Sales of non-marijuana items in Colorado recreational stores quadruple

In January, recreational marijuana stores in Colorado sold just north of $350,000 worth of stuff that did not bear the 10-percent marijuana tax.  The math is explained here.   By May, that figure had more than quadrupled, to over $1.4 million.

first month sales taxes $416,690.00
divided by.029 sales tax rate $14,368,620.69
10-percent taxes divided by.10 percent retail tax rate $14,015,680.00
difference $352,940.69
percentage 0.024563296
fifth month sales taxes $642,124
divided by.029 sales tax rate $22,142,206.90
10-percent taxes divided by.10 percent retail tax rate $20,705,770.00
difference $1,436,436.90
percentage 0.064873249

If links above don’t work, try http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/Revenue-Main/XRM/1251633259746 That huge increase did not result from straight line growth of non-marijuana sales:  Colorado Department of Revenue statistics show a puzzling negative figure for the preceding month (April taxes paid in May and reported in June.  I’ve asked the Department of Revenue for an explanation.

So what?  I’m wondering if there is bundling, like  sales of “free” marijuana conditioned on purchase of something else that bears no marijuana tax.  Whether this works to beat tax is open to question. UNC Tax Professor Bill Turnier comments:

Most state sales taxes have rules to deal with this sort of thing. For example, if tangible personal property is taxed but food is exempt, you do not have to pay tax on the container (e.g., the can that contains your peas) if its value is an inconsequential part of the transaction. Where both items in the exchange are of significant value, then it is typically segmented. For example, if services are not taxed but goods are taxed, a car repair bill is segmented with no tax on the labor but tax on the parts. Sure, vendors can fail to segment such transactions and remit less tax than is due but this is dangerous and could lead to charges of tax fraud by the vendor.

+++++

Loss leaders are a legitimate business tool.  Free marijuana looks like a scheme to beat tax.  How far can a taxpayer go in offering not free marijuana, but cheap marijuana?  If you want simplicity, a simple solution is to say stores that sell marijuana can sell only marijuana.  Another solution is cruder.

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Author: patoglesby

From 1982 to 1990, I worked in tax policy for Committees of the United States Congress. In recent years, I was Adjunct Lecturer at UNC-Chapel Hill's Business School and then Adjunct Professor at its Law School.

One thought on “Sales of non-marijuana items in Colorado recreational stores quadruple”

  1. Most state sales taxes have rules to deal with this sort of thing. For example, if tangible personal property is taxed but food is exempt, you do not have to pay tax on the container (e.g., the can that contains your peas) if its value is an inconsequential part of the transaction. Where both items in the exchange are of significant value, then it is typically segmented. For example, if services are not taxed but goods are taxed, a car repair bill is segmented with no tax on the labor but tax on the parts. Sure, vendors can fail to segment such transactions and remit less tax than is due but this is dangerous and could lead to charges of tax fraud by the vendor.

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