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Knowledge & Insights

Cannabis Business Tax Guide: IRC 280E, CoGS & 471c


Recently the IRS released guidance for cannabis business tax including IRC 280E, IRC 471 and 471c. 


Welcome to this comprehensive guide on cannabis business taxation, specifically focusing on IRC 280E and the calculation of Cost of Goods Sold (CoGS) under IRC 471c. As a cannabis entrepreneur, understanding the intricacies of tax regulations is crucial for ensuring compliance and maximizing your financial efficiency. In this article, we will delve into the nuances of IRC 280E and IRC 471c, providing you with the knowledge and strategies to navigate the complex landscape of cannabis taxation.

Overview of IRC 280E

IRC 280E, also known as Internal Revenue Code Section 280E, has a significant impact on the cannabis industry. Initially introduced in 1981, its primary purpose was to prohibit businesses engaged in the trafficking of controlled substances, such as cannabis, from deducting ordinary business expenses from their federal taxes. This means that cannabis businesses, unlike most other businesses, cannot deduct expenses such as rent, employee wages, advertising costs, and other operating expenses when calculating their taxable income.

The rationale behind IRC 280E is rooted in the federal illegality of cannabis, classified as a Schedule I controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Despite the legalization of cannabis for medical or recreational use in certain states, it remains illegal at the federal level. As a result, cannabis businesses face unique tax challenges that can significantly impact their profitability.

Impact of IRC 280E on Cannabis Businesses

The impact of IRC 280E on cannabis businesses is twofold. Firstly, it increases the effective tax rate for cannabis companies due to the inability to deduct ordinary business expenses. This can result in a significantly higher tax liability compared to businesses in other industries. Secondly, IRC 280E restricts the ability of cannabis businesses to utilize common tax planning strategies, potentially limiting their ability to reinvest in their operations and hinder their overall growth.

Understanding CoGS Calculation for Cannabis Businesses

To mitigate the tax burden imposed by IRC 280E, cannabis businesses can optimize their Cost of Goods Sold (CoGS) calculation under IRC 471c. The CoGS calculation allows businesses to deduct the direct costs associated with producing or acquiring their inventory. By focusing on properly identifying and allocating costs that directly relate to the production or acquisition of cannabis products, businesses can reduce their taxable income and potentially lower their overall tax liability.

It is crucial to note that the CoGS calculation must adhere to the specific guidelines and requirements outlined in IRC 471c. Failure to comply with these guidelines may result in penalties or further scrutiny from tax authorities. Therefore, understanding the nuances of IRC 471c is essential for cannabis businesses aiming to optimize their tax position.

Key Considerations in IRC 471c for Cannabis Businesses

When calculating CoGS under IRC 471c, there are several key considerations that cannabis businesses should keep in mind. These considerations include:


  • Proper Inventory Valuation: Accurate and consistent inventory valuation is crucial for determining the direct costs that can be included in the CoGS calculation. Cannabis businesses should be diligent in implementing proper inventory management practices to ensure compliance with IRC 471c.
  • Direct vs. Indirect Costs: Only direct costs that are directly attributable to the production or acquisition of cannabis products can be included in the CoGS calculation. Indirect costs, such as general overhead expenses, cannot be deducted under IRC 471c.
  • Documentation and Record-Keeping: Maintaining detailed records and documentation is essential for supporting the CoGS calculation. This includes invoices, purchase orders, production records, and any other relevant documentation that substantiates the direct costs incurred.
  • Consistency in Accounting Methods: Consistency in accounting methods is vital to ensure compliance with IRC 471c. Cannabis businesses should establish and adhere to a consistent method for valuing their inventory and calculating CoGS.

Strategies to Optimize CoGS Calculation

While the limitations imposed by IRC 280E may seem daunting, there are strategies that cannabis businesses can employ to optimize their CoGS calculation and minimize their tax liability. Some of these strategies include:


  • Proper Cost Allocation: By carefully allocating costs to the appropriate categories within the CoGS calculation, cannabis businesses can maximize their allowable deductions while remaining compliant with IRC 471c. This requires a thorough understanding of the specific costs that can be included in the CoGS calculation.
  • Strategic Inventory Management: Effective inventory management practices can help minimize waste, reduce spoilage, and optimize production processes. By implementing efficient inventory tracking systems, businesses can accurately determine the direct costs associated with their inventory, further enhancing their CoGS calculation.
  • Process Optimization and Automation: Streamlining production processes and adopting automation technologies can improve operational efficiency and reduce costs. By optimizing labor utilization, reducing errors, and increasing productivity, cannabis businesses can indirectly enhance their CoGS calculation by reducing the overall direct costs incurred.
  • Engage with Qualified Tax Advisors: Working with qualified tax advisors who specialize in cannabis taxation is crucial for navigating the complexities of IRC 280E and IRC 471c. These professionals can provide valuable insights, ensure compliance, and recommend tailored strategies to optimize your tax position.

Compliance and Record-Keeping Best Practices

To safeguard against potential IRS audits or inquiries, cannabis businesses should prioritize compliance and maintain thorough record-keeping practices. Some best practices for compliance and record-keeping include:


  • Accurate Financial Reporting: Maintain accurate financial records and ensure they align with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). This includes proper categorization and documentation of revenue, expenses, and inventory.
  • Document Retention: Retain all relevant documentation, such as receipts, invoices, bank statements, and tax returns, for a minimum of seven years. Proper document retention is essential for substantiating deductions, CoGS calculations, and overall compliance with tax regulations.
  • Regular Tax Compliance Reviews: Conduct periodic reviews of your tax compliance practices to identify any areas of potential risk or improvement. Engage with tax professionals who can provide guidance on maintaining compliance and implementing effective record-keeping processes.

The Importance of Professional Tax Guidance

Given the complexity of cannabis taxation, seeking professional tax guidance is crucial for cannabis businesses. Experienced tax advisors who specialize in the cannabis industry, such as our team at GreenGrowth CPAs, can provide valuable insights and strategies to navigate the complexities of IRC 280E and IRC 471c. They can help businesses optimize their CoGS calculation, ensure compliance with tax regulations, and minimize their overall tax liability.


In conclusion, understanding the impact of IRC 280E and the intricacies of CoGS calculation under IRC 471c is paramount for cannabis businesses. By taking a proactive approach to tax planning, engaging with qualified tax advisors, and implementing effective record-keeping practices, businesses can navigate the complexities of cannabis taxation while maximizing their financial efficiency. Remember, compliance and informed decision-making are key to the long-term success and growth of your cannabis business.

If you need help with your cannabis business taxes or cannabis accounting, then please reach out to us at or call 800-674-9050.

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