly those with young children who have benefited from medical marijuana use.
  • President Trump discusses with Republican Senator Cory Gardner how he would consider backing Congressional legislation that would protect states with legalized marijuana from the Department of Justice.

Representatives Tulsi Gabbard and Don Young Introduce Landmark Bipartisan Marijuana Reform on March 7, 2019

Representatives Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Don Young (R-AK) on March 7, 2019 introduced two bipartisan marijuana bills:

  • The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2019 would remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances list and allow states the freedom to regulate marijuana as they choose, without federal interference.
  • The Marijuana Data Collection Act of 2019 would study the effects of state legalized medicinal and non-medicinal marijuana programs from a variety of perspectives, including state revenues, public health, substance abuse and opioids, criminal justice, and employment.

In a press release issued by Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s Office she stated “Our archaic marijuana policies– based on stigma and outdated myths–have been used to wage a failed War on Drugs. Families have been torn apart, communities left fractured, and over-criminalization and mass incarceration have become the norm. In 2017 alone, our country arrested 600,000 people just for possession of marijuana. Our bipartisan legislation takes a step toward ending the failed War on Drugs, ending the federal prohibition on marijuana, and ensuring that our policies are guided by facts and the truth”.

Congressman Don Young statedI am a passionate supporter of a states’ rights approach to cannabis policy. For too long, the Federal government has stood in the way of states that have acted to set their own marijuana policy, and it is long past time Congress modernized these outdated laws. Since Alaska legalized marijuana, I have heard from many constituents – including small business owners – who have been impacted by archaic Federal marijuana policy that criminalizes them for selling marijuana-derived products otherwise legal under state law. Additionally, our nation’s prisons are overcrowded with non-violent offenders who too frequently have their lives ruined by harmful and outdated policies.  As co-founder of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, I am proud to introduce two pieces of bipartisan legislation with Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard to get the Federal government out of the way of state-level policymaking. I look forward to working with Congresswoman Gabbard and my friends on both sides of the aisle to see these initiatives become 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.  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.

cannabis business tax deductions

Attention Cannabis Businesses – Be Prepared To Prove Your Deductions To The IRS

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 marijuana, is a controlled substance. What this means is that dispensaries and other businesses trafficking in cannabis have to report all of their income and cannot deduct rent, wages, and other expenses, making their marginal tax rate substantially higher than most other businesses.

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

But in any case, the burden of proof whether it be in an IRS audit or in Court is on the taxpayer to prove the deductions the taxpayer are claiming.

Fifth Amendment Claim

In Feinberg v. Commissioner, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 5618 (10th Cir. 2019), click here for the opinion, the taxpayers were shareholders in an LLC selling medical marijuana in Colorado where such sales are legal. The cannabis business was examined by the IRS and the taxpayers refused to provide backup to the deductions the taxpayers were claiming on the basis that this violated their Fifth Amendment privilege. The taxpayers argued that if they produced the evidence to back up the deductions being claimed in the cannabis business, that evidence could be used against them to impose criminal liability for engaging in the trafficking of a controlled substance.

The Court rejected this concept recognizing that the Fifth Amendment privilege protects one from compulsory self-incrimination and not barring evidence that would assist in meeting a burden of production.

The Court stated “by invoking the privilege and refusing to produce the materials that might support their deductions the taxpayers no doubt made their task of proving the IRS erred in denying their deductions that much harder”. However, “a party who asserts the privilege against self-incrimination must bear the consequences of the lack of evidence [See United States v. Rylander, 460 U.S. 752 (1983)] which teaches that the taxpayers’ possible failure of proof on an issue on which they bear the burden is not compulsion for purposes of the Fifth Amendment. Therefore, we reject the taxpayers’ contention that bearing the burden of proving the IRS erred in rejecting the taxpayer’s business deduction under § 280E violated the taxpayers’ Fifth Amendment privilege”.

The Court held that, since the taxpayers bore the burden of proof without the cover of the Fifth Amendment and the taxpayers failed to provide such proof – the taxpayers lose.

The Anti-Federal U.S. Climate

The Federal Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”) 21 U.S.C. § 812 classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance with a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. Although you can still face federal criminal charges for using, growing, or selling weed in a manner that is completely lawful under California law and other states that have legalized cannabis, the federal authorities in the past have pulled back from targeting individuals and businesses engaged in medical marijuana activities. This pull back though has no impact on the IRS which will likely start in 2019 to more aggressively target cannabis businesses with audits.

