EMERGENCY RELEASE: CALIFORNIA CANNABIS DISPENSARIES MUST PAY TAXES BEFORE GETTING SELLERS PERMIT
What happened: In news this week, California’s Department of Tax and Fee Administration is requesting dispensaries to pay any unpaid taxes before getting a seller’s permit. It’s an effort to bring those gray-area operators who haven’t formally been paying taxes up to code before the marijuana industry takes off in 2018. For any businesses already growing or selling cannabis, the California state government will request that all dispensaries must pay their taxes before applying for a sellers permit.
Why is it important: The cannabis industry in California is projected to bring in $1 billion in taxes by 2020, and the government wants to kickstart that windfall early. Not only that, but regulators are hoping to quash any lingering black market operators. The goal in requiring operators to pay back-taxes is to bring the industry above board before January 1 -- not to punish any existing operators, says one expert. Therefore, the state is likely to continue to work with any business owners who still want to get a seller’s permit and haven’t yet paid their taxes.
What you need to do now: If you’re one of those gray areas operators, start to go through your records to determine how much tax you potentially owe before January 1. Under the state’s recent legislation, retailers and growers need temporary business permits from their individual towns or jurisdictions. These permits will last for four months, at which point they will be approved by state regulators for the official seller’s permit. That means now is the time to catch up on any lingering back taxes -- or risk getting shut down four months from now.
Questions on how this applies to you? Get in touch with the experts at California Cannabis CPA today to get some advice on how to best proceed for your canna-business. We can help you easily get caught up on your taxes and get your return filed in a week!
So, you want to start a business in California’s booming cannabis industry. Now seems like the perfect time to get in on the ground floor: the market estimates that cannabis will bring an additional $5 billion to California each year. It would be nice to get a slice of that pie, no?
Before you dive in, take some time to learn about the different ways to structure your business in a way that will give you the biggest slice of the pie -- not the leftover sliver that’s all crust (unless crust is your thing). The way you setup your company can mean the difference between growth and success and burning out after a year in business. Ask these five tax questions when setting out to structure your canna-business!
1. What kind of legal entity do you want to be?
Historically, before California decided to have a fully regulated state system for medical marijuana, cannabis companies were set up as non-profits. Now, there are other options for structuring your business. Figuring out which model is right for you depends on many factors, including your role in the cannabis industry (i.e. grower, distributor, or partner); county and local regulations; and your projected growth. Here are some options available:
Nonprofit (allowed pre-2018):
For profit (allowed in 2018):
2. What are your growth goals?
Do you plan to have multiple locations and holdings? Depending on how your business operates, you can structure to account for different levels of liability. If you have multiple corporate entities, for example, you can limit your liability within each one. Then if one of your locations is sued or forced to shut down, your other locations can continue to operate independently. Conversely, managing multiple corporate entities can be a logistical nightmare -- especially if you intend to grow big or go home. It is much more efficient to run all your branches under one corporate entity if you’re smart about handling your risk.
3. What are your investors looking for?
Investors will be interested in your company’s assets, inventory, cash receivables, and profit potential. They will want to see your business model in all its parts: trademarks, intellectual property, physical locations, and more. When you want to raise some serious capital -- going beyond your personal investment and a Kickstarter campaign -- the way you structure your company can impact an investor’s interest. For example, in a multi-entity structure with different locations and sub-companies, an investor can pick and choose which parts of your business they want to fund. Having a multi-entity structure can be very attractive if you’re shopping your canna-business around to people with low risk tolerance (and it widens your potential pool of funders). However, different ownership stakes can start to lead to conflicting interests for you as a manager. Having a seat at many tables with multiple influential voices can cause some real cross-company conflicts for you as a leader.
4. How should you structure compensation and benefits?
Cannabis tax regulations have two special rules. First: cannabis companies can deduct the cost of goods sold on their tax return. Second: cannabis companies cannot deduct any sales and marketing expenses. Ouch.
What this means is that many traditional expenses can’t be claimed as decreed by tax law section 280E. Know the ins and outs of payroll tax, executive compensation, and healthcare benefits you’ll be accountable for as a business owner in the California cannabis industry. The best way to do that is to consult with a tax professional in your community.
