Please join us for Fox Rothschild’s Second Annual Federal Tax Controversy Summit on December 12 in Philadelphia. We’ll be covering the latest developments in federal tax controversy and civil and criminal tax enforcement. CPE and CLE (PA) credits pending. Please click here to register.

Schedule:

8:00 a.m. – registration and breakfast
8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. – program

Speakers:

Matthew D. Lee, Fox Rothschild LLP
Jennifer E. Benda, Fox Rothschild LLP
Ian M. Comisky, Fox Rothschild LLP

Topics:

  • The Internal Revenue Service’s focus on captive insurance arrangements
  • Tax audits and Section 280E litigation involving cannabis businesses
  • Offshore tax enforcement in a post-Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) world
  • Updated IRS Voluntary Disclosure Practice (announced Nov. 29, 2018)
  • When tax engagements, client representation and advocacy become a crime
  • New initiatives at the IRS Criminal Investigation Division
  • Recent developments in federal taxation of cryptocurrency
  • When to call the Taxpayer Advocate

Location:

2000 Market Street, 20th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19103

Please join us for Fox Rothschild’s Second Annual Federal Tax Controversy Summit on December 12 in Philadelphia. We’ll be covering the latest developments in federal tax controversy and civil and criminal tax enforcement. CPE and CLE (PA) credits pending. Please click here to register.

Schedule:

8:00 a.m. – registration and breakfast
8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. – program

Speakers:

Matthew D. Lee, Fox Rothschild LLP
Jennifer E. Benda, Fox Rothschild LLP
Ian M. Comisky, Fox Rothschild LLP

Topics:

  • The Internal Revenue Service’s focus on captive insurance arrangements
  • Tax audits and Section 280E litigation involving cannabis businesses
  • Offshore tax enforcement in a post-Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) world
  • Updated IRS Voluntary Disclosure Practice (announced Nov. 29, 2018)
  • When tax engagements, client representation and advocacy become a crime
  • New initiatives at the IRS Criminal Investigation Division
  • Recent developments in federal taxation of cryptocurrency
  • When to call the Taxpayer Advocate

Location:

2000 Market Street, 20th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19103

In the latest Tax Court opinion addressing the application of Section 280E to cannabis businesses there is no good news.  However, there is some new guidance.  In Patients Mutual Assistance Collective Corp. v. Comm’r, 151 T.C. No. 11, the taxpayer made a litany of arguments to convince the court that their business, or a portion of their business was not subject to Section 280E.  These include arguments we have seen before, including (1) that the business was not trafficking in controlled substances, here, because the government had abandoned a civil forfeiture action, and (2) that because a portion of the business involved branding and the sales of non-marijuana products, deductions related to these operations should not be subject to Section 280E.  These arguments failed and only make it clear that similar arguments are likely to be unavailing.  In fact, the Court spends ten pages discussing why the entire business is integrated and subject to Section 280E.  Taxpayers hoping to establish a separate trade or business that is not subject to Section 280E now have clarity, but also an extremely high bar.

New Holdings:  Inventory Accounting Rules

The new developments addressed in this case involve the application of inventory rules to cannabis businesses.  Previous cases focused primarily on the previously discussed arguments and failed to give any detailed guidance on how to apply the inventory rules.  The Court clearly and strongly concluded that the more expansive Section 263A  inventory cost rules do not apply to businesses subject to Section 280E.  The Court reasoned that “if something wasn’t deductible before Congress enacted section 263A, taxpayers cannot use that section to capitalize it..Section 263A makes taxpayers defer the benefit of what used to be deductions-it doesn’t shower that as grace on those previously damned.”  Slip Op. at 53.

The Court’s conclusion is based on the notion that we go back in time to 1982 to determine what is includible in inventory costs.  The Court refers to Treas. Reg. section 1.263A-1(c)(2) which states:

Any cost which (but for section 263A and the regulations thereunder) may not be taken into account in computing taxable income for any taxable year is not treated as a cost properly allocable to property produced or acquired for resale under section 263A and the regulations thereunder. Thus, for example, if a business meal deduction is limited by section 274(n) to 80 percent of the cost of the meal, the amount properly allocable to property produced or acquired for resale under section 263A is also limited to 80 percent of the cost of the meal.

