DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Four states have legalized recreational marijuana, and 23 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized medical use. But federal law still classifies it as a controlled substance, regardless of how legal it is in the states. There’s a lot more than taxes at stake, since federal drug crimes and seizures are nothing to sneeze out. Yet taxes are huge issues too.
Paying state tax on marijuana admits you are violating federal criminal law, right? It sure seems that way, which is why there’s a lawsuit challenging the taxes as violating your right not to incriminate yourself. Yet state efforts to tax this new cash crop and its blooming legitimacy are growing. But what about the IRS? It is federal, and Marijuana remains illegal nationally. Even so, the tax law is clear that even criminal income has to be reported to the IRS. Remember Al Capone?
As a result, even legal medical marijuana businesses have big federal income tax problems: tax evasion if they don’t report, and a considerably smaller risk of criminal prosecution if they do. More imminent, though, is the risk of being bankrupted by their IRS tax bill. That’s because Section 280E of the tax code denies even legal dispensaries tax deductions because marijuana remains a federal controlled substance. The IRS says it has no choice but to enforce the tax code.