Max The Vax But Don’t Forget The Tax

Max The Vax But Don’t Forget The Tax

States offering prizes to incentivize people to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

In California – get vaccinated, get rewarded. Are you already vaccinated or about to be? Great! You’ll have a chance at winning $50,000 or a grand prize of $1.5 million!  Not yet vaccinated against COVID-19? Listen up! Get vaccinated as soon as possible to be eligible for a $50 incentive card and other cash prizes.

Ten winners will be selected by the California Department Of Public Health (“CDPH”) on June 15, 2021 to receive $1.5 million each — prizes totaling $15 million! All Californians who have had at least one COVID-19 dose will automatically be entered.

You’re eligible to win $1.5 million if you:

  • Live in California,
  • Are aged 12 and older, and
  • Have received at least a first dose of your COVID-19 vaccine.

Prize money will be paid after the winner has completed their vaccination series. Incarcerated persons and persons living outside of California are not eligible. Click here for terms and conditions.

Taxability of Prizes

IRC Sec. 74(a) requires the inclusion in gross income of all amounts received as prizes and awards.  Prizes and awards that are generally includible in gross income include (but are not limited to): (1) amounts received from radio and television giveaway shows; (2) door prizes; and (3) awards in contests of all types.  If the prize or award consists of goods or services rather than money, the fair market value of the goods or services is the amount includible in gross income (Reg. Sec. 1.74-1(a)(2)).

Considering the foregoing CDPH requires prize winners giving consent to disclose the winner’s information from CDPH’s vaccine registry for purposes including, but not limited to, payment and tax withholding.  Also, winnings are subject to any public debts of the winner of which the State is aware (e.g., taxes, child support, restitution payments).

What Should You Do?

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

If You Can’t Beat Them Then Join Them! Legal Cannabis States Have Generated Nearly $8 Billion In Tax Revenue Since Recreational Sales Launched

States that have legalized marijuana for adult use have collectively generated nearly $8 billion in tax revenue from cannabis since legal sales first began in 2014, according to a new report from the Marijuana Policy Project.

The authors of the report examined the tax structure and revenue streams of all 18 states that have legalized recreational cannabis, though sales have not launched yet in seven of those states. Overall, it shows that establishing regulated marijuana markets gives states a steady and generally growing source of revenue that can support various programs and services.

Last year alone, the adult-use states collected $2.7 billion in taxes from cannabis sales. And as more markets come online and others mature, that’s expected to continue to grow.

The report notes that for California, voters approved an initiative regulating marijuana for adults’ use in November 2016. The state’s first adult-use stores began to open in January 2018, but transition from the state’s unregulated, grey market medical marijuana providers to a licensed and regulated system has been more gradual than some anticipated. In addition, localities have been slow to establish regulations, which has delayed the transition and reduced revenue.

In 2020, California collected more than $1 billion in adult-use cannabis tax revenue, a 62% increase compared to 2019.

The California voter-approved legalization law directs a significant portion of its cannabis tax revenues to local nonprofit programs that benefit people adversely impacted by punitive drug laws. More than $100 million has already been distributed to community groups, with more on the way.  The state also invests large chunks of cannabis revenue into child care services and environmental programs.

With about 37 states now legalizing some form of cannabis use, you would think that it is now time for the Federal government to change course.

The Anti-Federal U.S. Climate

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

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

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

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

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

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

The amendment states that:

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

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

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

What Should You Do?

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

The Biden Administration Continues Its Stance Against Cannabis In A Section 280E Legal Battle

The Biden Administration Continues Its Stance Against Cannabis In A Section 280E Legal Battle

On May 21, 2021, acting Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar filed an Opposition Brief on behalf of the United States in its opposition to a Petition For A Writ Of Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Tenth Circuit in the case of Eric D. Speidell et al vs. United States Of America (U.S. Supreme Court No. 20-1332).

Eric Speidell of Colorado-based The Green Solution who is included in the petitioners owns and operates marijuana dispensaries in Colorado, which has decriminalized marijuana in some respects under state law.  The tax returns filed by the cannabis businesses were selected for examination.  Unlike non-cannabis businesses which can deduct all expenses incurred in carrying on a trade or business under IRC Sec. 162, cannabis businesses are subject to IRC Sec. 280E.

