IRS Reiterates Marijuana’s Status and the Implications of Section 280E

by | Jul 6, 2024

The cannabis industry has been growing rapidly, with more states legalizing its use for both medical and recreational purposes. Despite these changes at the state level, marijuana remains classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. This classification brings significant tax implications for cannabis businesses, especially concerning the recent IRS notice reaffirming the application of Internal Revenue Code Section 280E.


Key Highlights from the Recent IRS Notice

On June 28, 2024, the IRS issued an important reminder about the tax treatment of marijuana businesses under federal law. Here are the key points from the notice:

  1. Marijuana’s Federal Classification: The IRS emphasized that marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. This means that despite state-level legalization, federal law still classifies marijuana alongside substances like heroin and LSD.
  2. Section 280E Enforcement: Internal Revenue Code Section 280E disallows businesses that traffic in Schedule I or II controlled substances from deducting ordinary and necessary business expenses. This restriction significantly impacts cannabis businesses, as they cannot deduct expenses such as rent, salaries, and utilities from their taxable income.
  3. No Refunds for Amended Returns: The IRS clarified that businesses seeking refunds by filing amended returns to claim deductions related to marijuana sales are not entitled to refunds or payments. Despite some businesses attempting to challenge Section 280E, the IRS maintains that these claims are not valid.
  4. Cost of Goods Sold (COGS): While Section 280E disallows most deductions, it does allow businesses to reduce their gross receipts by the cost of goods sold. This means cannabis businesses can deduct direct costs associated with producing their products, such as cultivation and harvesting expenses.


Implications for Cannabis Businesses

The recent IRS notice underscores the ongoing challenges faced by cannabis businesses under federal tax law. The inability to deduct ordinary business expenses leads to a higher effective tax rate compared to other industries. Here’s what cannabis businesses need to consider:

  1. Increased Tax Burden: Due to the limitations of Section 280E, cannabis businesses face a higher tax burden. Proper financial planning and management are essential to mitigate this impact.
  2. Strategic Expense Management: Businesses must focus on accurately calculating and documenting their cost of goods sold to maximize allowable deductions. Meticulous record-keeping is crucial.
  3. Compliance with Federal Laws: Despite state legalization, cannabis businesses must comply with federal tax laws. Understanding and adhering to Section 280E is vital to avoid penalties and audits.


Steps to Ensure Compliance and Financial Health

  1. Consult a Tax Professional: Engage with a CPA or tax consultant who specializes in the cannabis industry. They can provide expert advice on navigating Section 280E and developing strategies to minimize tax liabilities.
  2. Maintain Detailed Records: Accurate record-keeping of all business transactions, especially those related to COGS, is essential. This ensures that deductions are correctly calculated and substantiated.
  3. Stay Updated on Legal Changes: The legal landscape for cannabis is continually evolving. Keep informed about any changes in federal and state regulations that could impact your business.
  4. Consider Business Structuring Options: Some businesses explore different structuring options to maximize allowable deductions. Consult with legal and tax professionals to determine the best approach for your situation.



The IRS’s recent notice serves as a crucial reminder of marijuana’s ongoing federal classification and the strict enforcement of Section 280E. Cannabis businesses must navigate these challenges by ensuring compliance with federal tax laws and adopting strategic financial planning.

At M.A. Rubin CPA, PLLC, we specialize in helping cannabis businesses manage their tax obligations and achieve financial success. Contact us today for expert guidance and support.

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M.A. Rubin CPA, PLLC

Tel: 833-MA-Rubin (627-8246)


Disclaimer: This blog post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or tax advice. Consult with a qualified professional for specific advice regarding your business.


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