Showing posts with label DOJ. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DOJ. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Marijuana Dispensaries Who Pay Taxes in Cash Get Penalized

If you are a marijuana business, regardless of whether you are operating within state law, you have major tax and banking headaches.  Banking and most tax laws are governed by Federal law, which deems these activities illegal.  One challenge commonly faced by marijuana businesses is the lack of access to the banking system, because banks don't want to deal with businesses illegal under federal law.

Without banks, dispensaries pay the government in cash, but face a penalty for the cash payments.  This situation highlights the hypocrisy of the government's tax and drug policies, requiring payment on the one hand, punishing you for paying on the other.  A recent case filed in U.S. Tax Court by a Colorado dispensary, Allgreens LLC, is the most recent challenge to this Catch-22 created by the government. Unfortunately, the IRS is probably going to win because it is just following the letter of the law here - a change to the tax or the drug laws is necessary for a fix.

Financial institutions generally refuse to open accounts for marijuana businesses due to the intersection with federal law and, once the bank finds out a customer is involved in marijuana activities, will also drop accounts for the existing customers who have such businesses. 
Banks do not want to risk the FDIC revoking its deposit insurance and other federal agencies cracking down on them for knowingly depositing monies from businesses deemed illegal drug trafficking activities under federal law.

Without many banking options, marijuana businesses are forced to operate primarily in cash. As a result, these businesses may have little option other than to make their tax payments in cash.  This means they are unable to make their deposits through the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System.  The IRS penalizes businesses and people who pay their payroll taxes in cash.   The IRS is assessing a ten percent penalty on marijuana dispensaries for paying their federal employee the only way they can.  

The IRS cannot efficiently deal with large amounts of cash, so it imposes penalties in the payroll tax situation.  This is confounding because these businesses are simply paying their taxes using the same currency created by our federal government, which would be acceptable in other situations (e.g., auctions and individual income tax payments under IRM 21.3.4.7).   Dispensaries want to follow the law and pay over payroll taxes and, due to no fault on the part of the dispensaries, the IRS penalizes them an additional ten percent.  While the IRS has suggested alternative methods for paying their taxes, these are likely inconsistent with federal anti-money laundering laws, requiring the use of unnecessary third parties (the use of additional steps that mask the true nature of illegal income in certain situations can be considered money laundering).

Given these current challenges, the IRS should waive this ten percent penalty for marijuana businesses at least on a temporary basis until there is greater clarity whether a reasonable cause exception is available.  Unless and until these businesses have sufficient access to the banking system to meet their obligations under the Internal Revenue Code, the IRS's imposition of penalties is simply unfair.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the Wilson Tax Law Group.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

IRS Increases the FBAR Penalty for People with Offshore Accounts

In efforts to increase offshore tax compliance, the IRS just made brand new changes to its current offshore disclosure programs. 

The streamlined procedures have been expanded to accommodate a wider group of U.S. taxpayers who have unreported foreign financial accounts.  This is a very good thing because now more people can use the procedures than could have before.

The original streamlined procedures announced in 2012 were available only to non-resident, non-filers. Taxpayer submissions were subject to different degrees of review based on the amount of the tax due and the taxpayer’s response to a “risk” questionnaire.

The expanded streamlined procedures are available to a wider population of U.S. taxpayers living outside the country and, for the first time, to certain U.S. taxpayers residing in the United States. The changes include:

  Eliminating a requirement that the taxpayer have $1,500 or less of unpaid tax per year;

   Eliminating the required risk questionnaire;

   Requiring the taxpayer to certify that previous failures to comply were due to non-willful conduct.

For eligible U.S. taxpayers residing outside the United States, all penalties will be waived. For eligible U.S. taxpayers residing in the United States, the only penalty will be a miscellaneous offshore penalty equal to 5 percent of the foreign financial assets that gave rise to the tax compliance issue.

 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) Modified: The changes announced today also make important modifications to the OVDP. The changes include:
 •  Requiring additional information from taxpayers applying to the program;

 •  Eliminating the existing reduced penalty percentage for certain non-willful taxpayers in light of the expansion of the streamlined procedures;

  •  Requiring taxpayers to submit all account statements and pay the offshore penalty at the time of the OVDP application;

 • Enabling taxpayers to submit voluminous records electronically rather than on paper;

  Increasing the offshore penalty percentage (from 27.5% to 50%) if, before the taxpayer’s OVDP pre-clearance request is submitted, it becomes public that a financial institution where the taxpayer holds an account or another party facilitating the taxpayer’s offshore arrangement is under investigation by the IRS or Department of Justice.

I will add more in a later post.  You can find the news release here.   Please contact the Wilson Tax Law Group if you have questions about offshore bank account disclosures or FBAR matters under the July 1, 2014 or transitional procedures.  We have handled numerous offshore cases.

Update:  The IRS has published FAQ's for the Transition Rules drawing a clear line as to who can qualify for the pre-July 1, 2014 penalty rates.

Q: What if I made a request for OVDP pre-clearance before July 1, 2014, but not a full voluntary disclosure? 

A: A taxpayer will not be considered to be currently participating in OVDP for purposes of receiving transitional treatment unless, as of July 1, 2014, he has mailed to IRS Criminal Investigation his voluntary disclosure letter and attachments as described in OVDP FAQ 24.  Thus, a taxpayer who makes an offshore voluntary disclosure as outlined in FAQ 24 on or after July 1, 2014 will not be eligible for transitional treatment under OVDP, even though he may have made a request for OVDP pre-clearance before July 1, 2014.

These transitional FAQs can be found here.

The FAQ for the effective-July 1, 2014 OVDP can be found here.