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

The question as presented to the U.S. Supreme Court is: Whether the court of appeals correctly affirmed the district court’s decision to enforce several third-party summonses issued by the Internal Revenue Service as part of investigations into the accuracy of petitioners’ federal income tax returns.

If the Supreme Court grants the Writ Of Certiorari, the Court would eventually hear this appeal and issue a ruling which could have huge implications for the cannabis industry given that prior challenges in the lower courts by cannabis businesses have been unsuccessful.

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

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

While most expenses cannot be deducted under IRC Sec. 280E, IRC Sec. 280E does allow a cannabis business to deduct its Cost Of Goods Sold (“COGS”). Cost of goods sold are the direct costs attributable to the production of goods. For a marijuana reseller this includes the cost of cannabis itself and transportation used in acquiring cannabis. To the extent greater costs of doing business can be legitimately included in COGS that will that result in lower taxable income.

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

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

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

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

Step One: Incurred And Paid The Expense.

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

Step Two: Deductibility Of The Expense.

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

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

Tips For Cannabis Tax Return Preparation

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

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

Time Limits For Keeping Your Tax Records

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

What Should You Do?

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

Facing A Surprise Tax Bill – Here Is Why You Should Still File Your 2020 Income Tax Return By May 17th.

Facing A Surprise Tax Bill – Here Is Why You Should Still File Your 2020 Income Tax Return By May 17th.

Why You Should Not Disregard The May 17, 2021 Filing Deadline

The most important thing everyone with a tax liability should do is file a return by the May 17th due date, even if they can’t pay in full, or request a six-month extension to avoid higher penalties for failing to file on time. Though automatic tax-filing extensions are available to anyone who wants one but keep in mind that these extensions don’t change the payment deadline. They act an extension to file and not as an extension to pay. With the extension you can include payment for what you can pay now to help reduce a potential late-payment penalty and interest charges.

Usually anyone who owes tax and waits until after that date to file will be charged a late-filing penalty of 5% per month. So, if a tax return is done, filing it by May 17th is always less costly, even if the full amount due can’t be paid on time.

Pay what you can

Interest, plus the much smaller late-payment penalty, will apply to any payments made after May 17th.  Making a payment, even a partial payment, will help limit penalty and interest charges. You should also consider other options for payment, including getting a loan to pay the amount due. In many cases, loan costs may be lower than the combination of interest and penalties the IRS must charge under federal law. Normally, the late-payment penalty is one-half-of-one percent (0.5%) per month. The interest rate, adjusted quarterly, is currently 3% per year, compounded daily.

IRS payment plans

There are two main types of payment plans that do not require the submission of financial disclosures.

They are:

  • Short-term payment plan – The payment period is 120 days or less and the total amount owed is less than $100,000 in combined tax, penalties and interest. A 180-day payment plan is also possible. However, as you are financing a liability with IRS, interest and the late-payment penalty continue to apply.
  • Long-term payment plan – The payment period is longer than the short-term payment plan. Payments are made monthly, and the amount owed must be less than $50,000 in combined tax, penalties and interest. In addition, for anyone who filed their return on time, the late-payment penalty rate is cut in half while an installment agreement is in effect. This means that the penalty accrues at the rate of one-quarter-of-one percent (0.25%) per month, instead of the usual one-half-of-one percent (0.5%) per month.

Taxpayers who do not qualify for either of these plans would be requires to submit financial disclosures in order to arrange for a payment plan with IRS.

Other options to consider:

Delayed collection

If the IRS determines a taxpayer is unable to pay, it may delay collection until their financial condition improves. Sometimes this is referred to as putting a taxpayer’s account on a Currently Not Collectible (CNC) status.  Once the account is placed on a CNC status, the IRS does not pursue collection activity against the taxpayer and the statute of limitations on the tax liabilities will continue to run. Additionally, the total amount owed will still increase because penalties and interest are charged until paid in full or otherwise settled.  Generally, unless the taxpayer’s financial situation changes, the account will remain on a CNC status until the tax liabilities expire. However, if the taxpayer’s financial situation improves the account will be taken off of CNC status so that the IRS can collect the taxes through full payment or an Installment Agreement.

Penalty relief

Some taxpayers qualify to have their late-filing or late-payment penalties reduced or eliminated. This can be done on a case-by-case basis, based on “reasonable cause”. Alternatively, where a taxpayer has filed and paid on time during the past three years, the IRS can typically provide relief under the “First Time Abatement Program”.

