Help  |  Pay an Invoice  |  My Account  |  CPE Log  |  Log in

Comprehensive guide to tax implications and entity structures in the cannabis industry

Calvin P. Shannon CPA, CVA | April/May 2024 Footnote

With a unique legal and financial landscape, the cannabis industry demands careful consideration of entity structure and tax implications. For current and potential cannabis license holders, the decision is not just a formality, but a strategic business choice with far-reaching tax and legal consequences.

There are several types of legal entity structures for cannabis businesses and choosing the right entity is pivotal for cannabis operators. The types of legal entity structures for cannabis businesses are:
  • Single member LLC: Ideal for solo entrepreneurs, this structure offers simplicity but requires careful tax planning due to its direct tax implications on the owner.
  • Multiple member LLC: Suited for partnerships, this entity balances fl exibility with the complexity of partnership tax rules.
  • Corporations: A choice for larger operations, corporations offer benefits in terms of liability protection and structured governance.
For cannabis operators, it is important to understand the nuances of each legal entity type:
  • LLCs: Their flexibility in management and profit distribution makes LLCs a popular choice, but tax considerations under IRS Code 280E can be challenging.
  • Corporations: C Corporations and S Corporations differ significantly in tax treatment, particularly regarding dividend distributions and tax rates. 
    • C Corporations face double taxation but offer benefits like deductible employee benefits.
    • S Corporations avoid double taxation but have strict eligibility criteria and limitations on shareholder types.

The importance of an in-depth analysis of entity selection for cannabis operators

Selecting the right entity involves a thorough analysis of several factors:
  1. Tax considerations: Understanding how federal and state tax laws interact with different entity types. 
  2. Business goals: Aligning entity choice with long-term business objectives and growth strategies.
  3. Regulatory compliance: Ensuring the entity structure complies with state-specific cannabis regulations.
Each entity type comes with its unique set of tax pros and cons:
  • S Corporations: While they offer tax benefits like pass-through taxation, they also expose cannabis owners to tax liabilities on undistributed profits. 
  • Partnerships: They provide great flexibility in profit-sharing but can complicate personal tax filings for cannabis owners.
  • Corporations: While they offer a level of tax predictability, their rigid structure might not suit all cannabis business models.

Strategic considerations for cannabis operators

Cannabis operators must consider strategic factors such as:
  • Cash flow management: Knowing how entity choice impacts cash flow, particularly under the constraints of IRS Code 280E.
  • Investor attractiveness: Understanding the impact of entity structure on attracting investors and raising capital.
  • Operational flexibility: Balancing the need for operational flexibility with tax and legal compliance.
In the dynamic and highly regulated cannabis industry, making informed decisions about entity structure and taxation is an essential key to success.

Calvin P. Shannon CPA, CVA, is a principal of BGM. With more than 20 years of experience, Calvin provides tax, advisory, and business valuation services and specializes in serving cannabis operators. You may reach him at or 651-287-6347.

Learn more from BGM

Navigate the evolving cannabis landscape with these events, sponsored by BGM.

May 8 Free 1-credit webinar for members; details coming soon!

June 25 8-credit virtual seminar; details coming soon!

Visit for more information.