Although the presidential campaign seemed to dominate headlines earlier this month, there was another proposition that passed in California (as well as a handful of other states): recreational marijuana became legal. What does this mean for the Golden State’s sales tax revenue? And how will it affect other industries? I thought it would be worth taking a look at what other states have done and how California may proceed in the coming months.
There were numerous tax initiatives on ballots across the United States this year. One of the major tax initiatives was the legalization of marijuana and its subsequent taxing in eight states during the 2016 November election. Prior to the November elections, there were 26 states and the District of Columbia who legalized the use of marijuana, whether in the form of recreational use or medical use only. Now,California, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine have all voted to allow the use of recreational marijuana. (As of now, the margin of victory in Maine is less than 1.5%, which means there will be a recount that does not affect the taxpayers.)
Several states have “sales tax holidays” where for a day or a few days specified during the year, there is no sales tax on specified items. For example, it might be on children’s clothes or school supplies close to the time when school begins. Some states have them for guns and emergency preparedness items. The Federation of Tax Administrators maintains a list of these holidays in the states.
September 16, 2015, Colorado had a holiday on marijuana – but just the special 10% and 15% taxes (there are a lot of taxes on marijuana in Colorado). The reason is complicated and ties to the fact that when recreational sales became legal in Colorado and new taxes added, they raised more than allowed. HB15-1367 explains some of this (in 33 pages!). Read More
Despite marijuana operations at the state level being legal at the state level since 1996 in California (and now many states), tax guidance has been sparse. A recent, non-binding Chief Counsel Advice memo sheds some light on how the UNICAP rules apply (or don’t apply), but more is needed.
I’ve got a short article in the AICPA Tax Insider today about the CCA and its meaning – here.
A few more observations beyond the article: While the CCA basically says that the UNICAP rules do not allow a seller of a controlled substance, such as marijuana, to treat more costs as inventoriable, there seems to still be some leeway for a producer. Producers Read More
In a post on 1/17/14 titled “Marijuana And The Tax Law“, I noted the significant tax dollars that Colorado was to generate from legalizing recreational use of marijuana. I also noted that for tax practitioners who assist these businesses (as well as those selling in other states for medicinal use), there are tax law issues (such as IRC Section 280E) and ethical considerations given that growing, cultivating, distributing and using marijuana is still a federal crime. CPAs and attorneys need to consider the rules of conduct applicable in their state.
I have a 4-page article on this topic in the Tax Talk feature of the Federal Bar’s July 2014 The Federal Lawyer. It is entitled, “Ethical Considerations When Your Potential Tax Client is a Marijuana Business.” I explain the issues CPAs and attorneys face in helping these Read More
It’s unlikely anyone missed the news stories about marijuana sales becoming legal on January 1, 2014 in Colorado. The Huffington Post reported on January 8, 2014 that sales in the first week were about $5 million. That also generated a lot of tax revenue for the state because Proposition AA* that Colorado voters passed in November 2013 allows for a 15% excise tax when unprocessed retail marijuana is sold by a cultivation facility to a retailer AND a 10% sales tax (on top of the normal Colorado sales tax of 2.9%) when the retailer sells the marijuana. That proposition suggested that $70 million would be generated annually with the first $40 million to be used for public school capital construction. Additional revenues would be used to enforce regulations on the retail marijuana industry and the balance for other needs (apparently at the discretion of the Read More