Offer in Compromise 

Established by the Internal Revenue Service, the Offer in Compromise Program is a formal application to the IRS requesting that it accept less than full payment for what you owe in taxes, interest, and penalties.  An offer in compromise may allow you to settle back taxes or IRS liability at a substantial discount on the basis of doubt as to collectability, liability, or effective tax administration. In addition, while your offer is under consideration, the Internal Revenue Service is prohibited from instituting any levies of your assets and wages.

While an offer in compromise can help pay IRS debt for less, most people do not have the necessary skills or knowledge of the IRS collection process to make an offer in compromise that is in their best interest.  Many people fill out the forms incorrectly, overstate their assets and income, and offer too much. Government figures show that 75% of offers are returned at the beginning due to forms being filled out incorrectly, and of the 25% that are processed, approximately 50% are rejected.

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.  Let the tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), Los Angeles 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.

IRS Provides Tax Relief For Victims Of Tennessee Storms

IRS Provides Tax Relief For Victims Of Tennessee Storms

The IRS announced on May 14, 2021 that victims of this spring’s storms and tornadoes in Tennessee will have until August 2, 2021, to file various individual and business tax returns and make tax payments.

IRS Tax Relief Details

The IRS is offering this relief to any area designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as qualifying for individual assistance. The current list of eligible localities is always available on the disaster relief page on IRS.gov.  The declaration permits the IRS to postpone certain deadlines for taxpayers who reside or have a business in the disaster area.

The tax relief postpones various tax filing and payment deadlines that occurred starting on March 25, 2021. As a result, affected individuals and businesses will have until August 2 to file returns and pay any taxes that were originally due during this period. This includes 2020 individual income tax returns due on May 17, 2021, as well as various 2020 business returns normally due on April 15, 2021. Among other things, this also means that affected taxpayers will have until August 2, 2021 to make 2020 IRA contributions.

The August 2, 2021 deadline also applies to quarterly estimated income tax payments due on April 15, 2021 and June 15, 2021, and the quarterly payroll and excise tax returns normally due on April 30, 2021. It also applies to tax-exempt organizations, operating on a calendar-year basis, that have a 2020 return due on May 17, 2021.

In addition, penalties on payroll and excise tax deposits due on or after March 25, 2021 and before April 9, 2021 will be abated as long as the deposits were made by April 9, 2021.

Importance To Preserve Records

Keep in mind that the IRS has up to three years to select a tax return for audit. The FTB has up to four years to select a tax return for audit. In some cases this period is extended to six years. When a taxpayer is selected for audit, the taxpayer has the burden of proof to show that expenses claimed are properly deductible. Having the evidence handy and organized makes meeting this burden of proof much easier.

Essential Records to Have for a Tax Audit

If you are getting ready for a tax audit, one of the most important things to do is gather and organize your tax records and receipts. There’s a good chance that you have a large amount of documents and receipts in your possession. No matter how organized you are, it can be a daunting task to collect the right pieces and make sure that you have them organized and handy for the audit conference.

We have seen many tax audits that hinge on whether or not the taxpayer can provide proper documentation for their previous tax filings. A tax lawyer in Orange County or elsewhere can make sure that the documentation is complete and proper.  By submitting this to your tax attorney in advance of the audit, your tax attorney can review your documentation and determine if there are any gaps that need to be addressed before starting the dialogue with the IRS agent.

So what are the most essential tax records to have ahead of your audit? Here are a few must-have items:

  • Any W-2 forms from the previous year. This can include documents from full-time and part-time work, large casino and lottery winnings and more.
  • Form 1098 records from your bank or lender on mortgage interest paid from the previous year.
  • Records of any miscellaneous money you earned and reported to the IRS including work done as an independent contractor or freelancer, interest from savings accounts and stock dividends.
  • Written letters from charities confirming your monetary donations from the previous year.
  • Receipts for business expenses you claimed.
  • Mileage Logs for business use of vehicle.
  • Entertainment and Travel Logs for business

Tips On Reconstructing Records

Reconstructing records after a disaster is important for several reasons including insurance reimbursement and taxes. Most importantly, records can help people prove their disaster-related losses. More accurately estimated losses can help people get more recovery assistance like loans or grants.

Whether it’s personal or business property that has been lost or destroyed, here are some steps that can help people reconstruct important records.