Risk Of Getting A Big Tax Bill From IRS That You Cannot Pay

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.

This risk should be risk posing the greatest challenge to any cannabis business as the Federal taxation of cannabis businesses is consistent in all states and not dependent on whether local Federal prosecutors are aggressive in enforcing the illegality of cannabis or the banks unwilling to do business with the cannabis industry. This unexpected liability can put you out of business so it is important to secure qualified tax counsel to be proactive with tax planning to minimize taxes and to defend you in any tax examinations, appeals or litigation with the IRS.


What Should You Do?

While more States are legalizing cannabis, risks to the cannabis industry still exist. Considering this 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.

Cannabis Businesses Getting Ready To Prepare Your 2018 Tax Returns – Don’t Miss Out On These Tax Benefits!

The Tax Cuts And Jobs Act Of 2017 (“TCJA”) was signed into law by President Trump on December 22, 2017. It has been a good 30 years since the last time the Internal Revenue Code received such a major updatebut just how does this effect the cannabis industry?

Major Changes From The TCJA Include:

Lower Income Tax Rates For Individuals.

Increased Standard Deduction For Individuals

Elimination Of Personal Exemptions

Limitations of Deductibility Of Itemized Deductions including Mortgage Interest and State & Local Taxes.

Lower Corporation Tax Rates.

No Repeal Of Section 280E

The TCJA did not modify Section 280E. That provision provides:

No deduction or credit shall be allowed for any amount paid or incurred during the taxable year in carrying on any trade or business if such trade or business (or the activities which comprise such trade or business) consists of trafficking in controlled substances (within the meaning of schedule I and II of the Controlled Substances Act) which is prohibited by Federal law or the law of any State in which such trade or business is conducted.

Accordingly, cannabis businesses must still pay federal income taxes on their gross profits which is Gross Receipts less Costs Of Goods Sold.  No deductions for operating expenses are allowed.

Reduction InTax Rate For C Corporations

All C corporations, including those engaged in marijuana-related endeavors, now benefit from a 21% tax rate (down from the previous 35%). The corporate alternative minimum tax has been eliminated. In addition to the tax reduction, C corporations also provide limited liability protection, greater credibility, and other advantages. As there is no distinction between cannabis and non-cannabis businesses, cannabis businesses organized as C-corporation should benefit from this reduced tax rate.

New Deduction ForPass-through Entities (S-corporation, LLC’s and partnerships)

This area has been given the most attention over the last year in anticipation of the first tax season that this benefit applies.  The TRJA provides a new 20% deduction under 26 U.S. Code § 199A to certain S Corporations, LLC’s and partnerships but there are a number of limitations including (but not limited to) exclusion of specified service trades and businesses, and income limitations ($157,000 for individual filers and $315,000 for joint filers).

The calculation of the Section 199A deduction is quite complicated, however – it starts with the lesser of:

20% of taxpayer’s qualified business income OR

The greater of:

  • 50% of the taxpayer’s share of W-2 wages with respect to the business

OR

  • 25% of the taxpayer’s share of W-2 wages with respect to the business plus 2.5% of the allocable share of the unadjusted basis of all qualified property (tangible personal property subject to depreciation and depreciable period is later of 10 years or regular straight-line depreciation period, so 39 years in the case of a non-residential rental building).

There are other calculations that apply but before working through the details of Section 199A can cannabis business owners benefit from this deduction?

Can TheSection 199A Deduction Apply To Cannabis Business Owners?

Clearly Section 280E puts cannabis businesses in a different category than non-cannabis businesses.  The focus on Section 199A is that this deduction applies to enterprises that“carry on any trade or business”. The deduction thought is not made at the business level but instead at the individual level.  It should be most noteworthy that this deduction does not appear on any forms for a business to report its taxable income and deductions.

In order to be a qualified trade or business, an activity must rise to the level of being a trade or business (Code Sec. 199A(d)(1)). Because the term “trade or business” is not defined in the Code, the determination of whether an activity rises to that level is subject to different interpretations. As a result, several distinct bodies of administrative guidance and case law have developed around the meaning of the phrase under different Code sections.

For purposes of Section 199A, the meaning of “trade or business” under Section 162 is controlling (Reg. Sec. 1.199A-1(b)(14)). Under Section 162, an activity must be regular and continuous to be considered a trade or business (Groetzinger v. Comm’r, 480 U.S. 23 (1987)). Whether a business has enough regular and continuous activity to be considered a trade or business is generally a facts and circumstances question.

