Proposed Treasury Regulations Issued On Deducting Business Meals

Proposed Treasury Regulations Issued On Deducting Business Meals

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 update but for taxpayers.

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 TCJA repeals the deduction for most entertainment expenses, effective for amounts incurred after 2017. There is 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.

Proposed Regulations

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.    Now that the IRS issued Proposed Regulations, here is what you need to know.

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

  1. The expense is an ordinary and necessary business expense under Sec. 162(a) paid or incurred during the tax year when carrying on any trade or business;
  1. The expense is not lavish or extravagant under the circumstances;
  1. The taxpayer or an employee of the taxpayer is present when the food and beverages are furnished;
  1. The food and beverages are provided to a current or potential business customer, client, consultant, or similar business contact; and
  1. 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.

Regarding the requirement in No. 4 above that the food and beverages be provided to a current or potential business contact, the IRS defines such a contact as “a person with whom the taxpayer could reasonably expect to engage or deal in the active conduct of the taxpayer’s trade or business such as the taxpayer’s customer, client, supplier, employee, agent, partner, or professional adviser, whether established or prospective.”

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), Los Angeles County (Long Beach) 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 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.

Better Late Than Never; What High Income Taxpayers Should Know About Filing Late Tax Returns

Better Late Than Never; What High Income Taxpayers Should Know About Filing Late Tax Returns

How To Handle Late Tax Returns?

Every year, about 7 million taxpayers miss tax deadline or fail to file their tax returns according to data from the Internal Revenue Service. This figure constitutes roughly 5% of the taxpayer base in the U.S., resulting in government revenue losses of up to $28 billion annually. The IRS announced that as part of a larger effort to ensure compliance and fairness, the IRS will step up efforts to visit high-income taxpayers who in prior years have failed to timely file one or more of their tax returns.

Following the recent and ongoing hiring of additional enforcement personnel, IRS Revenue Officers across the country will increase face-to-face visits with high-income taxpayers who haven’t filed tax returns in 2018 or previous years.

Failure to File vs. Failure to Pay

The IRS red flags taxpayers as “tax cheats” whether they are stop-filers, non-filers and under-filers.

Stop Filer” is a term applied to taxpayers that consistently comply with tax filing requirements and then suddenly stop filing their returns. If your employer or client reports your income to the IRS on a 1099 or a W-2, the IRS will flag your information as a non-filer because they have access to tax forms that cannot be matched to tax returns. Understating your income, consciously or unintentionally, could result in a lower tax liability but make you liable for IRS penalties.

Failure to file means not filing the returns within the given time frame while failure to pay means filing the required paperwork but not turning in the full amount of tax obligation by the tax filing deadline. To force compliance with tax laws, the IRS is allowed to prepare a “substitute return” on behalf of those who failed to file, using data that was submitted by employers and applying customary exemptions and deductions. Substitute returns will always show a much higher liability than actual returns you have prepared and filed because substitute returns which are prepared by the IRS will not take into account your business expenses, basis in assets sold, itemized deductions, proper marital status, dependents and many tax credits.

Essentially, filing federal taxes late is better than not filing even if you cannot pay the tax dues at the time of submission. Penalties will still accrue for all unpaid tax obligations effective on the day after it is due until fully paid but by filing your tax return timely you avoid a late-filing penalty.

Why Taxpayers Should File Late Returns Now

There are important reasons why you should file your returns even if it is long past due. For one, penalties will continue to add up on any payments due. Also, if you are owed a refund due to exemptions, deductions and tax withheld, you only have three years from the original due date to claim the refund (and in certain cases this limitation is two years). When this period expires, you forfeit your refund to the IRS. Additionally, you would not be able to claim tax refunds for later years unless returns for the missing years are filed.

Loan applications, lease qualifications, scholarship applications and similar events require submission of tax returns from the previous years. Failure to present these documents that are used as proof of income may disqualify your application from moving forward. For self-employed taxpayers, filing a tax return is the only way that your credits for Social Security benefits can be reported and tracked. If you don’t comply with tax filing requirements, you would not build up enough retirement or disability credits.

Failure to respond and comply with an IRS tax bill will trigger the collection process, which may include tactics such as wage garnishment, an asset freeze or a federal tax lien.

