By Jo-Anne and LaKia, Greenspace Accounting
All businesses must adhere to tax rules and regulatory compliance, but for cannabis companies, the laws are significantly more challenging to navigate. The cannabis industry has specific tax rules that differ from other sectors, and failing to follow them can result in severe financial and legal implications.
At Green Space Accounting, we know that managing your finances as a cannabis company can be much more complicated than the average start-up. Keeping a compliant financial system in place is not always easy with constantly changing state laws and regulations.
Here are a few tips on how to avoid compliance issues with your budding cannabis business.
Have Your Business Documentation in Order
One of the first steps to staying compliant is to have all the appropriate financial information and licensing for your business on hand.
Always be prepared with copies of your cannabis license, information from your seed-to-sale tracking system, and your point of sale software records. Having this paperwork, along with legal documents like operating agreements, Articles of Incorporation or Organization, and EINs will ensure that you have a fully compliant relationship with your bank, as well as local and state government.
It’s also a good idea to have detailed records on all sales transactions within your business, especially ones dealing with cash. Cash is used more frequently in cannabis dispensaries than in other retail industries. Having proper cash-handling procedures in place can save you from theft and keep you ready for any unexpected auditing.
Stay up to Date with State and Local Regulations
It’s important to remember that regulations surrounding cannabis change over time, so monitoring your state legislature and all applicable state and local agencies is crucial to keeping your business compliant. By making yourself aware of the rules for the cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution of cannabis, you can avoid the risk of fines or legal action and build a better relationship with your local government, law enforcement, and, most importantly, customers.
One way to stay up to date with regulatory compliance laws is to consume state and industry news surrounding cannabis daily. Not only do these publications keep you informed on business and consumer trends, but they also avoid complicated legal jargon, speaking directly to business owners in a way that’s easy for them to understand.
Here are a few recommended industry news sources:
Another great way to stay on top of state and local cannabis laws is to network and build relationships with your local regulators. While maintaining compliance internally is the biggest goal, creating an ongoing relationship with the regulators in your area can help you better understand the changes within the industry and the steps you can make to conduct business more transparently.
Develop SOPs, Training, and Reporting Systems
Think of these SOPs as a set of rules that all employees need to abide by to keep your company’s production, sales, and accounting processes consistent and safe. Having a set of standard operating procedures can help you recognize potential compliance issues and fix them before they occur. These procedures can include an employee handbook on proper handling and storage of cannabis consumables to installing a seed-to-sale tracking system for inventory management purposes.
The best way to stay on top of your SOPs is to create reports, checkbooks, and logs in all aspects of your operations to show regulators that you are a transparent business that has a complete understanding of your state’s compliance laws. Frequent compliance training sessions are also an effective way to educate your entire team on the legal and tax regulations associated with your business.
To avoid issues concerning payroll, installing time tracking software for employees is also a great way to keep your staff organized and stay on top of the 280E tax code. The 280E law denies cannabis businesses federal income tax deduction for operating business expenses, which means that the wages for some employees may be deductible, and some may not be. By introducing software where employees can specify the tasks they’re doing and track the salaries they’re receiving, you’ll stay compliant with the tax code and better understand the productivity your team is generating.
Frequently Audit your Business
Hiring an outsourced accounting team to audit your cannabis business is a great way to avoid any potential risks regarding compliance. Auditors serve as an additional, unbiased set of eyes that will examine all areas of your organization and identity aspects that might need improvement.
If you are looking to stay on top of the legal and tax regulations for your cannabis business on a tight budget, self-auditing your company is a great way to check whether or not your training, bookkeeping, and SOPs are being appropriately implemented.
Entrepreneurs who belong to the National Cannabis Industry Association can receive discounted access to an acclaimed compliance management platform created by Simplifiya, which gives licensed operators a self-audit checklist that helps them identify, track, and mitigate potential issues before it’s too late. The platform also provides templates for creating SOPs customized for each license type and tied directly to your state regulations.
The Bottom Line
Whether you are a start-up, a growing business, or a multi-state operator, complying with federal and state compliance laws is essential. By following the above tips and staying transparent with your employees, partners, and investors, you’ll be ready for any audit that comes your way.
Whether you’re looking for cash flow management, business planning, or internal controls, our team is dedicated to helping you achieve peace of mind when it comes to your company’s finances and compliance. We understand that the financial side of your business can be daunting, complicated, time-consuming, and most of all: stressful. You don’t need to go through it alone. Our team is prepared to help you achieve your financial goals. Whether you’re looking to earn more revenue, scale your business or achieve a little peace of mind, you can trust Green Space Accounting to guide you.