California City Taxes for Medical and Recreational Marijuana
In November 2016, California passed Proposition 64 which legalized recreational marijuana in the state of California. At the same time, voters voted on a number of city tax ordinances which were designed to apply local city taxes to the cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, and sales of medical and recreational marijuana.
With 482 municipalities in California in all, dozens of ballot measures were up for vote in November 2016. For several cities, we have provided summaries of each of the tax laws that have been passed below. While this is only a partial list of the measures that were passed it can help you to get a clearer picture of what taxes you will be required to pay based on where you locate your cannabis business.
The California medical sales tax rate is 7.60%. The majority of these ballot measures do not address the sale of recreational marijuana directly because they left it up to the passage of state laws and/or additional city ordinances to determine whether or not recreational cannabis would be considered legal in their municipalities.
With the passage of Proposition 64, in many cases, these city ordinances now also apply to recreational cannabis businesses. For more specific details, please check with each city to determine the exact ordinances that apply to your medical or recreational cannabis business.
On November 8, 2016, California voters opted to legalize cannabis for recreational use through Proposition 64. Proposition 64, known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) legalizes and regulates recreational cannabis in the state of California. Proposition 64 will also add state taxes for licensed dispensaries and cannabis cultivators.
15% Medical Marijuana Tax
In 2018, all retail sales of cannabis will be subject to a 15% marijuana excise tax. Although the purchaser of the cannabis or cannabis product technically owes the tax, the seller will actually be obligated to collect the tax, as well as, any other sales and use taxes that apply in the state of California. However, there is one exception that makes businesses and customers exempt from this excise tax. That is, if the individual purchasing the medical cannabis or medical cannabis product provides a state-issued Medical Marijuana Identification Card.
Until now, qualified patients and caregivers have not been required to register as medical marijuana patients with the state. However Proposition 64 will require that these individuals obtain the identification cards if they want to be exempted from the excise tax.
Cultivation Tax for Cultivators
In 2018, all licensed cannabis cultivators, excluding those patients and caregivers who cultivate cannabis for personal use, will be required to pay a cultivation tax on all marijuana that is harvested to be sold on the commercial market per the Compassionate Use Act. The tax will be assessed at the rates of $2.75 per ounce of leaves and $9.25 per ounce of flowers.
Local Taxes for Licensed Cannabis Businesses
The Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA) and Proposition 64 will enable California cities and counties to impose local taxes on licensed marijuana businesses. Several municipalities opted to include their own local tax measures on the recreational marijuana ballot for November 8.
In certain Northern California counties, including Calaveras County, Humboldt County, Lake County, and Monterey County, the cultivator taxes will be based on the grow's total square footage. Mendocino County has opted to place two tax measures on the ballot. These measures are from the County's Board of Supervisors and local marijuana advocates. They both suggest a 2.5% tax based on the gross sales of medical marijuana and the latter having a higher 5% tax on recreational sales of cannabis.
In Southern California, a San Diego tax measure proposal looks to tax dispensaries at a rate of 5% that will rise over time to 8% in 2019. However, a Santa Barbara tax measure looks to tax cannabis businesses at a 20% tax rate. Several Southern California towns have already began taxing cannabis businesses. Coachella is set to vote on a tax measure that will add quarterly taxes of up to 6% for gross sales and 15% per square foot.
Under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 280E, no individual is permitted to take a deduction or credit on income taxes if the income resulted from carrying on any trade or business if the business consists of trafficking in controlled substances, such as marijuana, under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This section of the IRC was designed to prohibit individuals from taking individual tax deductions from marijuana sales. However, how does federal tax law apply to California corporations, s-corps, LLCs for the purposes of deducting expenses?
California Corporations and the Revenue and Taxation Code
The differences between federal law and California state laws have created an unique situation for California marijuana businesses due to the treatment of income and expenses for personal income tax (individuals and partnerships) versus corporation tax law (including statutory cooperatives).
For individuals and partnerships, Revenue and Taxation Code Section 17282 has prohibited taxpayers from taking deductions on any of his or her gross income as a result of income derived from illegal activities, including drug trafficking. However, the taxpayer must be found to have engaged in these activities first due to a criminal or other proceeding in which the state, county, city, or other subdivision was a party.
