Underground Storage Tank Maintenance Fee – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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About the Underground Storage Tank Maintenance Fee

The underground storage tank maintenance fee is owed by the owner of an underground storage tank, containing petroleum, for which a permit is required pursuant to Section 25284 of the Health and Safety Code.

Generally, if you operate an underground storage tank but do not own it, you are not liable for the fee. An operator is defined as the person who controls, or is responsible for, the daily operation of the tank. Generally, if you lease an underground storage tank, you are considered an operator, not an owner. Therefore, you are not liable for the fee. As an operator, you are generally not liable for the fee; however, you may have an agreement with the owner to report and pay the fee.

An owner or an operator can be an individual, a company, city, county, district, or any of their agencies or departments. The state and federal governments are not defined as owners or operators under the Underground Storage Tank Maintenance Fee Law.

Please note: If you are not the owner of a tank you operate and are not reporting and paying the fee on behalf of the owner, please give a copy of Publication 88, Underground Storage Tank Fee to the owner.

The underground storage tank maintenance fee is assessed on each gallon of petroleum product placed into an underground storage tank.

The fee is due each time a petroleum product is placed into an underground storage tank, regardless of whether the fee was previously assessed. Below are examples of when the fee is due more than once:

  • Petroleum products are removed from an underground storage tank and placed into another underground storage tank; or
  • Petroleum products are withdrawn and placed back into the same tank in which they were previously stored.

Petroleum products that are subject to the fee include, but are not limited to:

  • Gasoline and additives
  • Aviation gasoline and additives
  • Jet fuel and additives
  • Diesel fuel and additives (includes dyed diesel fuel)
  • Biodiesel and biodiesel blends
  • Denatured ethanol or ethanol blended with gasoline
  • Lubrication oils
  • Heating and lighting oils
  • Solvents

The fee does not apply to motor fuel or heating oil used for noncommercial purposes and placed in tanks having a capacity of 1,100 gallons or less and located on a farm or residence.

Petroleum is defined as crude oil, or any fractionation thereof, which is liquid at standard conditions of temperature and pressure.

The underground storage tank fee is used to provide revenue for the Underground Storage Tank Cleanup Fund in the General Fund. The primary purpose of the fund is to provide financial assistance to the owners and operators of underground storage tanks to remediate conditions caused by leaks, reimburse for third party damage and liability, and assist in meeting federal financial responsibility requirements.

Registration

If you are the owner of an underground storage tank used to store petroleum products, you are required to register and pay the fee. The owner must be registered for an account with the CDTFA and pay the fee on their return for each site where an underground storage tank is located.

Unless there is evidence to support otherwise, the CDTFA will generally presume that the owner of the real property where the tank is located is also the owner of the underground storage tank.

You may register for a permit, license, account, or other tax/fee program using the CDTFA's online registration system. Online registration is convenient, fast, and free and available 24 hours a day. Select "New Registration" to get started. The CDTFA website has more information to help you complete an application.

You may also register in person at one of our office locations. If you have questions, please contact our Customer Service Center at 1-800-400-7115, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Pacific time, excluding state holidays.

You may also add a location to an existing account using our online registration system.

An underground storage tank owner or operator may also need to obtain a Seller's Permit from the CDTFA. You will be able to register for both permits using the CDTFA's online registration system.

The law assumes that the owner of the real property is the owner of the underground storage tank located on the property. Therefore, your underground storage tank account is generally registered to the name or names that appear on your property deed.

The law assumes that the owner of the real property is the owner of the underground storage tank located on the property, even if the property is leased to another person. If the lease between you and your operator meet the requirements of Regulation 1205, Fee Payer; Rebuttable Presumption, it is possible to register the operator for the duration of the lease.

If the requirements of Regulation 1205 are not met, the owner and operator must file notarized statements with the CDTFA as outlined in Regulation 1213, Payment of Fee by Operator. The CDTFA will contact you for any additional required paperwork after receiving an application for an underground storage tank permit.

The Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) offers extensive information on state, local, and federal permit requirements. For a listing of its assistance centers, visit the Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development website.

Visit CalGold for help with permit and licensing requirements for other state, federal, and local authorities (for example, you may need to be registered with the Franchise Tax Board or the Employment Development Department.

Also, see California's Tax Service Center. You may also want to consult a tax professional for assistance on other agencies' requirements.

If you own an underground storage tank located in California, you must register for an underground storage tank permit.

Agents, owners, and operators should notify the CDTFA of any change of address, phone, or fax number to ensure that returns and information from the CDTFA are received timely. Use form CDTFA-345-SP, Notice of Business Change – Property and Special Taxes, to notify the CDTFA of changes. Owners should also notify CDTFA when there is a change in lessee or operator if you have an agreement in accordance with Regulation 1213, requiring the lessee or operator to report on your behalf, on file.

If you have questions, contact the CDTFA Customer Service Center at 1-800-400-7115 (TTY: 711) Monday through Friday (except state holidays) 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Pacific time), and select the option for Special Taxes and Fees or email your question at Email Your Tax Questions.

Collecting the Fee

The current and historical underground storage tank maintenance fees are available on our website at Tax Rates – Special Taxes and Fees.

The underground storage tank fee is assessed on each gallon of petroleum products placed into an underground storage tank and is imposed upon the owner of the underground storage tank. Generally, a retail sale is not associated with the receipt of petroleum products into an underground storage tank. Sellers typically incorporate the underground storage tank fee reimbursement as a component of their Cost of Goods Sold. The sales and use tax amount is calculated on the total retail sale price.