Tax records

Get free tax return transcripts immediately using the Get Transcript on IRS.gov or through the IRS2Go app.  Tax return transcripts show line-by-line the entries made on your Federal income tax returns.  The most three recent tax years are available.

Financial statements

People can gather past statements from their credit card company or bank. These records may be available online. People can also contact their bank to get paper copies of these statements.

Property records

  • To get documents related to property, homeowners can contact the title company, escrow company or bank that handled the purchase of their home or other property.
  • Taxpayers who made home improvements can get in touch with the contractors who did the work and ask for statements to verify the work and cost. They can also get written descriptions from friends and relatives who saw the house before and after any improvements.
  • For inherited property, taxpayers can check court records for probate values. If a trust or estate existed, taxpayers can contact the attorney who handled the trust.
  • When no other records are available, people should check the county assessor’s office for old records that might address the value of the property.
  • Car owners can research the current fair-market value for most vehicles. Resources are available online and at most libraries. These include Kelley’s Blue Book, the National Automobile Dealers Association and Edmunds.

Develop And Implement Your Backup Plan

Do not wait for the next disaster to come for then it may be too late to retrieve your important records for a tax audit or for that matter any legal or business matter. And if you do get selected for audit and do not have all the records to support what was claimed on your tax returns, you should contact an experienced tax attorney who can argue the application of your facts and circumstances to pursue the least possible changes in an audit.

The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Diego County (Carlsbad) and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income.  You can also check out the KahnTaxLaw Coronavirus Resource Center.  Also if you are involved in cannabis, check out what a cannabis tax attorney can do for you.  And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

 

Governor Newsom’s California Comeback Plan Proposes Millions in Funding for Cannabis

On May 14, 2021 the California Bureau of Cannabis Control issued a press release announcing Governor Newsom’s “California Comeback Plan” which proposes $100 million in grant funding for local governments to complete environmental studies, license reviews, and mitigate environmental impacts. The proposal supports a broader effort to transition cannabis businesses into the regulated market and to reduce barriers to entry for small businesses. The California Comeback Plan also proposes a Deputy Director of Equity and Inclusion to lead state efforts to address the impacts of the War on Drugs and allocates nearly $630 million in cannabis tax funds to public health, environmental protection, and public safety initiatives.

Here is an overview of cannabis proposals in the California Comeback Plan:

Local Assistance Grant Program and Transition of Provisional Licenses

Approximately 82% of California’s cannabis licensees are provisionally licensed. The Local Jurisdiction Assistance Grant Program targets jurisdictions that have high numbers of provisional licensees across the supply chain, many of which were early adopters and are transitioning larger populations of legacy and equity operators into the regulated market. Funds are intended to aid locals in more expeditiously reviewing provisional licensee local requirements, notably those related to the California Environmental Quality Act, and can be passed through to licensees for things such as mitigation measures, including those related to water conservation. Once these requirements are met, the state can more rapidly transition provisional licensees to annual state licenses.

“This grant funding aims to serve local governments and a significant portion of the provisional license population, including a number of small businesses and equity operators,” said Nicole Elliott, Governor Newsom’s Senior Advisor on Cannabis. “We are committed to maintaining stability across the cannabis supply chain, supporting our local partners, and transitioning provisional licenses into annual licensure more swiftly, without sacrificing California’s environmental commitments.”

The funding that will be available to local jurisdictions is calculated based on provisional licenses issued by the state, and is proposed to be allocated as follows:

  • Category 1 – 25%: top 8 jurisdictions allowing cannabis cultivation.
  • Category 2 – 25%: top 8 jurisdictions allowing manufacturing and the top 8 jurisdictions allowing all other cannabis activities, except events.
  • Category 3 – 50%: additional funding for jurisdictions that qualify for Category 1 or 2 and are also implementing local equity programs.

Under current statute, the provisional license program will sunset on January 1, 2022. The Governor’s Plan proposes allowing provisional licenses to be issued until June 30, 2022, makes explicit environmental compliance requirements necessary to attain and maintain a provisional license, mandates the Department to specify through regulation what progress is required to maintain a provisional license, and removes the sunset date, thereby allowing a provisional license to be maintained so long as the applicant is making measurable progress toward achieving annual licensure.