When interpreting Section 280E, it could be argued that this provision denies cannabis business from deducting expenses normally deductible under Section 162 but in no way impacts whether the enterprise is operating as a trade or business.  Nevertheless, it may be beneficial to disclose this position on the 2018 individual income tax return to avoid penalties in the event that on audit and any appeal this position is not respected by the IRS.

What Should You Do?

There is no one size fits all tax answer for every cannabis business but it is clear that Section 199A does not eliminate the punitive impact of Section 280E deduction disallowances.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), 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.

cannabis business banking law

Federal Cannabis Banking Access Coming? Check Out The Latest Word By Congress.

On February 13, 2019 a hearing was conducted by the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions which is under the U.S. House Committee On Financial Services headed by Chairwoman Maxime Waters (D–CA). Testimony was provided at this hearing which could lead to the subcommittee putting forth a bill in Congress that eventually could put into law guaranteed access to the banking industry for state-licensed cannabis businesses.

Details On The Hearing

The Committee recognizes that an increasing number of financial institutions have expressed interest in providing banking services to state authorized cannabis-related businesses; however, many financial institutions are refraining from offering banking services to these businesses based on several legal and compliance risks especially since federal law still classifies cannabis as an illegal Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act. Furthermore, public safety and other concerns have been expressed by stakeholders, including state and local government officials regarding cannabis-related businesses having difficulties accessing basic banking services, such as depositing large sums of cash from their business activity. The Committee Memorandum can be viewed here.

Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Denny Heck (D-WA), Steve Stivers (R-OH), and Warren Davidson (R-OH) have a discussion draft for the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act of 2019 (SAFE Banking Act) that was considered at this hearing. The proposal, among other things, would harmonize federal and state law concerning cannabis-related businesses and allow these businesses access to banking services. Additionally, depository institutions and their employees would be exempt from federal prosecution or investigation solely for providing banking services to a state authorized cannabis-related business. The draft of the bill can be viewed here.

Click here for the recorded webcast of the hearing.

Higher Federal Taxes Still Remain

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

Federal Reporting Of Cash Payments Still Remain

The Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 (“BSA”) requires financial institutions in the United States to assist U.S. government agencies to detect and prevent money laundering. Specifically, the act requires financial institutions to keep records of cash purchases of negotiable instruments, and file reports of cash purchases of these negotiable instruments of more than $10,000 (daily aggregate amount), and to report suspicious activity that might signify money laundering, tax evasion, or other criminal activities. The BSA requires any business receiving one or more related cash payments totaling more than $10,000 to file IRS Form 8300, Report of Cash Payments Over $10,000 Received in a Trade or Business.

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

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

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

Given that cannabis is still illegal under existing Federal law you need to protect yourself and your marijuana business from all challenges created by the U.S. government.  While cannabis is legal in California, that is not enough to protect you.  It’s coming down that the biggest risk is TAXES.  Be proactive and engage an experienced Cannabis Tax Attorney in your area. Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County, Inland Empire (Ontario and Palm Springs) and other California locations protect you and maximize your net profits.

Santa Barbara County Police Shuts Down Illegal Cannabis Operation

Santa Barbara County Police Shuts Down Illegal Cannabis Operation

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.

State Authorities Raid Illegal Cannabis Operation In Carpinteria

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office announced in a press release that on January 31, 2019, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Cannabis Compliance Team concluded a four-month investigation into a local cannabis cultivator, operating under the name of Power Farms LLC, which is located just outside the City of Carpinteria. During this investigation, which spanned two counties and involved three separate search warrants, Detectives discovered one of the owners (whose name is being withheld due to the ongoing investigation) had provided false information during the county cannabis application process and was failing to follow proper shipping and manifest procedures.

The owner’s Los Angeles County home, was served with a search warrant. There, Detectives seized several unregistered firearms, two which were reported stolen, as well as approximately 60 pounds of processed and packaged marijuana taken from Power Farms. They also seized thousands of dollars in cash and other items of evidence.

This investigation culminated in the voluntary surrender of the owner’s state temporary cannabis license, which resulted in detectives from the Cannabis Compliance Team, Special Investigations Bureau, District Attorney’s Office, and Game Wardens from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, eradicating and removing illegal cannabis from Power Farms as they no longer had a valid state permit to cultivate or possess commercial cannabis. Approximately 22,420 cannabis plants were eradicated from three separate green houses and approximately 1,420 pounds of dried / drying cannabis were seized.

