2018 and the new tax code presents itself with a myriad of changes on both an individual and corporate level. One of the biggest changes, from a corporate level, was the elimination of the AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax). Today, we will talk about the definition of AMT, why it started and how it will impact the cannabis industry.
What is AMT?
The corporate Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) is a separate and distinct method of taxation that runs parallel to the “regular” corporate income tax. Prior to 2018, every corporation had to calculate its tax burden under both the regular corporate income tax and the AMT, paying the higher of the two. It’s important to note, today we will strictly be talking about AMT as it relates to corporations, not individuals (the AMT was not eliminated for individuals).
The Alternative Minimum Tax began in 1969. The start of AMT can be traced to then Secretary of Treasury Joseph W. Barr. He testified before Congress that 155 individual taxpayers, with incomes exceeding $200,000, had paid no federal income tax in 1966. Adjusted for inflation, those numbers would translate to $1.5 million dollars today.
The idea that the wealthiest citizens could pay zero income tax did not sit well with the government. Therefore, the AMT was created. This ensured that even those with higher incomes would pay a minimum amount of tax. Otherwise, through tax deductions and credits, citizens could essentially pay zero taxes. With so many deductions available, lawmakers wanted to ensure everyone paid at least some base minimum of tax regardless of how many tax breaks they could use to their advantage.
Changes For 2018
Prior to the changes of 2018, the United States had one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world at 35%. The new 2018 regulations establish a flat 21% corporate rate for businesses and personal service corporations (PSCs). The corporate tax rate average for the developed world is 22%. Theoretically, the reduction of the corporate tax rate by 14% should create a nice boom for U.S. based companies, allowing them to keep their operations and profits here in the U.S.
Prior to the changes for 2018, the corporate AMT tax rate was 20 percent. Additionally, C corporations with average gross receipts less than $7.5 million over the preceding three tax years were not subject to AMT. As of January 1, 2018 – the corporate AMT was completely eliminated. Individual AMT still applies, although a few things have changed. Please consult California Cannabis CPA if you’d like some guidance on individual AMT regulations.
How Do These Changes Affect The Cannabis Industry?
If your cannabis business is a corporation, you may benefit from the elimination of the AMT. If you are still researching how to set up your business, read our 10 steps to start a cannabis business. California Cannabis CPA is happy to walk you through the process.
Theoretically, the removal of AMT should be a benefit. The AMT was a completely separate tax code that created a lot of additional record keeping. The elimination simplifies dozens of other tax code sections that were related to the corporate AMT. And unlike before, if your business made over a certain amount of money, you had to pay the higher of the two taxes. Not the case anymore.
Second, functioning businesses are able to write off (or deduct) certain business expenses from their overall income. Normally, these include expenses such as operating costs, employee expenses and equipment. However, the cannabis business has certain limitations due to tax code 280E.
On the federal level, cannabis is still considered a Schedule 1 drug. Therefore, licensed marijuana businesses have to file federal taxes under tax code 280E because of the Controlled Substances Act. The downside to filing under 280E is that licensed cannabis businesses pay more in federal taxes than other businesses do. 280E bans any tax deductions besides the cost of goods sold. If you try to deduct other expenses (similar to how other businesses operate) you will likely face an audit.
However, there are situations where additional write-offs may be allowed. This is usually the case if your business participates in marijuana for medicinal purposes. 280E is a very complicated tax code, so we recommend consulting with California Cannabis CPA to ensure every detail is covered.
In conclusion, it looks like the removal of the AMT will be beneficial, but cannabis companies will still run into challenges with the amount of expenses they are able to deduct. California Cannabis CPA is happy to speak with you to discuss your individual circumstance, ensuring you remain compliant with the new tax codes.