Deputy Director of Equity and Inclusion

The California Comeback Plan proposes an additional position within the Department of Cannabis Control – a Deputy Director of Equity and Inclusion – to serve as the lead on all matters of the Department pertaining to the implementation of the California Cannabis Equity Act. This individual would be the Department liaison for local equity programs created to support and reduce barriers to entry for those negatively impacted by the War on Drugs and would also work directly with the Department Director to further incorporate equity and inclusivity into policies and operational activities throughout the Department.

Sustainable California Grown Cannabis Pilot Program

The California Comeback Plan proposes $9 million in funding for a Sustainable California Grown Cannabis pilot program which will provide funding to incentivize licensed outdoor cannabis growers to participate in the collection of data to benchmark best practices that reduce the environmental impact of cannabis water and energy use; pest management and fertilizer practices; and, to enhance soil health. The purpose of the pilot program is to establish science-based data for the future inclusion of cannabis in current and future state and national voluntary programs to advance environmental stewardship and to develop and advance Best Management Practices for Sustainable Cannabis Growing.

Updated Tax Allocations

The California Comeback Plan estimates $629.1 million in cannabis tax funding will be available for public health, environmental protection, and public safety initiatives, a 41.9% increase from the Governor’s Budget estimates in January. The funding will be allocated as follows:

  • Education, prevention, and treatment of youth substance use disorders and school retention — 60% ($377.5 million).
  • Clean-up, remediation, and enforcement of environmental impacts created by illegal cannabis cultivation — 20% ($125.8 million).
  • Public safety-related activities — 20% ($125.8 million).

Consolidation Of California Cannabis Agencies

The Department of Cannabis Control will be formed on July 1, 2021, pending approval by the Legislature, and will combine the cannabis licensing and regulatory functions currently performed by the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Bureau of Cannabis Control, the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing Division, and the California Department of Public Health’s Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch.

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

The Anti-Federal U.S. Climate

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

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

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

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

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 and for sure you want to take advantage of any assistance or support offered by the State. Be proactive and engage an experienced Cannabis Tax Attorney in your area. Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County, Inland Empire (Ontario and Palm Springs) and other California locations protect you and maximize your net profits.  And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

National Park Service Seizes Illegal Cannabis In Death Valley

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 especially if you are growing cannabis on Federal lands.

Death Valley Raid

On April 30, 2021 the National Park Service issued a press release that Federal park rangers recently discovered a large, illegal marijuana grow site in Death Valley National Park. The site of approximately 40 acres was spotted in Jail Canyon, a rarely-visited canyon on the western side of the Panamint Mountains. Jail Canyon is temporarily closed for public safety reasons until park rangers can fully evaluate the area.

Carbofuran and other dangerous chemicals have been found previously at marijuana grow sites in the park. In the past, growers have threatened hikers who have stumbled upon their illegal operations.

“We are deeply saddened and concerned with the damage that these illegal activities cause,” said Barbara Durham, Traditional Historic Preservation Officer for the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe. “The natural and cultural resources in these areas are irreplaceable and invaluable, damaging them for profit shows incredible disrespect to our homeland.”

“Preserving natural and cultural resources while providing an opportunity for the public to enjoy amazing places is at the core of our mission,” said Rob Wissinger, Chief Ranger at Death Valley National Park. “Seeing irreparable damage to a fragile ecosystem rich with rare natural and cultural resources is devastating.”

Park authorities state that marijuana grow sites significantly damage and destroy the park’s natural and cultural resources by introducing pesticides, land clearing, poaching and waterway modifications. Although the climate of Death Valley may appear inhospitable to marijuana cultivation, over the past decade, hundreds of acres of marijuana have been illegally cultivated in the park.

The National Park Service states that visitors to Death Valley’s most well-traveled areas are not at risk of finding a marijuana grow site; however, hikers in remote areas near water sources should remain alert, turn around and leave if they notice signs of suspicious activity, such as excessive amounts of trash, hillside terracing, or plastic irrigation tubing. Once safe, they should notify rangers at a visitor center or call the National Park Service tip line at 888-653-0009.

The Anti-Federal U.S. Climate

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

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

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

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

California State Penalties For Selling Cannabis Without A License.

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.

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 all level of government coordinating resources and making comprehensive strikes on unlicensed and illegal cannabis operations for the safety of the public or to enforce the Federal prohibition.

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.