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;
  1. Defendants who have two or more prior convictions for H&S Code §11360 sale/transportation of cannabis; 
  1. Defendants who knowingly sold, attempted to sell, or offered to sell or furnish cannabis to someone under 18; or
  1. 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 other county governments coordinating resources like the Santa Barbara County Cannabis Compliance Team which since June 2018 focuses 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 the cannabis 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 other California locations. We can come up with tax solutions and strategies and protect you and your business and to maximize your net profits.

HR 420 cannabis legalization bill

Senator Introduces Cannabis Legalization Bills – 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.

Federal Bills Introduced In 2019

Following the filing last month by Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) of a congressional bill to regulate marijuana like alcohol (click here for more details on H.R. 420), Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) filed Senate Bill 420 (click here for detail) which would deschedule marijuana by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”), establish a federal excise tax on legal sales and create a system of permits for businesses to engage in cannabis commerce. It would also authorize regulations on packaging and labeling of cannabis products and apply alcohol advertising guidelines to the product.

Senator Wyden also introduced two other pro-cannabis bills:

Senate Bill 421 (click here for details) proposes a number of changes such as exempting state-legal marijuana activity from the CSA, allowing banking access for cannabis companies, eliminating advertising prohibitions, expunging criminal records, shielding immigrants from deportation over marijuana and allowing Department of Veterans Affairs doctors to issue medical cannabis recommendations.

Senate Bill 422 (click here for details), proposes the exemption of state-legal cannabis businesses from Internal Revenue Code §280E, which section prevents them from taking normal business tax deductions that are available to operators in other industries.

But until these bills become law, 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.  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.

Temporary Cannabis Tax Reduction Bill California cannabis

California Cannabis Tax Relief Coming? Check Out Assembly Bill 286 – the Temporary Cannabis Tax Reduction Bill.

A bill was just re-introduced in the California legislature that would give legal cannabis businesses a tax break to help them thrive and level the playing field with cannabis businesses that continue to operate in the grey and black markets.

Assembly Bill 286 Was First Introduced February 16, 2018

The proposed legislation, which is sponsored by state Treasurer Fiona Ma, follows California’s tax revenue for the cannabis industry coming in $101 million below projections in the first six months of 2018.

This bill which has been kicked around Sacramento for almost a year would wind up reducing the state’s excise tax from 15% to 11% for a period of three years and remove the cultivation tax on growers until 2022. The full text of the Temporary Cannabis Tax Reduction Bill can be viewed here.

Even though 31 states have legalized cannabis for medical or adult use, banks and financial institutions are hesitant to provide services to cannabis businesses because federal law still classifies cannabis as an illegal Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act.

Higher Federal Taxes Still Remain

While the developments listed above are favorable for California 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.

Federal Reporting Of Cash Payments Still Remain

The Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 (“BSA”) requires financial institutions in the United States to assist U.S. government agencies to detect and prevent money laundering. Specifically, the act requires financial institutions to keep records of cash purchases of negotiable instruments, and file reports of cash purchases of these negotiable instruments of more than $10,000 (daily aggregate amount), and to report suspicious activity that might signify money laundering, tax evasion, or other criminal activities. The BSA requires any business receiving one or more related cash payments totaling more than $10,000 to file IRS Form 8300, Report of Cash Payments Over $10,000 Received in a Trade or Business.

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

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

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

Given that cannabis is still illegal under existing Federal law you need to protect yourself and your marijuana business from all challenges created by the U.S. government.  While cannabis is legal in California, that is not enough to protect you.  It’s coming down that the biggest risk is TAXES.  Be proactive and engage an experienced Cannabis Tax Attorney in your area. Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County, Inland Empire (Ontario and Palm Springs) and other California locations protect you and maximize your net profits.

medical marijuana cannabis

Another Medical Cannabis Breakthrough! How Cannabis May Help Relieve Autism Symptoms.

Israeli researchers record sharp improvement in measures such as quality of life, ability to dress and shower independently after 6 months of cannabis oil treatmen taccording to an Israeli study published in Nature.

The joint study conducted by Ben Gurion University and Soroka Medical Center in Beer Sheva showed that cannabis oil was an effective treatment for a variety of Autism-related symptoms including seizures, tics, depression, restlessness and rage attacks for patients under the age of 18.The study found that after six months of regular consumption, 30% of patients reported significant improvement, 53.7% reported moderate improvement and only 15% had slight or no change.