IRS Penalties for Late Filing

The IRS assesses two different penalties for filing federal taxes late. The failure to file penalty is assessed at 5% for each month that the returns are late and is capped at 25%.

Assessments for failure to pay are 0.5% monthly for a maximum of 25%. If both penalties apply, the total amount is capped at 5% per month for a late tax return. If you qualify for a refund during the tax year in question, and you have not forfeited the refund, you may not be charged with penalties for taxes owed on a delinquent tax return.

Extending The Deadline To File

Starting with your 2019 tax return, if you will be unable to prepare your tax returns within the original deadline, file for an extension using the Form 4868, application for automatic extension of time to file U.S. individual income tax return on or before the deadline to file your Form 1040. Where an extension is timely filed, penalties for failure to file will not apply, but penalties will still be assessed on the balance due. With Form 4868, the revised deadline will be extended by six months for taxpayers in the U.S.

Additional IRS Civil Penalties For Non-compliance With Tax Laws

Criminal fraud refers to outright tax evasion. Penalties for tax evaders include hefty fines, imprisonment or both. Civil fraud charges applies to underpayment without intent to completely evade making tax payments. The penalty imposed may be as much as 75% of the portion of the underpayment. Negligence refers to inadvertent underpayment, and the penalty is 20% of the underpayment that is due to negligence. A frivolous return is one that intentionally excludes information that is crucial to processing the returns, and the penalty is $500 for each frivolous return.

What Should You Do?

Filing federal taxes late is a complicated matter. Let the tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Francisco Bay Area (including San Jose and Walnut Creek) protect you from excessive fines and possible jail time. Also, if you are involved in cannabis, check out how a cannabis tax attorney can help you. And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

President Trump Seeking To Prosecute Legalized Adult-use Marijuana Businesses

On June 20, 2019, the House of Representatives voted to restrict the Department Of Justice (“DOJ”) from interfering with States that have legalized adult-use marijuana, including those allowing recreational use, cultivation and sales. This amendment was attached to a large-scale appropriations bill to fund parts of the federal government for Fiscal Year 2020.

But under the 2021 Federal Budget released by the Trump Administration, President Trump proposes slashing all legal protection for state medical marijuana programs which would open the door for the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) and other federal law enforcement agencies to use federal funds to shut down medical marijuana programs.

Marijuana Remains Illegal Under Federal Law

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.

House Appropriations Bill Amendment

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

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

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

Medical marijuana is legal in 33 states.

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

Recreational marijuana is legal in 11 states.

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

Amendment Spearheaded By Rep. Earl Blumenauer, co-founder of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.

The amendment was voted in by Congress in a 267 to 165 bipartisan vote. “It’s past time we protect all cannabis programs,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer. “We have much more work to do. The federal government is out of touch and our cannabis laws are out of date. I’m pleased that the House agrees and we are able to move forward.”

The fate of whether this amendment will continue in the 2021 Federal budget is unknown for now. Historically the Senate’s Appropriations Committee has been relatively open to attaching marijuana riders to spending bills, and has consistently approved the medical cannabis protections, but the body’s Republican leadership may be reluctant to go against President Trump’s wishes when it comes to enforcing federal prohibition against licensed businesses and consumers in states that allow marijuana use and sales.

Keep in mind that if this amendment is part of the 2021 Federal budget that ultimately gets approved, to avail yourself of the protections of the amendment, you must be in complete compliance with your State’s cannabis laws and regulations. 

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

Higher Taxes Still Remain

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

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

Reporting Of Cash Payments Still Remain

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

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

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

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

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

Given that cannabis is still illegal under existing Federal law you need to protect yourself and your marijuana business from all challenges created by the U.S. government especially if President Trump’s budget proposal slashing all legal protection for state medical marijuana programs passes.  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, Los Angeles 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.

Former Silk Road Senior Advisor Pleads Guilty In Manhattan Federal Court

Roger Thomas Clark Pleads Guilty In Manhattan Federal Court

On January 30, 2020, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) issued a press release that Roger Thomas Clark, who was also known as “Plural of Mongoose” or “Variety Jones,” pled guilty for conspiring to distribute illicit narcotics in mass quantities. The press release stated that Mr. Clark was the senior advisor to the owner and operator of the Silk Road online illicit black market and in committing his crime also used the online nicknames “CaptainSargeant”, “VJ,” and “Cimon”.