Cannabis Consumption Trends: Older Patients More Likely to Consume Cannabis Tinctures, High-CBD Products

According to an analysis of sales data published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, older patients are more likely to purchase sublingual formulations of cannabis, as well as products higher in CBD.  Researchers from New York University’s School of Medicine analyzed invoice data from nearly 6,000 patients ages 50 and older who patronized a state-licensed medical dispensary in New York State.

Among cannabis patients, 25.8% were aged 65 years or older, and 34.5% were aged from 50 years old to 64 years old. Across all age groups, severe or chronic pain was the predominant symptom for cannabis use, although older patients were more likely to use cannabis for cancer and Parkinson’s disease among other conditions. Older adults were more likely to use sublingual tincture versus other consumption methods, to use products with a lower THC:CBD ratio, and to begin cannabis treatment with a lower THC and higher CBD dose compared with younger age groups.

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

The Anti-Federal U.S. Climate

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

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

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

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

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

Medical marijuana is legal in 36 states.

The medical use of cannabis is legal (with a doctor’s recommendation) in 36 states and Washington DC. Those 36 states being Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia. The medical use of cannabis is also legal in the territories of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands.

Recreational marijuana is legal in 17 states.

17 states and Washington DC, have legalized marijuana for recreational use — no doctor’s letter required — for adults over the age of 21. Those 17 states being Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, South Dakota, 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.

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

Why Taxpayers Involved In Offshore Accounts, Cryptocurrency Or Cannabis Should Be Filing An Extension For Their 2020 Income Tax Returns.

Why Taxpayers Involved In Offshore Accounts, Cryptocurrency Or Cannabis Should Be Filing An Extension For Their 2020 Income Tax Returns.

If you did not report your offshore accounts, cryptocurrency income or cannabis income earned before 2020, you should hold off on filing your 2020 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 2020 federal individual income tax returns or request an extension of time to file the tax return is Monday, May 17, 2021 (normally would have been April 15th but extended due to COVID-19).  A timely filed extension will extend the filing deadline to Friday, October 15, 2021 thus giving you an extra five months to meet with tax counsel and determine how to address your pre-2020 tax reporting delinquencies and/or exposure and how to present your situation on your 2020 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.

Cryptocurrency

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.

Following the success of the results of a John Doe Summons issued to Coinbase, Inc. as I previously reported, on April 1, 2021 the U.S. Department Of Justice announced that a federal court in the District of Massachusetts entered an order today authorizing the IRS to serve a John Doe summons on Circle Internet Financial Inc., or its predecessors, subsidiaries, divisions, and affiliates, including Poloniex LLC (collectively “Circle”), seeking information about U.S. taxpayers who conducted at least the equivalent of $20,000 in transactions in cryptocurrency during the years 2016 to 2020. The IRS is seeking the records of Americans who engaged in business with or through Circle, a digital currency exchanger headquartered in Boston.

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

Over 300,000 Americans now work in the legal cannabis industry – these workers were declared “essential” during the COVID emergency. In the past few weeks, three more states have legalized bringing the total number of adult-use states to 18, along with the 35 medical states and the District of Columbia.  With the proliferation of licensed cannabis businesses sprouting across the country, 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 2020.

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), Los Angeles 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.

Living In The Era Of COVID-19 – Business Meals May Be Fully Deductible

Living In The Era Of COVID-19 – Business Meals May Be Fully Deductible

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, Pub. L. No. 116- 260, 134 Stat. 1182 (December 27, 2020) amended §274 of the Internal Revenue Code (Code) providing a temporary 100-percent deduction for expenses that are paid or incurred after December 31, 2020, and before January 1, 2023, for food or beverages provided by a restaurant.

On April 8, 2021 the IRS released Notice 2021-25 which provides guidance regarding the temporary 100-percent deduction for expenses that are paid or incurred in 2021 and 2022, for food or beverages provided by a restaurant.  In particular, the notice explains when the temporary 100-percent deduction applies and when the 50-percent limitation continues to apply for purposes of § 274 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Historical Treatment Of Deductions Relating to Meal And Entertainment Expenses

Under prior law, a taxpayer generally can deduct business-related meal and entertainment expenses paid or incurred in entertaining a client, customer, or employee. The taxpayer had to show that the item was directly related to (or, in certain cases, associated with) the active conduct of the taxpayer’s trade or business.  In such case, a deduction is allowed, although it is generally limited to 50% of the expense amount.