While this reasoning is understandable, if we turn the question on its head, we could also ask whether the section 280E disallowance is determined before or after inventory costs are calculated.  For example, even if there is a meals and entertainment expense that is clearly includible in inventory costs, no one is going to argue that 100% of meals and entertainment is includible in inventory costs.  In this case, you are determining inventory costs and deductions, and then applying Section 274.   So, it is easy to see how those provisions overlap.  However, if inventory costs are determined based on the applicable inventory rules and then Section 280E is applied, then you have a different result because Section 263A expands what can be included in inventory costs, and the remaining deductions are subject to Section 280E.  That result is not inconsistent with the notion that items such as meals and entertainment and penalties are not deducted in determining taxable income regardless of whether they are a deduction under Section 162 or an inventory cost under Section 471 or 263A.

The Harsh Result

It is important to note that the Court analyzed and concluded that the taxpayer was a reseller and not a producer.  Because the taxpayer did not itself grow marijuana, this is not surprising.  The Section 471 rules that apply to resellers do not allow for extensive indirect costs to be included in inventory.  Thus, for businesses that do not produce or manufacture, they will continue to face significant challenges by the IRS if they are including indirect costs in inventory costs.  For cultivators and producers, careful consideration should be given to how the 471 rules apply, depending on the activities of the business.

Still to Come

The Court reserved its analysis of whether penalties apply for a opinion to be issued at a later date.  However, the Court hints that there might be some relief when it states that the overlap between Section 280E and 263A created a “confusing legal environment.”  One can hope that given the lack of guidance addressing the specifics of how the inventory rules apply to cannabis businesses, the IRS and the court will give taxpayers  doing their best to apply Section 280E the benefit of reprieve from penalties.

Other Notes

If you are entertained by Judge Holmes’ opinions, be sure you read the footnotes.  Footnotes 3 and 6 are my favorites.

Today the Internal Revenue Service released its long-awaited updated procedures for voluntary disclosures now that the much-heralded Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) closed on September 28, 2018. The updated procedures apply to all voluntary disclosures (both domestic and offshore) received by the IRS after the closing of the OVDP. IRS-Criminal Investigation will continue to screen all voluntary disclosures through the preclearance process, with the IRS LB&I office in Austin, Texas, continuing to process, and examine, tax returns. Most importantly, the updated procedures contain a new “Civil Resolution Framework” which addresses the scope of future voluntary disclosures and a new penalty structure. In subsequent posts we will provide detailed analysis of these newly-updated voluntary disclosure guidelines.

For more up-to-date coverage from Tax Controversy and Financial Crimes Report, please subscribe by clicking here.

The IRS recently reminded taxpayers that like-kind exchanges are now generally only available for exchanges of real property.  This change was enacted as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in December of last year.  Now, exchanges of personal or intangible property do not qualify for nonrecognition of gain or loss as like-kind exchanges.  Personal or intangible property effected by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act includes machinery, equipment, vehicles, artwork, collectibles, patents, as well as other intellectual property.

To be eligible for like-kind exchange treatment, real property must be held for use in a trade or business or investment.  Thus, real property held primarily for sale is ineligible for like-kind exchange treatment.  Real property includes land and generally anything built on the land or attached to it.

There is a transition rule that provides like-kind exchange treatment for some exchanges of personal or intangible property that would otherwise be ineligible for like-kind exchange treatment under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  This transition rule may apply if a taxpayer disposed of personal or intangible property, or received replacement property, on or before December 31, 2017.

New Jersey recently announced the New Jersey Tax Amnesty program.  The New Jersey Division of Taxation has indicated that both individuals and businesses may qualify for the program.  The amnesty program began on November 15, 2018 and goes through January 15, 2019.  The New Jersey Division of Taxation will waive late filing and late payment penalties for taxpayers who come forward through the program.  The New Jersey Division of Taxation will also waive half of any interest due as of November 1, 2018.  Taxpayers who choose not to participate, however, face stiff penalties.  These taxpayers will incur a 5% penalty, which the New Jersey Division of Taxation will not waive.  The 5% penalty is in addition to the other penalties and interest.

Taxpayers with outstanding New Jersey tax issues should strongly consider participating in the program.  The New Jersey Division of Taxation offers guidance for how to apply for amnesty here.

On November 16, 2018, Matthew D. Lee will moderate a panel at the annual White Collar Practice seminar sponsored by the Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. With the Special Counsel’s high-profile indictments of Paul Manafort as context, Matt’s panel will address the latest developments in tax and money laundering cases, with a particular emphasis on the following:

  • The broadening scope of the international money laundering statute;
  • The Justice Department’s continuing crackdown on offshore tax evasion;
  • The future of tax obstruction prosecutions post-Marinello; and
  • Fifth Amendment issues in the context of income tax returns.

More details are available here.