What Was “Silk Road”?

Silk Road” was created by Ross Ulbricht in January 2011.  He owned and operated an underground website until it was shut down by law enforcement authorities in October 2013.  Silk Road emerged as the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet at the time, serving as a sprawling black-market bazaar where unlawful goods and services, including illegal drugs including cannabis, were bought and sold regularly by the site’s users.  While in operation, Silk Road was used by thousands of drug dealers and other unlawful vendors to distribute hundreds of kilograms of illegal drugs and other unlawful goods and services to well over 100,000 buyers, and to launder hundreds of millions of dollars deriving from these unlawful transactions.

Silk Road enabled its users to buy and sell drugs and other illegal goods and services anonymously and outside the reach of law enforcement.  Silk Road was operated on what is known as “The Onion Router,” or “Tor” network, a special network of computers on the Internet, distributed around the world, designed to conceal the true IP addresses of the computers on the network and thereby the identities of the network’s users.  Silk Road also included a Bitcoin-based payment system that served to facilitate the illegal commerce conducted on the site, including by concealing the identities and locations of the users transmitting and receiving funds through the site.

Mr. Ulbricht was eventually convicted and is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. His appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States was denied on June 28, 2018.  Already he has been languishing in prison for half a decade now.

Clark Guilty Plea

The press release stated that Mr. Clark was described by Mr. Ulbricht as a “real mentor” who advised Ulbricht about, among other things, security vulnerabilities in the Silk Road site, technical infrastructure, and the rules that governed Silk Road users and vendors, and the promotion of sales on Silk Road, including the sales of narcotics.  Clark also provided advice to Ulbricht on developing a “cover story” to make it appear as though Ulbricht had sold Silk Road.  Clark also assisted with hiring programmers to help improve the infrastructure of, and maintain, Silk Road.  Clark also was responsible for gathering information on law enforcement’s efforts to investigate Silk Road and Clark advised Ulbricht on how to protect the Silk Road Empire.  For instance, when a Silk Road staff member was suspected of stealing $350,000 in Bitcoin from the site, Clark suggested to Ulbricht that Ulbricht commission a murder-for-hire.  Ulbricht took that suggestion.  (Ultimately, unbeknownst to both men, the attempted murder-for-hire did not result in any harm to the target.) Clark was paid at least hundreds of thousands of dollars for his assistance in operating Silk Road.

Mr. Clark, age 56 and a citizen of Canada, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute narcotics, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.  He is scheduled to be sentenced in Federal District Court on May 29, 2020.

Clark’s Troubles Could Spill Over To IRS

For individuals nabbed by the Federal Government, it is not surprising that the IRS gets involved and they are also charged with tax crimes.

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?

It is risky enough to be involved in cannabis (which is illegal under Federal law) or crypto-currency, so imagine how much riskier it is combining both.  It is important to control this risk which you can do by engaging a cannabis tax attorney or a bitcoin tax attorney at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), Inland Empire (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 mitigate criminal prosecution, seek abatement of penalties, and minimize your tax liability.

Britain’s Tax Authority Updates Crypto Guidelines – Is IRS Next To Update Its Guidelines?

Britain’s Tax Authority Updates Crypto Guidelines – Is IRS Next To Update Its Guidelines?

In December 2019, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in the United Kingdom which would be the equivalent of IRS here in the United States published updated policy papers concerning crypto currency transactions undertaken by companies, other businesses such as sole traders and partnerships, and individuals.

The United Kingdom guidelines cover the applicable taxes as well and corporate entities conducting any crypto currency transactions are likely to be liable to pay one or more of the following taxes: capital gains tax, corporation tax, income tax, value added tax (VAT), and stamp taxes. National Insurance contributions are also due.

The United Kingdom guidelines also state that private individuals will be liable to pay capital gains tax when they sell crypto assets that have been acquired as a personal investment, or income tax and National Insurance contributions on coins they receive from employers, mining or airdrops. Traders may reduce their income tax liability by offsetting losses against future profits. The amount paid for an asset is considered a cost that can be allowed as a deduction. The loss of a private key, however, does not count as a disposal of the assets for capital gains tax purposes. Victims of theft cannot claim a loss either.