Starting with 2018 more stringent rules apply with respect to a deduction for meal and entertainment expenses paid after 2017.  The Tax Cuts And Jobs Act Of 2017 (“TCJA”) TCJA signed into law by President Trump on December 22, 2017, repeals the deduction for most entertainment expenses, effective for amounts incurred after 2017. There was no exception for amount incurred that are directly related to, or associated with, the active conduct of the taxpayer’s trade or business. This repeal would extend to the cost of tickets to sporting events, stadium license fees, private boxes at sporting events, theater tickets, golf club dues, etc.

However, it is still possible that some amounts may still be deductible if they meet the exceptions in IRC § 274(e), a provision that was not touched by the TCJA.

The main exceptions in IRC § 274(e) allowing deductibility are:

  1. Expenses for food and beverages (and facilities used in connection therewith) furnished on the business premises of the taxpayer primarily for the taxpayer’s employees.
  2. Expenses for recreational, social, or similar activities (and facilities used in connection therewith) primarily for the benefit of employees, other than highly-compensated employees.
  3. Expenses incurred by a taxpayer which are directly related to business meetings of the taxpayer’s employees, stockholders, agents, or directors.
  4. Expenses directly related and necessary to attendance at a business meeting or convention of any certain organizations such as business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards, and boards of trade.
  5. Expenses for goods, services and facilities made available by the taxpayer to the general public.

This lack of clarity by the TCJA created a lot of confusion in the business community which the IRS was looking to address.

IRS Guidance Issued 2018

On October 3, 2018 the IRS issued guidance, Notice 2018-76, clarifying that taxpayers may generally continue to deduct 50% of the food and beverage expenses associated with operating their trade or business, despite changes to the meal and entertainment expense deduction by the TCJA.    Taxpayers can rely on the guidance in the notice until the IRS issues proposed regulations.

Under the interim guidance, taxpayers may deduct 50% of an otherwise allowable business meal expense if:

  1. The expense is an ordinary and necessary business expense under IRC § 162(a) paid or incurred during the tax year when carrying on any trade or business;
  2. The expense is not lavish or extravagant under the circumstances;
  3. The taxpayer, or an employee of the taxpayer, is present when the food or beverages are furnished;
  4. The food and beverages are provided to a current or potential business customer, client, consultant, or similar business contact; and
  5. For food and beverages provided during or at an entertainment activity, they are purchased separately from the entertainment, or the cost of the food and beverages is stated separately from the cost of the entertainment on one or more bills, invoices, or receipts.

The interim guidance includes three examples illustrating how the IRS would apply these rules. All three examples involve attending a sporting event with a business client and having food and drink while attending the event.

Living In The Era Of COVID-19 – Impact Of New Law And New Guidance

Most taxpayers consider business meals to be part of entertainment and promotion which is an area that IRS targets in examinations of income tax returns as the IRS believes that there is abuse of this provision and/or a higher level of errors made by taxpayers in trying the comply with the law’s limitations.  So the issuance by IRS of Notice 2021-25 is extremely timely.

To summarize –

  1. The 100% deduction of business meals is available when the business meal from a restaurant. The term “restaurant” means a business that prepares and sells food or beverages to retail customers for immediate consumption, regardless of whether the food or beverages are consumed on the business’s premises. However, a restaurant does not include a business that primarily sells pre-packaged food or beverages not for immediate consumption, such as a grocery store; specialty food store; beer, wine, or liquor store; drug store; convenience store; newsstand; or a vending machine or kiosk.  In addition, an employer may not treat as a restaurant for purposes of this provision: (a) any eating facility located on the business premises of the employer and used in furnishing meals excluded from an employee’s gross income, or (b) any employer-operated eating facility treated as a de minimis fringe even if such eating facility is operated by a third party under contract with the employer as described. Additionally, the 5 points listed above would still apply.
  2. Ineligible business meals described above should still qualify to be 50% deductible but again the 5 points listed above would still apply.

In all cases, only the food and benevrage portion are deductible.  Entertainment continues to be non-deductible.  The 100% deduction enhancement that started January 1, 2021 expires January 1, 2023.

What Should You Do?

Like with any expense you are looking to deduct it is important to make sure that the tax law would support a deduction and that you have the required backup documentation in case you are audited by the IRS. Also, be mindful that in any audit by IRS, an agent will be making sure that taxpayers are not inflating the amount charged for food and beverages in order to circumvent the disallowance of entertainment.

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