For corporations, including statutory cooperatives, California has enacted a stand-alone law. A statutory cooperative is a cooperative that has organized and registered as a corporation under the Corporations or Food and Agricultural Code (Id. at Section 12311(b)).
According to California tax law, an entity that is taxed as a corporation per Part 11 of the Revenue and Taxation Code and is also involved in medical marijuana activity is permitted to deduct its ordinary and necessary businesses expenses, along with the cost of goods sold, provided that the entity can substantiate any deductions that it claims with adequate records.
How California Classifies C Corporations, S Corporations, and LLCs
In California, a C corporation refers to an entity that is doing business in California, organized in California, or registered with the California Secretary of State. A C Corporation is business entity that is taxed as a separate entity from its shareholders. The C Corporation pays corporate taxes on its profits while the shareholders are not taxed on the C corporation's profits. The shareholders of a C corporation only report and pay taxes on the income that is paid to them by the corporation.
In addition, California also has specific definitions for corporations that are S corporations or LLCs:
The owners of LLCs that have not made the election for the LLC to be classified as a corporation for federal tax purposes are not required to pay a salary so they can take their earnings as distributions. Therefore, when they report the net income for the LLC, there may be no salary expenses to be disallowed under Section 280E. Additionally, if the owners are involved in the selling, marketing or delivery of marijuana and they do take a salary, this salary expense is disallowed under Section 280E.
However, if the LLC is taxed as a C corporation, the LLC owners are required to pay themselves reasonable salaries, and this salary expense may be disallowed under Section 280E.
California Tax Law Does Not Automatically Conform to Federal Tax Law
In California, individuals are bound by the provisions of Section 280-E. However, this tax law does not automatically conform for corporations. This is due to the fact that California law has not been designed to conform to changes in federal tax law, except under specific circumstances. Instead, California policy makers are required to affirmatively conform to changes in federal tax law.
However, legislative sessions in California do not systematically address nonconformity with federal law and they haven’t in sometime. In fact, the last time that California policy makers agreed to address nonconformities with federal tax laws on an annual basis occurred from the years 1982 through 1992. Beginning in 1992, the California Legislature stopped enacting annual conformity bills that were designed to require policymakers to act on federal tax law changes by a specified date each year.
As a result, several nonconformity issues, such as the nonconformity of California corporations with Section 280-E of the IRC, have gone unaddressed.
When it comes to taxes, many hemp businesses are unsure about Internal Revenue Code Section 280-E and whether or not it applies to their businesses. Section 280-E was passed in order to prevent drug dealers from taking business deductions on income from trafficking in controlled substances, like cocaine and marijuana. Here is what you should know about growing hemp versus marijuana and its application to 280-E.
The cultivation of hemp has been considered by the federal government to be a violation of the Controlled Substances Act because hemp is botanically related to marijuana. In addition, hemp also contains low levels of THC, which is the same psychoactive substance found in marijuana. These properties are why the government sought to include hemp by default in the Controlled Substances Act.
The government did make some distinction between hemp and marijuana with the passage of the Agricultural Act of 2014, which removed the federal restrictions on growing industrial hemp and permitted any states that have legalized the manufacturing of hemp to set up research programs in order to study the benefits of cultivating hemp.
Since the federal government has failed to create an exception for hemp in the list of Schedule I substances of the Controlled Substances Act, Section 280-E still applies to hemp growers and hemp distribution businesses.
As a result, hemp growers still face the same restrictions on permitted deductions as marijuana growers when it comes to taxation. The full list of deductions that are available to hemp growers can be found here.
In the same way that hemp growers are treated like marijuana growers for taxation purposes, hemp distributors must also follow the same rules as marijuana distributors. The full list of deductions that are available to hemp distributors can be found here.
The IRS is getting tough on cannabis business in Colorado and is going after cannabis entrepreneurs who failed to fill out Form 8300. If you want to avoid being audited by the IRS, it is important for you to stay on top of these filings. Here is what Form 8300 is and why it is important.
What Is Form 8300?
Form 8300, Report of Cash Payments Over $10,000 Received in a Trade or Business, is a form used by the federal government to keep track of cash payments of more than $10,000. These filings are designed to assist law enforcement in investigating and preventing money laundering, tax evasion, drug dealing, financing of terrorism activities, and other criminal acts.
