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5 Common Mistakes Cannabis Businesses Make With Taxes- Where Did All the Money Go?

5 Common Mistakes Cannabis Businesses Make With Taxes- Where Did All the Money Go?

Running a cannabis business is a challenging endeavor, with entrepreneurs facing a myriad of hurdles, especially when it comes to taxes. The highly regulated nature of the industry and the evolving legal landscape can lead to confusion and mistakes when it comes to tax compliance. Unfortunately, many cannabis businesses find themselves caught off guard by unexpected tax liabilities or costly errors that drain their financial resources. In this blog, we will explore the common mistakes cannabis businesses make with taxes and offer valuable insights on how to avoid them.

Common Mistakes Cannabis Businesses Make with Taxes #1: Improper Record Keeping

Common Mistakes Cannabis Businesses Make with Taxes #1: Improper Record Keeping

One of the most prevalent mistakes that cannabis businesses make with taxes is inadequate record-keeping practices. As tax regulations require detailed documentation of all financial transactions, failing to maintain accurate records can lead to significant discrepancies and difficulties during tax season. From sales receipts and inventory tracking to expenses and payroll records, meticulous record-keeping is crucial to ensure compliance and avoid penalties.

Without proper record-keeping, businesses may struggle to determine their cost of goods sold (COGS), which is a key component in calculating taxable income. Accurate COGS calculation allows businesses to claim deductions and minimize their tax liability. Additionally, having organized records enables businesses to provide supporting documentation in the event of an audit, demonstrating transparency and credibility to tax authorities.

Another common mistake is misclassifying expenses. Cannabis businesses often encounter unique expenses, such as cultivation supplies, security systems, or regulatory compliance costs. Misclassifying these expenses or failing to properly categorize them can result in missed deductions or incorrect tax reporting. It is crucial for businesses to understand the specific tax codes and regulations applicable to their industry and consult with experienced tax professionals to ensure proper expense classification.

Common Mistakes Cannabis Businesses Make with Taxes #2: Misclassification of Employees

Common Mistakes Cannabis Businesses Make with Taxes #2: Misclassification of Employees

The misclassification of employees is a mistake that can prove costly for cannabis businesses. Many entrepreneurs in the industry may classify workers as independent contractors to save on payroll taxes and benefits. However, this approach can lead to substantial penalties and back taxes if the IRS determines that the workers should have been classified as employees.

Determining worker classification involves a careful analysis of factors such as the level of control the business exercises over the worker, the type of work performed, and the worker's relationship to the business. It is crucial for cannabis businesses to understand the distinction between employees and independent contractors and properly classify their workers accordingly.

Misclassifying employees as independent contractors not only raises red flags for tax authorities but can also result in legal troubles related to labor laws and employment benefits. In some cases, misclassified workers may file complaints or lawsuits seeking unpaid wages, overtime, or benefits. This can lead to expensive legal battles and damage to a business's reputation.

To avoid these costly mistakes, cannabis businesses should consult with experienced tax and legal professionals who can provide guidance on proper worker classification. It is important to carefully review the working relationships within the business and ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

Maintaining accurate records and documentation regarding worker classification is crucial. This includes having clear contracts or agreements in place with workers, outlining the nature of their relationship with the business, and the terms of their engagement. By taking proactive measures to correctly classify employees, cannabis businesses can mitigate the risks associated with misclassification and ensure compliance with tax and employment laws.

Common Mistakes Cannabis Businesses Make with Taxes #3: Ignoring Section 280E

Common Mistakes Cannabis Businesses Make with Taxes #3: Ignoring Section 280E

Section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code has a significant impact on cannabis businesses. It prohibits businesses engaged in the illegal sale of controlled substances from deducting normal business expenses when calculating their federal taxes. This means that cannabis businesses cannot deduct expenses such as rent, wages, advertising, or other operating costs that are typically deductible for other businesses.

Unfortunately, many cannabis entrepreneurs overlook the implications of Section 280E or attempt to find loopholes to reduce their tax liability. However, the IRS is vigilant in enforcing this provision and conducting audits to ensure compliance. Businesses that fail to comply with Section 280E can face severe consequences, including substantial back taxes, penalties, and even criminal charges.

To navigate the challenges imposed by Section 280E, cannabis businesses must carefully structure their operations. This may involve separating the business into different entities or implementing strategies to allocate expenses properly. For example, businesses may establish a separate entity for non-cannabis-related activities (if it makes sense), allowing them to deduct expenses that are unrelated to the sale of controlled substances.

