Will Taxes Mean the End of Marijuana Reform?

Last November, Maine voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana. Since then, entrepreneurs in the industry have begun gearing up now for what will become a real growing frenzy. Warehouse space is being gobbled up by speculators looking to participate in what is already a multibillion-dollar industry. However, all parties should be wary of IRS Code Section 280E.

The states that have legalized marijuana impose sales or excise taxes which are generally passed directly to the consumer of between 10% and 30%. Colorado alone is expected to report sales in excess of $1,000,000,000 with a tax structure that includes a 2.9% sales tax, a special recreational sales tax of 10% plus a 15% excise tax. Needless to say, State and local governments in Colorado are cashing in. What is not so widely known is that the federal government is also cashing in and the entire industry is at risk.

By my count, 23 states now allow for medical or recreational use but the federal government has made no headway in removing marijuana from its list of Schedule 1 controlled substances. The significance of this categorization is important because IRS Code section 280E denies most deductions incurred by businesses trafficking any substances listed on Schedule 1. Since the Maine tax code piggybacks the federal code, it also disallows trafficking/selling related expenses. Currently, corporations in Maine face a federal and state tax rate of 45% on its gross profit. Without the ability to deduct ordinary business related expenses, the industry could see effective tax rates between 80-90% of income.

So how does Congress protect Maine’s marijuana industry? The fix is simple. Congress should remove marijuana (sold legally under state law) from the list of Schedule 1 drugs. To a limited degree, many bills addressing parts of this issue have been put forth and sit in committee somewhere, each seemingly stonewalled. The most recent bill introduced into the House, “States’ Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act” gives some insight to the magnitude of the problem of using your property to grow marijuana. The bill removes real estate from the list of items that can be forfeited as a result of a violation of the Act.

The Controlled Substances Act currently imposes forfeitures which include, among other things, the forfeiture of “All real property, including any right, title, and interest… any lot or tract of land and any appurtenances or improvements, which is used…a violation of this subchapter…”. The aforementioned bill only sets out to remove from the penalty section the forfeiture of real property but does not remove Marijuana from the list of Schedule 1 substances.

This should be a reminder to all, even those merely renting warehouse space, that until the federal law removes legal marijuana from its Schedule 1 list, the life of the industry is on the line.

Jamie Boulette, CPA has 30 years of tax experience and is managing director of Perry, Fitts, Boulette & Fitton CPAs with offices in Bath and Oakland. He can be reached at jboulette@pfbf.com or 371-8002.

 

Tax Season is for Nonprofits, Too

“Tax season” is a term that most of us are familiar with and things are certainly getting into full swing at tax firms across the country. Typically, people think of Forms 1040, 1120 and 1065 at this time of year. There is however, another very important form that non-profit organizations (NPO) need to file, which is IRS Form 990 – Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax. Unlike individuals, NPO’s have varying year ends which keep CPA firms busy year-round.

Form 990 presents the organization’s financial picture for the year. In addition, it provides information on governance, compliance with other tax filings, specific information on programs and overall general operations. In short, it is a one-stop shop for users to learn about an organization. Consequently, it’s important for the NPO to complete the return accurately and of course timely.

There are 16 schedules to the 990 that a nonprofit organization needs to be aware of. Management, along with assistance from the auditor/accountant, should go through the “Checklists of Required Schedules” on pages 3 and 4 of the 990 to determine which schedules pertain to them and that will in fact need to be filed. The following are some of the more common schedules required: Schedule A – Public Charity Status and Public Support, Schedule B – Schedule of Contributors, Schedule D – Supplemental Financial Statements, Schedule G – Supplemental Information Regarding Fundraising or Gaming Activities, Schedule J – Compensation Information, Schedule L – Transactions with Interested Persons and Schedule O – Supplemental Information to Form 990.

For nonprofits with gross receipts of less than $200,000 and total assets at the end of the year of less than $500,000, the Form 990-EZ should be filed. Smaller tax-exempt organizations who’s annual gross receipts are normally $50,000 or less can comply with their annual reporting requirement by electronically submitting Form 990-N (e-Postcard). The due date for the Form 990 series is the 15th day of the 5th month following the year-end. For NPOs with a December 2016 year-end, the initial due date is May 15th.

Form 990 is not only an IRS compliance requirement, but more importantly it is a way for the NPO to educate potential donors and board members, tell their story, explain their mission and market their organization and programs. It can be a key tool in an organization’s fundraising and marketing efforts.

About the Author: Danielle D. Martin, CPA is a Senior Audit Manager at PFBF CPAs with 24 years of experience in the accounting world. She can be reached at danielle@pfbf.com or 873-1603.