Getting Sales Tax Right in the Cannabis Industry

In an industry with as many challenges as cannabis, keeping your processes as efficient and accurate as possible is a must. One area of operations that is often overlooked but could cause major problems in the long run is the accurate and timely collection and payment of sales tax obligations, which can vary widely among states and products.

With many retail cannabis companies selling multiple types of products under one roof, it is likely that your inventory represents a variety of sales tax rates. This can leave your business at risk for undercharging or overcharging if state and municipal sales tax laws are not adhered to meticulously.

Fortunately, today’s POS systems are highly sophisticated and capable of charging different rates. Unlike e-commerce merchants, however, brick-and-mortar businesses are responsible for manually coding their inventory to the correct sales tax rates within the POS system.

There are several best practices you should consider to mitigate the risk of incorrect sales tax calculations and make this a more seamless element of your operations, including:

  • Develop a formal inventory onboarding process that all team members must follow when entering SKU numbers and assigning sales tax codes.
  • Review your SKU numbers once a quarter and establish a policy to govern this quarterly review.
  • If resources are tight, consider a third-party company to manage your POS system at a minimal cost.
  • Stay educated on the regulations in your state and municipality. Some states and cities have complicated multi-tiered systems for collecting different rates of sales tax from MWBE, veteran-owned, adult use and medical retailers.
  • Understand and comply with the reporting requirements of each state and municipality, which are stringently enforced to prevent fraud in this cash-heavy industry.
  • Be aware of additional taxes imposed on cannabis retailers. Some states impose fixed taxes on middle-market companies, such as distributors, cultivators and retailers, who in turn can pass down the cost to consumers.

Grassi’s Cannabis Advisors are highly skilled in tax compliance, regulatory reporting and operational efficiencies in the cannabis industry. Please contact your Grassi advisor or Zachary Gordon, Senior Accounting Services Manager, or Dorothy McAuliffe, Senior Tax Manager, for assistance with implementing any of the above recommendations.


John V. Pellitteri John V. Pellitteri is a Partner at Grassi and leads the firm's Healthcare and Cannabis Service Practices. Possessing over 30 years of experience in accounting, auditing, tax planning and business consulting, John is now applying his talent to the burgeoning cannabis industry. John possesses comprehensive accounting and taxation knowledge, which combined with his healthcare consulting experience, allows him to provide an all-inclusive assessment of... Read full bio

Zachary Gordon Zachary Gordon is a Senior Manager in the Accounting Services group at Grassi and a member of the firm’s Cannabis Advisory practice. He specializes in tax planning and compliance services for small businesses, private equity firms and family offices. He has extensive experience in financial statement compilations and reviews, technology implementations, deal and business structuring, due diligence and business advisory services. Within the Cannabis... Read full bio

Dorothy McAuliffe Dorothy McAuliffe is a Senior Tax Manager in Grassi’s Cannabis Advisory practice. She has more than 18 years of experience helping small businesses, entrepreneurs, professional services firms and high-net-worth individuals plan and achieve their tax savings goals. Dorothy specializes in tax advisory, controversy, planning and compliance for businesses faced with complicated federal, state and local, and sales and use tax issues. She advises Cannabis... Read full bio