Article Detail

News & Knowledge

Tax Court Decision Another Blow to Medical Marijuana Industry

June 15, 2018

By: Amanda Wilson and Tara L. Tedrow

The recent Tax Court decision, Alterman v. Commissioner, struck yet another tax blow against the growing medical marijuana industry.

Though variations of medical and recreational marijuana programs have been legalized in a majority of the states, marijuana still remains classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law.  Section 280E of the tax code denies deductions for expenses paid or incurred in the carrying on of any trade or business involving a federal controlled substance.  As a result, the Internal Revenue Service’s position is that any business that deals with marijuana cannot deduct their operating expenses (including employee salaries).  Thus, even if a business is operating in full compliance with applicable state regulations on marijuana, the Internal Revenue Service can still deny deductions for typical business expenses like rent, utilities, and employee wages.  The result is that medical marijuana businesses have taxable income far in excess of their actual profits, which can drastically impact the viability of this industry.  Because of this impact, several taxpayers in the medical marijuana industry have attempted to ignore or challenge the interpretation of the Section 280E prohibition, so far unsuccessfully.

The Internal Revenue Service’s application of Section 280E has been upheld by the Tax Court previously in Canna Care Inc. v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2015-206, and yet again two days ago in Alterman v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo 2018-83.  Furthermore, the Tax Court in Alterman upheld the imposition of a 20% tax penalty on the taxpayer for the underpayment of the tax liability resulting from the deductions taken despite the Section 280E prohibition.  As a result, the taxpayer not only had to pay taxes on taxable income in excess of actual profits, the taxpayer also had to pay an additional 20% as a penalty for their initial failure to follow 280E.  Any businesses dealing with medical or recreational marijuana should consider carefully the impact of Section 280E, ignoring it will certainly be at their peril.


This article is informational only. You should consult an attorney before acting or failing to act. The law may change rapidly and no warranty is given. LOWNDES DISCLAIMS ALL IMPLIED WARRANTIES AND WITHOUT LIMITATION, ANY WARRANTY OF FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. ALL ARTICLES ARE PROVIDED AS IS AND WITH ALL FAULTS. Consult a Lowndes attorney if you wish to establish an attorney/client relationship.
Tara
Tara Tedrow is a shareholder in the firm’s Land Use, Zoning & Environmental Group and serves as chair of the Cannabis & Controlled Substances Group. She brings years of experience handling an array of complex legal matters for multi-billion dollar valued companies and entrepreneurs alike.
With a significant portion of her practice devoted to land use and development, Tara regularly advises clients on entitling projects for commercial, residential, industrial, office and mixed uses. She works with local governments and regulatory agencies to address the needs of her clients related to environmental permitting and compliance, zoning, comprehensive plans, concurrency, site plan approval, variance and waiver requests, due diligence and property rights.

Often sought out for high-profile and high-stakes land development projects, Tara has delivered positive outcomes for clients ranging from large multi-national and U.S.-based companies to high-net worth individuals seeking land use entitlements. With over 15 years of competitive debate experience, she is uniquely suited to handle complex and controversial projects and public hearings that present a myriad of political and legal challenges.

Tara has provided developers and clients with legal counsel and representation in Section 70.51 mediations. Her experience in land use and environmental dispute resolutions offers a unique benefit to clients navigating the alternative dispute resolution process following denial of a development order, zoning approval and other land use matters around the state.

Well-known for providing legal and lobbying representation for a wide range of cannabis clients, Tara and her team work with physicians, lenders, real estate developers, landlords, ancillary service providers, banks, licensed adult use and medical marijuana companies, cultivators, processors, retailers and license applicants, helping them to navigate the ever-changing regulatory landscape of marijuana and hemp regulations. She also assists clients in the national hemp industry in obtaining licensing and approvals for processing, retailing, cultivation and other forms of secondary byproduct monetization. Her deep knowledge of regulatory laws and understanding of operations and logistics for cannabis companies, along with her ability to make connections and build partnerships, bring strategic value to her clients. 

Tara is the only person in the state of Florida to be appointed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to both the inaugural Industrial Hemp Advisory Council created under Senate Bill 1020 and to the state’s Hemp Advisory Committee, which she currently chairs. A prolific presenter and speaker at industry seminars and conferences, she has served as the keynote speaker on industry regulations at over 60 events in the past two years. In the fall of 2018, Tara became the first professor in the state of Florida to teach a law school course on marijuana law and policy at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where she continues to teach today.

Prior to joining the firm, Tara worked as a legal extern for the University of Florida General Counsel and Office of the Vice President as well as for the Orlando Juvenile Public Defenders Office. For over a decade, she has also worked professionally as a private speech and debate coach and taught at multiple national debate institutes, including the National Debate Forum at Emerson University, the National Symposium for Debate at Grinnell College and Victory Briefs Institute at UCLA.

Tara is a contributing writer at the Orlando Sentinel and has spoken about various real estate topics on Fox News.

To view Tara's information specific to Land Use or Cannabis, click the corresponding links below. 



Land Use
Cannabis
Amanda

A member of the firm’s tax practice, Amanda Wilson concentrates on federal tax planning and structuring. She represents clients in a wide variety of complex federal tax matters with a particular emphasis on pass-through entities such as partnerships, S corporations and real estate investment trusts.

Specifically, Amanda focuses on advising clients on the formation, operation, acquisition and restructuring of such pass-through entities. In addition, she regularly advises clients on the structuring and operation of private equity funds, real estate funds and timber funds. Amanda is the author of the Bloomberg Tax Management Portfolio 718-3rd Edition, Partnerships- Disposition of Partnership Interests or Partnership Business; Partnership Termination.

Amanda regularly works in structuring deals to benefit from tax advantaged structures, including like-kind exchanges, new market tax credits, low income housing tax credits, qualified opportunity zones, and investment tax credits available for solar and other renewable energy. Amanda also has extensive experience in corporate planning and international tax matters, as well as federal tax controversy. Her practice before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) includes providing advice on audits and appeals, drafting protests and ruling requests, and negotiating settlements.

Prior to joining the firm, Amanda worked for Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP (now Eversheds Sutherland), an Am Law 100 firm in the Atlanta office, where she was part of Sutherland’s Tax Practice Group. Amanda has also served as an adjunct professor at Emory University School of Law where she taught Partnership Taxation.

Amanda regularly contributes to the firm’s Taxing Times blog and is a regular panelist on tax webinars hosted by Strafford Publications.

Meritas Law Firms Worldwide logo