Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

When laws don’t match social change: Legal Marijuana Faces Another Federal Hurdle: Taxes

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Jack Healy reports in the NY Times:

Money was pouring into Bruce Nassau’s five Colorado marijuana shops when his accountant called with the bad news: The 2014 tax season was approaching, and Mr. Nassau could not rely on the galaxy of deductions that other businesses use to reduce their tax bills. He was going to owe the Internal Revenue Service a small fortune.

“I had to write a check for $275,000,” Mr. Nassau said. “Unbelievable.”

The country’s rapidly growing marijuana industry has a tax problem. Even as more states embrace legal marijuana, shops say they are being forced to pay crippling federal income taxes because of a decades-old law aimed at preventing drug dealers from claiming their smuggling costs and couriers as business expenses on their tax returns.

Congress passed that law in 1982 after a cocaine and methamphetamine dealer in Minneapolis who had been jailed on drug charges went to tax court to argue that the money he spent on travel, phone calls, packaging and even a small scale should be considered tax write-offs. The provision, still enforced by the I.R.S., bans all tax credits and deductions from “the illegal trafficking in drugs.”

Marijuana business owners say it prevents them from deducting their rent, employee salaries or utility bills, forcing them to pay taxes on a far larger amount of income than non-marijuana businesses with the same earnings and costs. They also say the taxes, which apply to medical and recreational sellers alike, are stunting their hiring, or even threatening to drive them out of business.

The issue reveals a growing chasm between the 23 states, plus the District of Columbia, that allow medical or recreational marijuana and the federal bureaucracy, which includes national forests in Colorado where possession is a federal crime, federally regulated banks that turn away marijuana businesses and the halls of the I.R.S.

While President Obama and top federal officials have allowed states to pursue legalization, marijuana advocates say the dissonance between increasingly permissive state laws and federal prohibitions is creating a morass of complications and uncertainty.

The tax rule, an obscure provision referred to as 280E, catches many marijuana entrepreneurs by surprise, often in the form of an audit notice from the I.R.S. Some marijuana businesses in Colorado, California and other marijuana-friendly states have challenged the I.R.S. in tax court.

This year, Allgreens, a marijuana shop in Colorado, successfully challenged an I.R.S. policy that imposed about $30,000 in penalties for paying its payroll taxes in cash — common in an industry in which businesses rely on armed guards and cash-stuffed safes because they cannot get bank accounts.

“We’re talking about legal businesses, licensed businesses,” said Rachel Gillette, the executive director of Colorado’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and the lawyer who represented Allgreens. “There’s no reason that they should be taxed out of existence by the federal government.” . . .

Continue reading.

If only the US had a Congress that actually functioned.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 May 2015 at 12:22 pm

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