The fee does not apply to:

  • The State of California, or any agency or department thereof.
    Note: County and Local Governments are not exempt.
  • The United States, its unincorporated agencies, or instrumentalities.
  • Any incorporated agency or instrumentality of the United States wholly owned by the United States or by a corporation wholly owned by the United States.
  • Banks or other financial institutions.
  • Insurance companies.
  • Any person of Native American descent who is entitled to receive services as an Native American from the United States Department of the Interior when the underground storage tank is located upon an Indian reservation, including rancherias, or any land held by the United States in trust for any Indian tribe or individual Indian.
  • A tank located on a farm or at a residence with a capacity of 1,100 gallons or less, that stores home heating oil, for use on the premises where stored.
  • A tank with a capacity of 1,100 gallons or less which is located on a farm and stores diesel fuel used primarily for agricultural purposes and not for resale.

Filing and Making a Payment

The return and fee are due on the 25th day of the month following the close of the reporting period (for example, October 25th for the period of July through September for a quarterly filer). The CDTFA will determine, and notify you, at the time of registration if you will file monthly, quarterly or yearly. You are required to file a return for the reporting period even if you did not have any reportable activity during the reporting period. All registered accounts should receive an Underground Storage Tank Maintenance Fee Return, CDTFA-501-TK. The CDTFA will mail a return within 15 days of the due date. If you do not receive a return, please contact the Customer Service Center toll-free at 1-800-400-7115 (TTY: 711), Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Pacific time, excluding state holidays, or download a underground storage tank fee return using the link provided above. Your return must be filed timely even if you do not receive a return from the CDTFA.

Returns and payments must be postmarked by the due date to be considered timely. If the due date falls on a Saturday, Sunday or state holiday, returns and payments postmarked or received by the next business day will be considered timely.

Yes, the CDTFA may mail returns to your operator, on your behalf, directly to the business location. You and your operator must each file a notarized statement with the CDTFA. Examples of the required statements are available at Regulation 1213, Payment of Fee by Operator. However, if the operator does not pay the fees, you will be responsible for the fees and any penalty and interest charges that may be due.

There are several options for paying any fee amount due. You can easily and conveniently make your payment online. Select "Make a Payment" on our website. You can also pay by credit card or electronic funds transfer (EFT) at "Make a Payment", or by calling 1-855-292-8931 (for credit card payments). Please note that a service fee of 2.3% of the transaction amount will be charged by the credit card processing vendor. This service fee is retained by the vendor and is not revenue to the CDTFA. The minimum fee is $1.00.

You may also submit your payment with your return. Make your check or money order payable to "California Department of Tax and Fee Administration." Always write your account number on your check or money order and make a copy for your records. Payments must be postmarked by the due date to be considered timely. If the due date falls on a Saturday, Sunday or state holiday, payments postmarked or received by the next business day will be considered timely.

If your estimated average monthly fee payment will be $20,000 or more, you will be required to pay the fee by Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT). If you are not required to make fee payments through EFT, you may do so on a voluntary basis. You must submit an Authorization Agreement for Electronic Funds Transfer form CDTFA-555-ST to enroll in EFT.

In addition to paying the underground storage tank maintenance fee by EFT by the due date, you must also file the return by the due date. If no amount is owed, a return must be submitted timely. A delinquent return, failure to pay by EFT, or a late transfer will result in penalty charges. For more information on the EFT program, visit the CDTFA website and click on "Make a Payment" then select Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) Information.

You will receive a closure report from your local agency and a certificate of destruction when the underground storage tank is destroyed. Send a copy of either document to the CDTFA with a letter requesting closure of your account to:
California Department of Tax and Fee Administration
Compliance Branch (MIC: 88)
450 N Street
Sacramento, CA 94279

You will need to file zero returns until you receive a letter confirming that we have closed your account.

You should keep all required records in support of your fee return for a minimum of four years after the return due date. For further information, see Underground Storage Tank Maintenance Fee Regulation 1271, Records.

The Underground Storage Tank Cleanup Fund application process, administered by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), requires claimants to provide documentation that all UST storage fees (for the tanks that are the subject of the claim) due on or after January 1, 1991, have been paid to the CDTFA. For fee verification purposes you may want to maintain complete records for the SWRCB longer than the four years required by the CDTFA. For more information on the cleanup fund, visit the SWRCB website.

If you have overpaid the fee directly to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, you may file a claim by using form, CDTFA-101, Claim for Refund or Credit or file an amended return(s) stating the specific reason(s) for the overpayment. Claims for refund should specify the period for which claim is being made and the amount of the refund being claimed. The claim for refund must be in writing, be signed by you, and state the reason(s) an overpayment was made.

Publication 117, Filing a Claim for Refund, details the general requirements for filing a claim for refund and includes form CDTFA-101, Claim for Refund or Credit, and instructions. Mail claims to:

California Department of Tax and Fee Administration
Appeals and Data Analysis Branch (MIC: 33)
P.O. Box 942879
Sacramento, CA 94279-0033

Additional refund details may be found on our website.

You must file a claim for refund by whichever of these dates that occurs last:

  • Three years from the due date of the return on which you overpaid the fee
  • Six months from the date you overpaid the fee
  • Six months from the date a determination (billing) became final
  • Three years from the date the CDTFA collected an involuntary payment, such as from a levy or lien

Be sure to file your claim for refund by the applicable deadline. If you do not file on time, the CDTFA cannot consider your claim, even if you overpaid the fee.