5. What do you need to do to be compliant?
This is a big question -- and pretty broad at that. If you’ve made it this far, this step is the most crucial. Knowing what forms you need to fill out, what licenses you need, and how to best account for your expenses is what will make or break your business in the long run. California Cannabis CPA will be releasing more guides and checklists in the coming weeks to help you keep track of everything, but know that compliancy varies by district, county, and between the federal and state levels. If you’re going to have locations in different parts of California, do the research for each area you’re operating in. When in doubt -- pay your taxes!
Currently the city of Coalinga, CA is accepting applications to obtain a permit for cultivation, processing, extraction, manufacturing, testing, and distribution activities with an approved Conditional Use Permit (CUP) and Regulatory Permit within areas of the City zoned Manufacturing and Business Light (MBL).
Anyone interested in operating a Commercial Cannabis business within the City of Coalinga must obtain the following:
Step 1: Attend Mandatory Pre-Application Meeting
Step 2: Identify Property Zoned Location Suitable for Commercial Cannabis Activity
Step 3: Submit Regulatory Permit Application Packet Requirements
Obtaining a Commercial Cannabis Permit is a dual submittal process. Application documents must be filed with both the Police Chief and Community Development Department.
Cannabis Permit Processing Matrix
Step 1: Attend Mandatory Pre-Application Meeting
There is a prerequisite of scheduling a mandatory pre-application meeting prior to the submission of an official application package for a Commercial Cannabis Permit. All prospective applicants must schedule a pre-application meeting with the City of Coalinga by contacting Amy Martinez, Community Development Secretary at 559-935-1533 x141. The purpose of the pre-application meeting is to provide a comprehensive review of the application process, the application content, and the expectations of the City as it relates to permitting requirements such as the security plan, floor plan, cannabis operational characteristics, employee permits, licensing fees and taxes, monitoring and compliance, legal documents, etc.
Step 2: Identify Property Zoned Location Suitable for Commercial Cannabis Activity
According to the City of Coalinga’s Commercial Marijuana Operations Ordinance, all licensed Commercial Marijuana Operations are permitted within the Manufacturing and Business Light Zoning Designations (MBL). Also, in the ordinance is a restriction of 1,800 feet from any currently sited and future sited school (K-12). For more information regarding school siting you can view the attached map that identified locations in town outside that restriction.
The following applications for land use will need to be submitted:
Additional information on fees and regulations can be found at the following links:
Lands Zoned for Cannabis Operations:
Step 3: Submit Regulatory Permit Application Packet Requirements
It is of utmost important to the City of Coalinga City Council to regulate the commercial cannabis industry in a manner which takes into consideration the needs of patients and their caregivers while promoting the health, safety and welfare of residents and businesses. It is the responsibility of the Community Development Department and the Police Department to implement the City’s Commercial Cannabis Ordinance (No. 797) and the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA), which was signed into law on June 25, 2017 by the Governor which created a licensing and regulatory framework for both adult use and medicinal cannabis.
At this time, the City of Coalinga is accepting permit applications for commercial cannabis cultivation (indoor), manufacturing (volatile/non-volatile, testing, distribution and wholesale nurseries, in accordance with the standards of the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA) and the City’s adopted Commercial Marijuana Operations (CMO) Regulations (Ordinance No. 797). The City’s ordinance does not allow for the licensing of retailers at this time.
There is an application fee of $2,000.00 and an employee fee(s) of $400.00 per employee that is due when submitting an official application.
The Police Chief will review the entire application package once a completed package along with receipt of paid application fees have been received. The Police Chief will issue a recommendation to the City Council to approve/deny the regulatory permit in accordance with Section 95.128.
There are several Regulatory Permit Application Requirements: Application Checklist
Please contact Sean Brewer, Community Development Director with any questions at 559-935-1533 x 141 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beginning January 1, 2018, the state of California’s marijuana tax laws will change for distributors, cultivators, manufacturers and retailers of marijuana and cannabis products.
The information outlines the process for collecting, paying and filing taxes under the new laws:
Step 1: Secure Permits and Licenses
Step 2: Register with California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA)
Step 3: Collect and/or Pay Taxes
Step 4: File Taxes
On November 8, 2016 voters in California approved Proposition 64 (Prop 64), the “Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act”. This proposition was designed to reshape the use and taxation of marijuana in the state in a number of ways including designating specific agencies to regulate and licenses of the marijuana industry in California. Prop 64 also impacts the collection and payment of taxes for the following marijuana business groups defined below:
Step 1: Secure Permits and Licenses
Under the new state law, marijuana businesses will be required to obtain licenses from the state agency listed above. The Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) is the agency developing regulations for medicinal marijuana use and those regulations should be available November 2017. Marijuana businesses are highly encouraged to apply for a temporary license from the BCC as soon as the regulations are available. The BCC will also issue temporary licenses which be effective January 1, 2018. In order to secure a temporary license through the BCC, a business must have authorization from a local government (city and/or county) to run a marijuana business in their local community. Temporary licenses will be good for 120 days from the date of issuance.