For purposes of Form 8300, cash doesn't only include U.S. dollar coins and bills and foreign currency notes; it may also include cashier's checks, bank drafts, traveler's checks, and money orders if the face value is $10,000 or less.
These filings are designed to assist law enforcement in investigating and preventing money laundering, tax evasion, drug dealing, financing of terrorism activities, and other criminal acts.
Who Must File Form 8300?
Every person who engages in a trade or business and also receives more than $10,000 in cash in a single transaction or in two or more related transactions is required to file Form 8300. Transactions that are considered related transactions are those that are conducted between a payer (or its agent) in a 24-hour period. The transactions may also be considered related if the recipient of the payment knows that each transaction is a part of a series of transactions.
The IRS has also issued IRS Form 8300 Reference Guide to help you determine which transactions qualify as reportable transactions. Cash doesn't only include U.S. dollar coins and bills and foreign currency notes. It may also include cashier's checks, bank drafts, traveler's checks, and money orders if the face value is $10,000 or less.
Form 8300 Filing Examples
Here are two examples to help you understand when you need to file Form 8300:
Example 1. Jack asks an employee to purchase cannabis for his dispensary. The employee orders the product in two shipments and he pays with two cash payments, each for $6,000. The cannabis grow business who received more than $10,000 in the designated reporting transaction must file Form 8300.
Example 2. A cannabis supply shop sells growing equipment for $9,000 in cash to Adam at 10 a.m. During the afternoon on the same day, Adam returns to buy more equipment and pays an additional $9,000 in cash. Since, both transactions occurred within a 24-hour period, they are related transactions and the grow equipment supplier must file Form 8300.
When Do I File Form 8300?
Each time you receive a payment that meets the criteria for filing Form 8300, you must file the form for the transaction within 15 days of receiving the payment. You can file online using the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) Electronic Filing (E-Filing) System at the FinCEN website.
What Are the Penalties for Failing to File Form 8300?
If you simply fail to file Form 8300 on time, a penalty of $250 per occurrence will be assessed. This penalty is capped at $1,000,000 per year for businesses with gross receipts not exceeding $5 million. If you fix the error and make sure that the forms are filed within 30 days of the deadline, then this penalty limited is reduced to $175,000 per year for businesses with gross receipts not exceeding $5 million. However, if your business grosses more than $5 million, then the penalty cap increases to $3 million.
However, if you intentionally fail to file Form 8300, the penalty increases to $25,000 of the total amount of the transaction, up to a maximum of $100,000 for each time that you failed to file. In addition, felony charges may be brought against you in more severe cases. Criminal penalties will be applied by default if you structure or appear to structure payments in order to avoid filing Form 8300 for the transactions.
California dispensaries are required to meet a variety of tax and licensing requirements in order to operate legally in the state of California. Obtaining proper medical marijuana licenses is key to compliance. Below is a list of several applicable taxes and licensing requirements for dispensaries in California.
California Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA)
In California, all dispensaries are regulated by the California Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA), which is made up of three laws, Assembly Bill 266, Assembly Bill 243, and Senate Bill 643. AB 266 allows for businesses to obtain operational medical marijuana licenses from the state of California. It also legalizes all commercial cannabis activities by licensed California dispensaries. It gives local jurisdictions the power to tax and assess fees against California dispensaries. AB 243 regulates cannabis growers and SB 642 sets licensing standards for physicians who recommend medical marijuana to patients.
The state of California disallows the deduction of all business expenses for medical marijuana dispensaries that are not being taxed as a corporation under the State Revenue and Taxation Code. However, if the dispensary is structured in order to be taxed as a corporation, the deduction of all necessary and ordinary businesses expenses is permitted, as long as the dispensary maintains the proper records to support such deductions.
The state of California requires all dispensaries, including mobile dispensaries, to apply for a seller's permit with the Board of Equalization (BOE). There is no fee to apply for a seller's permit and it can be done via the BOE's Online Registration.
All retail sales of medical cannabis products and accessories are subject to California sales tax. California dispensaries are required to pay sales tax on a quarterly prepay, quarterly, monthly, fiscal yearly, or yearly basis based on the dispensary's reported sales or anticipated taxable sales at the time of registration for a Seller's Permit with the BOE. The statewide sales tax rate is 7.5%.