Crypto Currency Tax Enforcement In The United States

After years of analyzing data from third parties involved in the cryptocurrency exchanges, the IRS announced in a press release on July 26, 2019 that it has started sending letters to cryptocurrency owners advising them to report their cryptocurrency transactions and pay their taxes. More than 10,000 taxpayers have been identified by IRS as being involved in cryptocurrency transactions but who the IRS believes may not have been compliant in reporting these transactions on their tax returns.

Taxpayers who do not properly report the income tax consequences of virtual currency transactions are, when appropriate, liable for tax, penalties and interest. In some cases, taxpayers could be subject to criminal prosecution.

The 2019 Form 1040 Makes It Harder For U.S. Taxpayers To Avoid Non-compliance Or Claim Ignorance.

Starting with the 2019 Form 1040, Schedule 1, Additional Income And Adjustments To Income, includes the following checkbox question:

At any time during 2019, did you receive, sell, send, exchange or otherwise acquire any financial interest in any virtual currency?   ◊ Yes            ◊ No

Taxpayers who file Schedule 1 to report income or adjustments to income that can’t be entered directly on Form 1040 will now be required to check the appropriate box to answer the virtual currency question. Taxpayers do not need to file Schedule 1 if their answer to this question is NO and they do not have to file Schedule 1 for any other purpose. This requirement is similar to how the IRS includes questions on Schedule B inquiring whether a taxpayer has foreign bank accounts.

Taxpayers who answer “no” and for who the IRS later determines should have answered “yes” could face civil or criminal penalties and it could affect their success in having penalties abated for reasonable cause.

U.S. Taxation Of Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency transactions are apparently wildly taxable – far more so than investors may think.

Although the IRS has not issued much formal guidance, the position of IRS is that any transaction involving virtual currency can trigger a taxable event including air drops and fork transaction as well as conversions or trades from one virtual currency to another virtual currency.

The IRS in 2014 issued Notice 2014-21 stating that it treats crypto currency as property for tax purposes. Therefore, selling, spending and even exchanging crypto for other tokens all likely have capital gain implications. Likewise, receiving it as compensation or by other means will be ordinary income. This notice has since been supplemented by Revenue Ruling 2019-24 and frequently asked questions (FAQ’s).

Some would think that if bitcoin is property, trades should be tax deferred under the like-kind changes rues of I.R.C. §1031. Under that theory someone who owned Bitcoin could diversify their holdings into Ethereum or Litecoin, and plausibly tell the IRS it created no tax obligations. Unfortunately, the new Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017 does away with that loophole making it clear that “like kind exchanges” which lets people swap an asset for a similar one without triggering a tax obligation are not available for non-real estate assets.

While Bitcoin receives most of the attention these days, it is only one of hundreds of crypto currencies. Everything discussed with regard to bitcoin taxation applies to all crypto currencies.

Here are the basic tax rules followed by IRS on specific crypto currency transactions:

  • Trading crypto currencies produces capital gains or losses, with the latter being able to offset gains and reduce tax.
  • Exchanging one crypto currency for another — for example, using Ethereum to purchase an altcoin — creates a taxable event. The token is treated as being sold, thus generating capital gains or losses.
  • Receiving payments in crypto currency in exchange for products or services or as salary is treated as ordinary income at the fair market value of the coin at the time of receipt.
  • Spending crypto currency is a tax event and may generate capital gains or losses, which can be short-term or long-term. For example, say you bought one coin for $500. If that coin was then worth $700 and you bought a $700 gift card, there is a $200 taxable gain. Depending on the holding period, it could be a short- or long-term capital gain subject to different rates.
  • Converting a crypto currency to U.S. dollars or another currency at a gain is a taxable event, as it is treated as being sold, thus generating capital gains.
  • Air drops are considered ordinary income on the day of the air drop. That value will become the basis of the coin. When it’s sold, exchanged, etc., there will be a capital gain.
  • Mining crypto currency is considered ordinary income equal to the fair market value of the coin the day it was successfully mined.
  • Initial coin offerings including certain forks do not fall under the IRS’s tax-free treatment for raising capital. Thus, they produce ordinary income to individuals and businesses alike.