Furthermore, it is crucial for cannabis businesses to maintain meticulous records and documentation to support their tax filings and deductions. By keeping detailed records of expenses and revenues, businesses can better demonstrate their compliance with Section 280E and justify any deductions that are allowed under the law.

Common Mistakes Cannabis Businesses Make with Taxes #4: Inadequate Tax and Cash Planning

Common Mistakes Cannabis Businesses Make with Taxes #4: Inadequate Tax and Cash Planning

Effective tax planning is essential for any business, including cannabis ventures. Failing to engage in strategic tax planning can result in missed opportunities to maximize deductions and credits, ultimately leading to higher tax liabilities. In the highly regulated and complex cannabis industry, tax planning takes on even greater significance.

Cannabis businesses face unique challenges when it comes to tax planning due to the intricate web of federal, state, and local regulations that govern the industry. Understanding the specific tax provisions and incentives available to cannabis businesses is crucial for optimizing tax strategies.

One key aspect of tax planning for cannabis businesses is taking advantage of available deductions. While Section 280E restricts the deductibility of many ordinary business expenses, there are still deductions that can be claimed, such as the cost of goods sold (COGS). Properly calculating and documenting COGS is essential to minimize tax liabilities and ensure compliance.

Additionally, tax planning can involve utilizing tax credits and incentives that are available to the cannabis industry. For example, certain states may offer tax credits for businesses that engage in sustainable practices or contribute to social equity programs. By understanding and leveraging these credits, cannabis businesses can not only reduce their tax burden but also align their operations with their values and objectives.

Another critical aspect of tax planning for cannabis businesses is staying updated with changing regulations. Tax laws related to the cannabis industry are constantly evolving, and businesses must adapt their tax strategies accordingly. Engaging the services of a knowledgeable tax advisor who specializes in the cannabis industry can help businesses stay informed about the latest regulations and leverage new opportunities for tax optimization.

By engaging in proactive tax and cash planning, cannabis businesses can ensure that they are in compliance with all applicable tax laws while taking advantage of available deductions, credits, and incentives. Effective tax planning allows companies to minimize tax liabilities, optimize their financial performance, and maintain a competitive edge in the industry. If you stay ahead of the tax balance and know what it is month-to-month while also paying quarterly taxes it helps you as a business owner what cash you have available each month to spend on inventory, equipment, or pay yourself!

Common Mistakes Cannabis Businesses Make with Taxes #5: Lack of Compliance with State and Local Tax Regulations

Common Mistakes Cannabis Businesses Make with Taxes #5: Lack of Compliance with State and Local Tax Regulations

Cannabis businesses operate in a complex regulatory environment, with tax laws varying significantly from state to state and even from one locality to another. Each jurisdiction has its own set of tax requirements that businesses must adhere to, and failure to comply can result in penalties, fines, and reputational damage.

Understanding and staying informed about the specific tax regulations in each jurisdiction where the business operates is crucial for maintaining compliance. This includes being aware of state and local tax rates, filing deadlines, reporting requirements, and any specific tax obligations unique to the cannabis industry.

For example, some states impose additional taxes on cannabis businesses, such as excise taxes or special sales taxes. Failure to accurately calculate and remit these taxes can lead to serious consequences. Additionally, certain states may require specific tax forms or documentation to be submitted, and businesses must ensure they are meeting these requirements.

Complying with state and local tax regulations goes beyond simply avoiding penalties. It also contributes to the overall reputation and credibility of the business. Non-compliance can damage relationships with regulators, suppliers, and customers, and may even jeopardize the business's ability to operate in certain jurisdictions.

Conclusion for Common Mistakes Cannabis Businesses Make with Taxes


Navigating the tax landscape as a cannabis business owner requires meticulous attention to detail, thorough record-keeping, and proactive tax planning. By avoiding common mistakes such as improper record-keeping, employee misclassification, disregarding Section 280E, inadequate tax planning, and non-compliance with state and local tax regulations, entrepreneurs can maintain financial stability and ensure long-term success in the dynamic cannabis industry. Seeking guidance from tax professionals experienced in the cannabis sector, like Redbud Advisors, can provide valuable insights and help businesses avoid the question, "Where did all the money go?" when faced with unexpected tax liabilities.

Ready to navigate the complex world of cannabis taxes with confidence and avoid costly mistakes? Contact Redbud Advisors today for expert guidance and tailored solutions. Let our team of experienced professionals help you optimize your tax strategy, ensure compliance, and keep more of your hard-earned money. Don't let tax-related challenges hinder your cannabis business's success. Take control of your financial future - reach out to Redbud Advisors now.

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