This proposition imposes specific marijuana excise and cultivation taxes. Prop 64 was later amended by Senate Bill 94 (SB 94) which repealed the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Marijuana Safety Act (MCRSA) while defining the payment and collection of taxes. Below is the breakdown of tax collection and payment between distributors, cultivators, manufacturers and retailers:
Step 2: Register with California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA): All marijuana distributors, cultivators, manufacturers and retailers are required to register with the CDTFA for seller’s and tax permits. Seller’s and tax permits are different and require that businesses apply for separate permits. Below is information that will be required for businesses to provide when registering with the CDTFA:
The NAICS number for most medicinal marijuana businesses is classified the same as pharmacies and drug stores therefore the code is 44610. Manufacturers may fall under a different NAICS code, depending on their business activities. The manufacturer section offers additional business code information on their NAICS classification.
Distributor: Marijuana distributors must collect the following taxes: cultivation, excise and sales from the cultivators, manufacturers and retailers.
All business equipment and supplies (computers, signage, etc.) are generally subject to sales tax. Most retailers will collect the tax at the time of purchase. If the distributor is not taxed but the seller of the equipment, they should include the purchase on the “Purchases Subject to Use” tax on the “sales and use tax return”. Supplies like wrapping for marijuana and cannabis products (ex: bags) may fall under resale. The Tax and Fees section of the BOE offers additional information on use tax.
Cultivator: The cultivator must pay the manufacturer and distributor a cultivation tax.
Please note that cultivation tax rate may change. Beginning January 1, 2020, the CDTFA will be required to annually adjust the cultivation tax rate based on inflation.
The cannabis distributor, manufacturer and retailer must provide the cannabis cultivator with a “timely” and “valid” resale certificate. If a resale certificate is not provided a sales tax will be applied to the sale and the cannabis cultivator must report and pay tax to CDTFA. The California State Board of Equalization (BOE) offers additional information on sale for resale in Publication 103.
The following are examples of items considered cannabis cultivator farm equipment and machinery:
Cannabis cultivators who qualify for partial farm equipment exemptions may also qualify for partial exemption on solar power equipment. The state issued a special notice on solar power farm equipment offering additional details.
Manufacturer: The manufacturer must collect taxes from the cultivator and must pay the distributor a cultivation tax.
Please note that cultivation tax rate may change. Beginning January 1, 2020, the CDTFA will be required to annually adjust the cultivation tax rate based on inflation.
Documentation like a receipt or invoice with the following information must be provided for these transactions. The information below should be included:
Retailer: The retailer charges and collects sales tax on “taxable retail sales” marijuana and cannabis products as well as other products. They are also required to collect cannabis excise tax from customers and pay this tax to the distributor.
Exemptions: Effective November 9, 2016 certain sales of medicinal marijuana are exempt from sales and use tax as defined by the Business and Professions code. Some items included are: medical cannabis, medicinal cannabis concentrate, edible medicinal cannabis products or topical cannabis.
Customer must provide their MMI and ID at the time of purchase. Retailers must keep an electronic or paper record of the following information for exempt transactions:
Retailers should not collect sales tax on these purchases and should claim a deduction on sales and use tax return for exempt medicinal marijuana and cannabis products sales.
Purchases: Purchases made on products that will be resold can be made without paying sales or use tax. Retailers must provide the seller a “valid” and “timely” resale certificate. Out-of-state vendors may not apply the California state tax. In this situation the cannabis retailer is responsible for reporting and paying the sales or use tax when they file their return with the CDTFA.
Items for use in a retail business like signage, scales, and computers are subject to sales tax at the time of purchase. Packaging and other supplies may be purchased for resale without paying sales tax.
Step 4: File Taxes: All marijuana business owners must register for a seller’s permit and file sales and use tax returns. Distributors of marijuana and cannabis products must register for a cannabis tax permit and file tax returns regularly.
As of November 9, 2016, certain retail transactions will be exempt from the sales and use tax. The BOE lists examples and the process for recording tax exempt transactions in a “Special Notice”.
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.