The study was funded by Tikun Olam, a medical marijuana firm in Israel.  Israel has been a leader in medical marijuana research and development and the country has established a favorable legal environment for this industry to flourish.  This sharply contrasts with the environment here in the United States.

The Anti-Federal U.S. Climate

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

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

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

Since 2013, these guidelines provided a level of certainty to the marijuana industry as to what point could you be crossing the line with the Federal government.  But on January 4, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions (who no longer serves as Attorney General) revoked the Cole Memo.  Now U.S. Attorneys in the local offices throughout the country retain broad prosecutorial discretion as to whether to prosecute cannabis businesses under federal law even though the state that these businesses operate in have legalized some form of marijuana.

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

Medical marijuana is now legal in 31 states plus the District Of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and Northern Mariana Islands and recreational marijuana is legal in 9 states plus the District Of Columbia and Northern Mariana Islands. Building on the DOJ’s issuance of the Cole Memo, in 2014 the House passed an amendment to the yearly federal appropriations bill that effectively shields medical marijuana businesses from federal prosecution. Proposed by Representatives Rohrabacher and Farr, the amendment forbids federal agencies to spend money on investigating and prosecuting medical marijuana-related activities in states where such activities are legal.

The amendment states that:

None of the funds made available under this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to any of the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, or with respect to the District of Columbia, Guam, or Puerto Rico, to prevent any of them from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

This action by the House is not impacted by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ change of position with the DOJ. However, unless this amendment gets included in each succeeding federal appropriations bill, the protection from Federal prosecution of medical marijuana businesses will no longer be in place.

Fortunately for medical marijuana businesses in the last budget extension approved by Congress, this amendment was included. 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 protections of the amendment, you must be on the medical cannabis side and you must be in complete compliance with your State’s medical cannabis laws and regulations. You may not be covered under the amendment if you are involved in the recreational cannabis side even if legal in the State you are operating.

What Should You Do?

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

cannabis legalization

Is The U.S. Attorneys’ Office Poised To Help Support The Cannabis Industry?

On January 4, 2018, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the revocation of what is known in the cannabis industry as the “Cole Memo”. Attorney General Nominee William Barr Appears Committed To Reverse This Stance And Leave State-Legal Marijuana Programs Alone.

In Senate testimony on January 15, 2019, nominee for Attorney General William Barr committed to not use the limited resources of the Department of Justice to prosecute state-regulated and compliant marijuana businesses. His statements came response to questions from Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) — each of whom represent states where marijuana is legally regulated for either medical or recreational purposes.

Thirty-three states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. territories of Guam, Puerto Rico and Northern Mariana Islands have enacted legislation specific to the medical use of cannabis. Almost one-third of these jurisdictions have also approved that recreational use of marijuana. Just in California alone with the change in law allowing both medical and recreational marijuana, the marijuana industry in California is expected to be a $3.7 billion market in 2018 and could rise to $5.1 billion in 2019 according to the cannabis industry research firm BDS Analytics.

However, under Federal law marijuana is designated as a Schedule I controlled substance and therefore is illegal under Federal law.

The Cole Memo which came out of the Department Of Justice (“DOJ”) under the Obama administration in 2013, directed U.S. Attorneys to use discretion to prioritize certain types of violations in prosecuting cannabis operators, but, strictly speaking, it did not make operations in cannabis legal. The DOJ told its prosecutors that prosecuting medical marijuana cases in states where is has been legalized would no longer be a priority.

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?

Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment (f/k/a Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment)

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 Blumenauer, the amendment forbids federal agencies to spend money on investigating and prosecuting medical marijuana-related activities in states where such activities are legal.

The amendment states that:

None of the funds made available under this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to any of the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, or with respect to the District of Columbia, Guam, or Puerto Rico, to prevent any of them from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.

Although Sessions is gone, his legacy of overriding the Cole Memo still continues and U.S. Attorneys in each Federal district still 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.  Now the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment still prevents the DOJ from prosecuting state approved medical marijuana businesses but not having safe harbor guidelines in place at a national level adds uncertainty as to how DOJ may come down on your business. So it is essential that you have legal counsel to back you up.

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, Inland Empire (Ontario and Palm Springs) and other California locations protect you and maximize your net profits.