Given the limited guidance by IRS, there are still tax positions that can be advocated or structured so that taxpayers dealing with crypto currency can defer gains and minimize taxes. That is why it is essential you seek qualified tax counsel.

U.S. 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?

The IRS has not yet announced a specific tax amnesty for people who failed to report their gains and income from Bitcoin and other virtual currencies but under the existing Voluntary Disclosure Program, non-compliant taxpayers can come forward to avoid criminal prosecution and negotiate lower penalties.

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

And now that like–exchange treatment is prohibited on non-real estate transactions that occur after 2017, now is the ideal time to be proactive and come forward with voluntary disclosure to lock in your deferred gains through 2017, eliminate your risk for criminal prosecution, and minimize your civil penalties.  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 bitcoin tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Francisco Bay Area (including San Jose and Walnut Creek) and offices elsewhere in California get you qualified into a voluntary disclosure program to avoid criminal prosecution, seek abatement of penalties, and minimize your tax liability. Additionally, if you are involved in cannabis, check out what a cannabis tax attorney can do for you.

Could 2020 Be The Year That IRS Is Serious About Targeting Crypto Currency Traders?

Could 2020 Be The Year That IRS Is Serious About Targeting Crypto Currency Traders?

After years of analyzing data from third parties involved in the cryptocurrency exchanges, the IRS announced in a press release on July 26, 2019 that it has started sending letters to cryptocurrency owners advising them to report their cryptocurrency transactions and pay their taxes. More than 10,000 taxpayers have been identified by IRS as being involved in cryptocurrency transactions but who the IRS believes may not have been compliant in reporting these transactions on their tax returns.

Taxpayers who do not properly report the income tax consequences of virtual currency transactions are, when appropriate, liable for tax, penalties and interest. In some cases, taxpayers could be subject to criminal prosecution.

IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig Appoints Former Criminal Investigation Official To Lead The Civil Small Business and Self-Employed (SB/SE) Division.

In July 2019, the Internal Revenue Service announced the selection of Eric Hylton to lead the Small Business and Self-Employed (SB/SE) division. Prior to this announcement, Mr. Hylton served as the deputy chief of IRS Criminal Investigation (CI). It is interesting that an official from the criminal side of IRS will take over as head of SB/SE which serves more than 50 million taxpayers including self-employed and small businesses with assets under $10 million. SB/SE handles the agency’s civil side audit issues.

As the deputy chief in CI, Mr. Hylton oversaw CI’s high-impact investigations of tax evasion, financial crimes, money laundering, bribery, international corruption, cybercrimes and terrorist financing.  Eric also served as the Executive Director of CI’s Office of International Operations.  While in this role, he was appointed as the Chairperson for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)-Task Force for Tax Crimes and Other Financial Crimes. As Chairperson, Mr. Hylton led a multilateral commission of 40 international criminal tax organizations to develop methodologies and typologies on emerging global criminal tax and financial crimes threats. 

In announcing Mr. Hylton’s appointment, IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said “Eric’s background in criminal investigation will be an asset working with SB/SE leadership and focusing on civil enforcement strategies and initiatives.” So you can be sure that will include targeting crypto currency traders.

The 2019 Form 1040 Makes It Harder For U.S. Taxpayers To Avoid Non-compliance Or Claim Ignorance.

Starting with the 2019 Form 1040, Schedule 1, Additional Income And Adjustments To Income, includes the following checkbox question:

At any time during 2019, did you receive, sell, send, exchange or otherwise acquire any financial interest in any virtual currency?   ◊ Yes            ◊ No

Taxpayers who file Schedule 1 to report income or adjustments to income that can’t be entered directly on Form 1040 will now be required to check the appropriate box to answer the virtual currency question. Taxpayers do not need to file Schedule 1 if their answer to this question is NO and they do not have to file Schedule 1 for any other purpose. This requirement is similar to how the IRS includes questions on Schedule B inquiring whether a taxpayer has foreign bank accounts.

Taxpayers who answer “no” and for who the IRS later determines should have answered “yes” could face civil or criminal penalties and it could affect their success in having penalties abated for reasonable cause.

