Company: Calyx CPA LLC
Title: Founding Partner and Chief Technical Officer
Jamie Jorgenstone has always liked a challenge.
“I think I’ve always been drawn to complicated things,” she says. “I tend to get bored pretty easily.”
Which is probably why, as a CPA and tax accountant, the “ever-changing and evolving” cannabis industry held an allure. It’s also why she has been successful in helping build Calyx, an Oregon-based CPA firm focused on helping cannabis businesses negotiate the complicated world of paying their taxes.
“It’s a very challenging landscape from a tax and accounting perspective,” Jorgenstone says. “Always having something more to learn is really attractive to me.”
As a partner and Chief Technical Officer at Calyx, Jorgenstone has been responsible for helping the company develop aggressive and innovative — yet legal and defensible — strategies for clients to keep more of their money, helping move the firm from being just a tax-season hire to a more advisory position that brings a holistic approach to the client experience.
“She’s the backbone of this business,” says Calyx CEO Justin Botillier. “We have gone to another level in terms of sophistication, accuracy, the smoothness of our operations, and our ability to really add value to our clients.”
“We often have clients come to us who have had poor experiences with past accountants or who are simply overwhelmed by the thought of getting organized enough to file taxes. We’re able to provide guidance and support throughout the process of getting them back into compliance. Once we’ve cleared that hurdle, we can get to work implementing proactive strategies to maximize tax savings,” Jorgenstone says. “I think the work we do is much more rewarding in this industry. There are so many unfair challenges facing business owners operating in the cannabis space. I know the work we do has a real impact on these businesses.”
Jorgenstone first started to read about the cannabis industry while in college at Southern Oregon University. Always “business-minded” and having a “way with numbers,” Jorgenstone was completing her public accounting degree as Oregon legalized sales. As the industry began to develop, the tax challenges and complications of being in a federally illegal business, such as the now notorious IRC 280E, began to also come into focus.
“I was immediately drawn to the idea of problem-solving those issues and helping legitimize the industry,” she says.
But after graduation in 2016, Jorgenstone’s first job took her to a more traditional accounting firm in Southern Oregon, where despite a growing concentration of cannabis businesses, the firm mostly stayed away.
At that firm, she met Bryant Zwart, who knew and had previously worked with Botillier, who was developing a clientele of those cannabis businesses and wanted a business focused primarily on the industry. Botillier contacted Zwart, who reached out to Jorgenstone and in 2019, Calyx was formed.
The job immediately appealed to Jorgenstone, particularly the federal tax code section 280E that made it so cannabis business owners could not deduct the same ordinary business expenses as their non-cannabis peers.
“That’s the biggest challenge and that’s the most interesting one for me,” she says.
Jorgenstone dove into the tax code, studying it to find ways in which different code sections work together and developing strategies to allow cannabis business owners to capture maximum deductions. It’s a holistic approach that focuses on documentation and inventory valuation methodology and management, but one that is both aggressive for Calyx’s clients and defensible to the IRS.
It’s that deep knowledge and experience in both tax preparation and accounting, as well as the cannabis industry, that separates Jorgenstone and Calyx from accountants focused on traditional industries who are just dabbling in the cannabis sector.
“Taking these positions isn’t without risk and it needs to be done right. The defensibility relies on specific, accurately completed tax forms, descriptive language and disclosures throughout the tax return, and properly integrated internal accounting records and accounting procedures,” she says. “If you’re not well-versed in the industry, chances are you’re not going to check all the boxes.”
Jorgenstone’s work is not only helping her clients, it’s also one of the main reasons for Calyx’s continued growth into a leading and respected national cannabis accounting firm with clients across the country.
“The research that Jamie has done, and the methodology we have developed can get them way more deductions than they would otherwise get from an inexperienced or overly conservative accountant,” Botillier says. “People are afraid of the IRS, but what they should really be afraid of is their accountant.”
“There is a dedicated and hard-working community of professionals out there that are constantly researching, brainstorming and developing tax-saving strategies for cannabis businesses. These strategies are backed by CPAs, tax attorneys, former IRS agents, all specializing in the industry,” says Jorgenstone. “If your accountant isn’t connected to that community, your business is at risk and you’re more than likely leaving money on the table.”
Even outside her work, Jorgenstone never shies away from a challenge, including raising a 2-year-old daughter and a newborn baby girl, who was due in May, while also maintaining her role as a partner in a national accounting firm.
She says as a mom, working outside the home can feel like you’re not doing enough for your kids, but it is important to reframe that mindset and recognize the positive impacts.
“I’m proud that my daughters will grow up thinking it’s normal for women — even moms — to not only have careers, but to hold leadership positions. They’ll know that you don’t necessarily have to trade motherhood for a career, or the other way around,” she says. “You can do both.”
Jorgenstone says she was surrounded by strong women growing up, as well as a father who worked as a chief financial officer, so she never felt daunted moving into a field or industry traditionally dominated by men.
Outside of the office, Jorgenstone says she and her family love spending time outdoors in Oregon’s beautiful natural environment, specifically rock climbing, which she plans on introducing to her older daughter this year as well.
But she admits that with a new baby — and the ever-expanding cannabis industry showing no signs of slowing down — the year ahead will probably be a busy one. Calyx is making a push into newly legal states, to not only get its name out there within the industry, but to ensure from the start that cannabis operators are getting off on the right foot by preventing them from accruing huge tax debts because of accountants who don’t fully understand the business or how the code applies.
The firm, for example, recently took on a California business that has hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax debt not because of audits, but because tax preparers did not use the code to the business’s fullest extent and ended up miring it in debt. Calyx, on the other hand, is currently in the process of amending that business’s returns with an estimated reduction of tax liability of around $250,000.
“It’s really nice when we can work with people from the very beginning and avoid some of the challenges that they might run into if they had a not-so-great accountant for the first few years,” she says. “We can do a lot more for our clients when we can be proactive, rather than reactive.”