However, California dispensaries should also pay close attention to the laws regarding the taxation of medical marijuana as changes are expected soon. The California Senate is currently considering SB 987, a new bill introduced in February 2016, which would impose a 15% tax on the sale of medical marijuana to patients.
To mitigate having to pay taxes on purchases of medical marijuana and marijuana-related products, dispensaries must obtain a resale certificate to present to the supplier at the time of purchase. These resale certificates are available at California office supply and stationery stores and should include the necessary information to ensure that the form is a Board-approved retail certificate. One resale certificate should be kept on-file per vendor and the same resale certificate can be used each time a purchase is made from that specific vendor.
If your dispensary has employees, you will also be required to report wages and pay Income tax, Social security and Medicare taxes to the Employment Development Department (EDD) on a quarterly basis. The full requirements for reporting and depositing payroll taxes in California can be found here.
California dispensaries are required by law to maintain specific records so that the Board of Equalization can verify the accuracy of filed sales and use tax returns. These records must be maintained for at least 4 years. These records include sales and purchase records, bank statements, resale certificates, shipping documents, and tax returns. A comprehensive list of the books and records that are required to be maintained can be found here.
Depending on the other products and services that your business provides, there may also be other state taxes that apply to your business, including property tax and special taxes. Contact the appropriate offices to learn more.
As a cannabis reseller or producer, you may have the option to deduct COGS for certain expenses related to the operation of your business. These deductions can offer some substantial tax savings for your business, as the deduction options for cannabis businesses are limited to COGS due to § 280E of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC).
When the IRS Office of Chief Counsel issued Chief Counsel Advice (CCA) 201504011 in 2015, this memo was designed to clarify the COGS deductions that are available to cannabis businesses. The IRS determined that the specific IRC sections that govern the items that can be included as COGS for cannabis businesses are §1.471-3(b), in the case of a cannabis reseller, and §1.471-3(c) and 1.471-11, in the case of a cannabis producer.
While these regulations outline the general categories of deductions that are permitted for cannabis businesses, they do not detail what specific items cannabis businesses can deduct. To help you sort things out, here are some examples of the costs that you should include in your COGS basis for your canna-business so that you know exactly which items are deductible.
COGS for Cannabis Resellers
According to §1.471-3(b), the IRS has interpreted this section of the IRC to mean that cannabis businesses are permitted to deduct expenses related to inventory as COGS only. As result, cannabis resellers can claim deductions for:
●The invoice price for cannabis, less trade or other discounts
●Electric bills for designated inventory areas (electricity used in sales areas are not eligible to be deducted as COGS)
●Transportation (the cost of travel to purchase cannabis, transportation and shipping costs of the cannabis)
Cannabis resellers are permitted to take these deductions only as long as these charges are strictly related to the acquisition of cannabis for resale and the storage and handling of inventory. The best way to ensure that the IRS will not challenge these deductions is by creating an inventory space that is closed off from the sales area of your cannabis business.
COGS for Cannabis Producers
For cannabis producers, §1.471-3(c) and § 1.471-11 of the IRC define how these businesses should treat cannabis production costs and define which expenses they are permitted to deduct as COGS. The IRC advises the use of the "full absorption" method of computing COGS which takes into account both direct and indirect production costs.
Direct production costs are considered those costs which are necessary for the production of cannabis and the materials that are consumed as a part of the production process.
Per the IRC, the direct production costs that cannabis producers can deduct are the costs of:
●Raw materials and supplies (seeds, soil, clones, fertilizer)
●Expenditures for direct labor (hiring workers to clean, trim, cure, package and inventory the cannabis and the associated wages, payroll taxes, and insurance)
Examples of indirect production costs that can be deducted as COGS include:
●Repairs to production and storage facilities
●Maintenance costs for your production and storage facilities
●Utilities (water and electricity used to grow cannabis)
●Rent for your production facility
●Indirect materials and supplies (grow supplies and packaging)
●Indirect labor (supervisory wages)
●Costs of quality control and inspection
These indirect production costs are only deductible if they can be related to the production of cannabis. In addition, if the cannabis production business prepares financial statements that are in accordance with GAAP, some additional expenses can be deducted, which are outlined here.