Taxation Of Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency transactions are apparently wildly taxable – far more so than investors may think.

Although the IRS has not issued much formal guidance, the position of IRS is that any transaction involving virtual currency can trigger a taxable event including air drops and fork transaction as well as conversions or trades from one virtual currency to another virtual currency.

The IRS in 2014 issued Notice 2014-21 stating that it treats crypto currency as property for tax purposes. Therefore, selling, spending and even exchanging crypto for other tokens all likely have capital gain implications. Likewise, receiving it as compensation or by other means will be ordinary income. This notice has since been supplemented by Revenue Ruling 2019-24 and frequently asked questions (FAQ’s).

Some would think that if bitcoin is property, trades should be tax deferred under the like-kind changes rues of I.R.C. §1031. Under that theory someone who owned Bitcoin could diversify their holdings into Ethereum or Litecoin, and plausibly tell the IRS it created no tax obligations. Unfortunately, the new Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017 does away with that loophole making it clear that “like kind exchanges” which lets people swap an asset for a similar one without triggering a tax obligation are not available for non-real estate assets.

While Bitcoin receives most of the attention these days, it is only one of hundreds of crypto currencies. Everything discussed with regard to bitcoin taxation applies to all crypto currencies.

Here are the basic tax rules followed by IRS on specific crypto currency transactions:

  • Trading crypto currencies produces capital gains or losses, with the latter being able to offset gains and reduce tax.
  • Exchanging one crypto currency for another — for example, using Ethereum to purchase an altcoin — creates a taxable event. The token is treated as being sold, thus generating capital gains or losses.
  • Receiving payments in crypto currency in exchange for products or services or as salary is treated as ordinary income at the fair market value of the coin at the time of receipt.
  • Spending crypto currency is a tax event and may generate capital gains or losses, which can be short-term or long-term. For example, say you bought one coin for $500. If that coin was then worth $700 and you bought a $700 gift card, there is a $200 taxable gain. Depending on the holding period, it could be a short- or long-term capital gain subject to different rates.
  • Converting a crypto currency to U.S. dollars or another currency at a gain is a taxable event, as it is treated as being sold, thus generating capital gains.
  • Air drops are considered ordinary income on the day of the air drop. That value will become the basis of the coin. When it’s sold, exchanged, etc., there will be a capital gain.
  • Mining crypto currency is considered ordinary income equal to the fair market value of the coin the day it was successfully mined.
  • Initial coin offerings including certain forks do not fall under the IRS’s tax-free treatment for raising capital. Thus, they produce ordinary income to individuals and businesses alike.

Given the limited guidance by IRS, there are still tax positions that can be advocated or structured so that taxpayers dealing with crypto currency can defer gains and minimize taxes. That is why it is essential you seek qualified tax counsel.

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?

The IRS has not yet announced a specific tax amnesty for people who failed to report their gains and income from Bitcoin and other virtual currencies but under the existing Voluntary Disclosure Program, non-compliant taxpayers can come forward to avoid criminal prosecution and negotiate lower penalties.

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

And now that like–exchange treatment is prohibited on non-real estate transactions that occur after 2017, now is the ideal time to be proactive and come forward with voluntary disclosure to lock in your deferred gains through 2017, eliminate your risk for criminal prosecution, and minimize your civil penalties.  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 bitcoin tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Francisco Bay Area (including San Jose and Walnut Creek) and offices elsewhere in California get you qualified into a voluntary disclosure program to avoid criminal prosecution, seek abatement of penalties, and minimize your tax liability. Additionally, if you are involved in cannabis, check out what a cannabis tax attorney can do for you.

Are You Affected By The December 2019 Puerto Rico Earthquakes? IRS Is Providing You With Tax Relief And Extending Upcoming Tax Deadlines.

Are You Affected By The December 2019 Puerto Rico Earthquakes? IRS Is Providing You With Tax Relief And Extending Upcoming Tax Deadlines.

