Tackling complex tax compliance issues is something I take great pride in doing as part of my job as the Commissioner for the Small Business/Self Employed (SB/SE) Examination division. I also see it as my responsibility to make sure my organization helps taxpayers navigate those complex issues and provides the tools that we have available for them to be successful and compliant business owners.
One such evolving and complex issue my organization has been focused on is the tax implications for the rapidly growing cannabis/marijuana industry. The specific rules and regulations regarding how it is taxed at the federal level provides the IRS an opportunity to promote voluntary compliance, not only through audits, but also through outreach and education. At last count, 36 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational or medicinal use, or both. These states, such as California, Washington and Colorado provide tax guidance for businesses and we strongly encourage industry members to remain compliant with state taxes as well. And while there are 14 states that still ban cannabis use, we expect both unlicensed and licensed marijuana businesses to grow.
It's tricky from a business perspective, because even though states are legalizing marijuana and treating its sale as a legal business enterprise, it’s still considered a Schedule 1 controlled substance under federal law. That means a cannabis/marijuana business has additional considerations under the law, creating unique challenges for members of the industry. Specifically, these businesses are often cash intensive since many can’t use traditional banks to deposit their earnings. It also creates unique challenges for the IRS on how to support these new business owners and still promote tax compliance.