Californians Helping to Alleviate Medical Problems (CHAMP)
In a 2007 case, Caregiving Californians Helping to Alleviate Med. Problems, Inc. v. C.I.R., 128 T.C. 173, the Tax Court determined that CHAMP could take business deductions for the patient care portions of the non-profit’s medical marijuana dispensary operations. CHAMP was a caregiving program that was designed to provide members with medical cannabis in according with the laws of the state of California. The organization also provided one-on-one counseling, medical supplies, yoga instruction, healthy meals, and Internet access.
As a not-for-profit entity per California law, the Tax Court agreed that CHAMP was actually two separate businesses. The ruling found that the CHAMP's primary business was actually caregiving services, which would permit the deduction of business expenses that were otherwise precluded by §280E.
The CHAMP case made it possible for cannabis businesses to operate multiple businesses under one roof. As a result, it is a good idea to add additional services onto your cannabis business so that you can take advantage of as many of these COGS deductions as possible.
Add patient services, such as counseling or advocacy, and make sure that all other businesses have real purposes and separate financial records to back up their operations. By expanding your business to include non-cannabis related services, you can improve your profits and increase the number of COGS deductions that your business can claim.
The Internal Revenue Service is after cannabis companies in Colorado, sparking uncertainty and unease among cannabis businesses. The newest audits are focusing on Form 8300, which is the form used to report cash transactions of $10,000 or more. The IRS is investigating large cash transactions which have been processed by these businesses for evidence of money laundering and under-reporting of business income. While some marijuana-related businesses in Colorado have already been able to settle their Form 8300 audits, other business owners are dealing with audits from the IRS regarding Section 280E. This article is intended to help marijuana related business mitigate their potential exposure to an IRS audit.
For cannabis companies, an IRS audit doesn't only come along with the risk of having to pay additional tax liabilities, the businesses may also be hit with fraud or other criminal charges because cannabis is still considered to be an illegal drug under federal statutes. Generally, businesses that earn $200,000 can expect to be audited at a higher rate than businesses that earn less than this amount. Underreporting your income is one of the top IRS red flags and with cannabis-related businesses dealing in cash, it is fairly easy for these businesses to come under the scrutiny of the IRS.
Until the law changes, every cannabis company is at a substantially higher risk of being audited by the IRS than other types of business. As a result, it is extremely important for your business to follow these best practices so that you can reduce your chances of being audited.
1. Maintain Careful Records and Copies. The more your business makes, the higher the chances are of an audit. This is because you are likely to be required to file Form 8300 for multiple transactions that were conducted. In addition, if your business takes large deductions for cost of goods sold (COGS), the IRS may wish to examine your deductions more closely. Make sure that you maintain copies of all filed tax forms and receipts for all of the items that you claimed as a part of your COGS deductions.
2. Make Sure to File on Time. While it may seem obvious that you should file your returns on time, it can be difficult to keep up with the forms and due dates for marijuana-related businesses since the rules seem to change each year. Having a qualified tax professional prepare your taxes can help you keep on top of the legal requirements for your business.
Here are the annual deadlines that companies should be aware of:
● Corporation income tax returns (Forms 1120 and 1120-S) are due by March 15th for S corporations and April 17, 2017 for C corporations.
● Partnership tax returns (Form 1065) are due by March 15, 2017.
3.Comply With All State Laws. Make sure that you have properly disclosed all of the activities of your business and any related party interest to your lawyer and CPA to ensure that your business is in compliance with state law. To find out more about the laws that apply to cannabis-related businesses in each state, go to:
● Alaska: Alcohol & Marijuana Control Office
● Washington: Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board
● Oregon: Oregon Department of Revenue Marijuana Tax Program
● Colorado: Colorado Department of Revenue: Marijuana Taxes
● California: California Board of Equalization: Marijuana
Being in violation of state law puts your business at a much greater risk of audit because the federal government's current policy is to investigate cannabis-related businesses that violate both federal and state laws.
No matter how many precautions you take, there is absolutely no guarantee that your business won't be audited by the IRS. However, using the tips above can lessen your chances but you should still make sure to maintain, thorough, well-organized records just in case. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact us.