The IRS announced on January 17, 2020 that victims of earthquakes that took place beginning on December 28, 2019 in parts of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico may qualify for tax relief. Individuals and households who reside or have a business in the municipalities of Adjuntas, Cabo Rojo, Corozal, Guánica, Guayanilla, Jayuya, Lajas, Lares, Maricao, Peñuelas, Ponce, San Germán, San Sebastián, Utuado, Villalba and Yauco have until April 30, 2020, to file certain individual and business tax returns and make certain 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. For instance, certain deadlines falling on or after December 28, 2019 and before April 30, 2020, are granted additional time to file through April 30, 2020. This includes 2019 individual income tax returns due on April 15, 2020, the 2019 quarterly estimated income tax payment due on January 15, 2020, the 2020 quarterly estimated income tax payment due on April 15, 2020, and the quarterly payroll and excise tax returns normally due on January 31, 2020.

In addition, penalties on payroll and excise tax deposits due on or after December 28, 2019, and before January 13, 2020, will be abated as long as the deposits were made by January 13, 2020.

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 activities.

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

Tips For Cannabis Businesses To Prepare for Tax Season And IRC Sec. 280E

On January 6, 2020, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that it will process 2019 tax returns beginning January 27, 2020.

April 15th Filing Deadline.

The filing deadline to submit 2019 tax returns is Wednesday, April 15, 2020.

Since the IRS will begin processing tax returns on January 27th there is no advantage to filing tax returns on paper in early January instead of waiting for the IRS to begin accepting e-filed returns.  Nevertheless, it makes sense to start organizing your information early and so when the IRS filing systems open on January 27th, you are ready to submit your tax return right away.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step One: Incurred And Paid The Expense.

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

Step Two: Deductibility Of The Expense.

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

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

Tips For Cannabis Tax Return Preparation

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

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

Time Limits For Keeping Your Tax Records

Even though your 2019 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), the Inland Empire (including Ontario and Palm Springs) 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.

Attention California Cannabis Businesses: New Cannabis QR Code Regulations Are In Effect

Following the recent announcement of the Bureau Of Cannabis Control (BCC) of its QR Code campaign, on January 23, 2020 the BCC announced new proposed emergency regulations mandating cannabis retailers, distributors, and microbusinesses prominently display the licensee’s QR code to help consumers identify licensed cannabis retail stores, assist law enforcement and support the legal cannabis market where products such as vape cartridges are routinely tested to protect public health and safety.

A QR Code (abbreviated from Quick Response code) is the trademark for a type of matrix barcode (or two-dimensional barcode) first designed in 1994 for the automotive industry in Japan. The QR Code consists of black squares arranged in a square grid on a white background, which can be read by an imaging device such as a smartphone camera.

The proposed regulations require licensed retailers to print and post their unique QR Code in storefront windows or near entrances, to help educate consumers about the importance of supporting and purchasing products from the legal cannabis market.

Smartphone users are able to use their smartphone camera to scan the displayed QR Code, which automatically links to the BCC’s Online License Search and confirms the cannabis retailer’s license status. The system also displays the retailer’s address and license location to ensure that the information is not counterfeit.

BCC Chief Lori Ajax stated:

The proposed regulations will help consumers avoid purchasing cannabis goods from unlicensed businesses by providing a simple way to confirm licensure immediately before entering the premises or receiving a delivery. These requirements will also assist law enforcement in distinguishing between legal and illegal transportation of cannabis goods.”

Penalties For Selling Cannabis Without A License.

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

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

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

  1. Defendants who have a prior conviction for one of a list of particularly serious violent felonies, including murder, sexually violent offenses, sex crimes against a child under 14, or gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, or a sex crime that requires them to register as a sex offender;
  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
  1. Any people you give cannabis to are 21 years of age or older.

What Should You Do?

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

Top Four Tips For Taxpayers About The Gig Economy And Taxes

Top Four Tips For Taxpayers About The Gig Economy And Taxes

From renting spare rooms and vacation homes to car rides or using a bike…name a service or a craft & handmade item marketplace and it’s probably available through the gig economy which is proliferating through many digital platforms like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb.

Here are four tips you should know about how the gig economy might affect your taxes:

1. The activity is taxable.

If you receive income from a sharing economy activity, it’s generally taxable even if you don’t receive a Form 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income, Form 1099-K, Payment Card and Third Party Network Transactions, Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, or some other income statement. This is true even if you do it as a side job or just as a part time business and even if you are paid in cash and to minimize how much you need to pay in taxes, it is imperative that you keep track of your business expenses.

2. Some expenses are deductible.

The tax code allows you to deduct certain costs of doing business from gross income. For example, a taxpayer who uses their car for business may qualify to claim the standard mileage rate, which is 57.5 cents per mile for 2020. Generally, you cannot deduct personal, living or family expenses. You can deduct the business part only, such as supplies, cell phones, auto expenses, food and drinks for passengers, car washes, parking fees, tolls, roadside assistance plans, taxes, and incentives associated with certain electric and hybrid vehicles.

Example: You used your car only for personal purposes during the first 6 months of the year. During the last 6 months of the year, you drove the car a total of 15,000 miles of which 12,000 miles were driven to provide transportation services through a company that provides such services through requests to its app. This gives you a business use percentage of 80% (12,000 ÷ 15,000) for that period. Your business use for the year is 40% (80% × 6/12). 

Example: You use your car both for personal purposes and to provide transportation arranged through a company that provides transportation service through its app. You must divide your personal and business expenses based on actual mileage. You can deduct the business part of these actual car expenses, which include depreciation (or lease payments), gas and oil, tires, repairs, tune-ups, insurance, and registration fees. Or, instead of figuring the business part of these actual expenses, you may be able to use the standard mileage rate to figure your deduction. Depending on the facts and circumstances, you may be providing the services either in a self-employed capacity or as an employee. If you are self-employed, you can also deduct the business part of interest on your car loan, state and local personal property tax on the car, parking fees, and tolls, whether or not you claim the standard mileage rate

3. You Could Be Subject To Self Employment Tax

The net income from your service-related activity with the sharing economy facilitator is subject to Self-Employment taxes, (Social Security and Medicare), at a 15.3% rate.  Now you will get to deduct one-half of these Self Employment taxes on your Form 1040 but if you consider that you still have income taxes to pay as well, the effective tax rate can easily exceed 30% and you will also have your state’s income tax on top of that.

So whether you are using your personal car for business or part of your residence as a home office, you will need to have good personal records of your expenses. In a situation where you are using your personal car for business you typically can deduct either “actual” costs for the percentage of business use, (though cell phone and food probably are not pertinent) or you can deduct mileage at a standard rate for business use. If you go the “simple” route and deduct mileage instead of “actual” expenses your Schedule C would consist of exactly 2 lines so it’s not very hard – but you will loose out on a lot of deductions and pay a lot more in taxes.

4. Beware Of Requirement To Make Estimated Tax Payments.

Remember you are not an “employee” of the sharing economy facilitators; you are an “independent contractor”.  As such, there is no withholding of any taxes from your checks; you are responsible for all taxes – Self Employment taxes and income taxes – on your net earnings.  The U.S. tax system is pay-as-you-go. This means that taxpayers involved in the sharing economy often need to make estimated tax payments during the year. These payments are due on April 15, June 15, September 15 and January 15 (of the next year). Taxpayers use Form 1040-ES to figure these payments.

Why The IRS Likes The Gig Economy.

Unlike traditional transactions where two parties directly deal with each other and nothing is reported to the IRS, gig economy facilitators who connect the two parties, collect the money from the paying party and transmit the revenue to the service provider will report the sale to IRS using Form 1099. The IRS now has a tool by which they can match up the amount of income you report on your tax return and if the Form 1099 amount is greater, you can be sure that the IRS will catch this and send you a tax bill.

What Should You Do?

As the gig economy continues to grow, so do the associated tax problems. The IRS obviously is interested in folks who earn money using their autos as on-call car services or rent their homes to out-of-towners. That is why it’s important to keep good records. Choose a recordkeeping system suited to your business that clearly shows your income and expenses. The business you’re in affects the type of records you need to keep for federal tax purposes. Your recordkeeping system should include a summary of your business transactions. Your records must also show your gross income, as well as your deductions and credits. Federal law sets statutes of limitations that can affect how long you need to keep tax records.

Don’t Take The Chance And Lose Everything You Have Worked For.

Protect yourself. If you are selected for an audit, stand up to the IRS by getting representation. Tax problems are usually a serious matter and must be handled appropriately so it’s important to that you’ve hired the best lawyer for your particular situation. The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Diego County (Carlsbad) and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income. Additionally, 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.