Publication 117, Filing a Claim for Refund

December 2019

Filing a Claim

If you believe you have paid more taxes or fees (tax) than you owe, you may file a claim for refund. This publication explains how to file a claim and what you should expect.

How do I File a Claim?

You may file a claim for refund using CDTFA’s online services. To submit a claim for refund, simply login using your username and password and click on the account for which you want to request a refund. Click on the More link under the I Want To section. Then select the Submit a Claim for Refund link and follow the prompts.

You may also file a claim for refund using a CDTFA-101, Claim for Refund or Credit, or by sending us a letter. Your claim must state all of the following:

  • The specific reasons you paid too much tax.
  • The amount of tax you overpaid. If you're not yet sure of the amount, you may file for an unspecified amount.
  • The reporting period or periods for which you paid too much tax. Your claim can cover more than one reporting period.

You must sign and date your claim. Please include your phone number so that we can contact you if we have questions or need more information. To expedite the processing of your claim, you should send supporting documents such as copies of invoices or exemption certificates and an amended return(s) along with your claim. Please see the Required Information section for more information.

Where Do I Send My Claim?

Paper claims for refund may be submitted as follows:

Send your sales and use tax claim for refund and supporting documents, including amended returns to:

Audit Determination and Refund Section, MIC:39
California Department of Tax and Fee Administration
PO Box 942879
Sacramento, CA 94279-0039

For certified mail or delivery service:
Audit Determination and Refund Section, MIC:39
California Department of Tax and Fee Administration
450 N Street, Sacramento, CA 95814.

Send your special tax and fee claim for refund and supporting documents to the address below excluding claims for Diesel Fuel Tax Fee, eWaste Fee, Lead-Acid Battery Fee, Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax, or Tax on Insurers. See the Program Specific Guidelines section for an explanation of the exceptions.

Appeals and Data Analysis Branch, MIC:33
California Department of Tax and Fee Administration
PO Box 942879
Sacramento, CA 94279-0033

For certified mail or delivery service:

Appeals and Data Analysis Branch, MIC:33
California Department of Tax and Fee Administration
450 N Street, Sacramento, CA 95814.

What is the Deadline for Filing a Claim for Refund?

If you believe you have paid more tax than you owe, and you wish to be refunded, you must file a timely claim for refund, otherwise the CDTFA is unable to issue a refund. Whichever of the following dates occurs last is your deadline to file a timely claim for refund:

  • Three years from the due date of the return on which you paid too much tax (except for tax on insurers). Filing an application for registration of your vehicle with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is generally considered a return and relieves you of further obligation to file with the CDTFA.
  • Six months from the date you overpaid tax.
  • Six months from the date a determination (billing) became final, for most programs.
  • Three years from the date we collected an involuntary payment, such as from a levy or lien (except for Motor Vehicle Fuels Tax and Tax on Insurers as the collection for these tax programs are handled by the State Controller’s Office).

Be sure to file your claim for refund by the applicable deadline. If you don't file on time, you will not receive a refund, even if you paid too much tax.

Some special tax and fee programs, including fuel tax programs, have special requirements. Be sure to review the Program Specific Guidelines section for more information.

Installment Payments Made Toward a Billing

Beginning January 1, 2017, if you are making installment payments on a final Notice of Determination (billing) and are disputing your tax liability, you may file one timely claim for refund to cover all future payments applied to that billing, and any prior payments that remain within the applicable statute of limitations. If you are disputing more than one billing, you must file a timely claim for refund for each separate billing.

Claim for Refund or Credit for Tax Paid to DMV

If you purchase a vehicle through a private-party sale (not from a registered dealer) you are required to register it with the DMV. Typically, the DMV will charge you use tax on the transaction based upon the address of the location where the vehicle is registered. In some cases, the wrong tax rate may be charged when the address is based upon a ZIP Code that crosses a city or county line. You may want to verify your tax rate prior to going to DMV to ensure the correct amount of tax is charged.

To verify your tax rate, use the interactive map and enter the address where the vehicle was registered. Compare this rate to the rate you were charged when you registered the vehicle. If you paid the wrong amount to the DMV, you may file a claim for refund and submit it to the CDTFA.

Our California City & County Sales & Use Tax Rates page on our website provides tax rate information and also explains recent tax rate changes, the history of sales and use tax rates, rates and effective dates of district taxes, and the combined sales, use, and district tax rate in certain cities and communities in California.

Additionally, some cities have developed a database of addresses available to assist retailers and consumers in identifying addresses located within the special taxing jurisdictions. In cooperation with these cities, the CDTFA website provides links to their address databases. If you have questions about the addresses, you should contact the cities directly.

Example: You register your car at your home in Fresno County. You live near, but not in, the City of Reedley, which has a special tax district. Homes in the City of Reedley have the same ZIP Code as your home in Fresno. If the use tax rate charged by the DMV includes the Reedley district tax, you are not liable for that district tax, and are entitled to a refund of the overpaid district tax.

If the DMV charges you a district tax for which you are not liable (for example, your address is located outside the district tax boundary), as described above, you have two options. You can:

  • Pay the correct tax at a CDTFA office and obtain a tax clearance before you register your vehicle with the DMV, or
  • Pay the tax requested by the DMV and file a claim for refund for any overpaid district tax and submit it to the CDTFA.

To file a claim for refund on overpaid use tax to the DMV, please follow these steps:

  • Verify the correct tax rate for the address where your vehicle is registered.
  • Compare this rate to the rate you were charged at the time of registration with DMV.
  • If you were in fact overcharged, please download and submit a completed CDTFA-101-DMV, Claim for Refund or Credit for Tax Paid to DMV, and your supporting documentation to the CDTFA to request your refund.

Submit your completed CDTFA-101-DMV form and supporting documentation to any CDTFA office or the CDTFA’s Consumer Use Tax Section at:

Consumer Use Tax Section, MIC:37
California Department of Tax and Fee Administration
PO Box 942879
Sacramento, CA 94279-0037

Please see publication 52, Vehicles and Vessels: Use Tax, or call our CDTFA’s Customer Service Center at 1-800-400-7115 (CRS:711) for assistance.

Required Information

How much detail should I provide?

Reason for overpayment

Be specific. For example, if you find you did not take a deduction for $1,550 in nontaxable sales for resale, your claim would state that you paid too much tax because you didn't take a $1,550 sales for resale deduction on that return. If you are filing a claim for a payment made on an audit determination, be sure to state why you believe the tax assessed in the audit is not due.

Claims for more than one tax reporting period

If your claim covers more than one reporting period, please indicate how much excess tax you paid in each period, if known. Please break down each period's overpayment into state, local, and specific district tax amounts.

Supporting documents

To help us process your claim faster send supporting documents such as copies of invoices or exemption certificates. However, it's not necessary to attach extensive documentation to your original form or letter. We will let you know if we need more information.

The supporting documentation for your claim for refund should include an amended return(s). You can currently amend your returns online for programs in our CDTFA’s Online Services for periods with due dates after May 7, 2018 (except for fiscal year end 2018 return periods). See below if you are amending a return(s) with a due date(s) prior to May 7, 2018. You may also upload your supporting documentation, including a copy of your amended return(s), when you file your claim online.

To amend your return online, please do the following:

  • Login on to the CDTFA’s secure website with your Username and Password.
  • Select the account for which you want to submit an amended return for under the Accounts tab.
  • Select the period you want to submit an amended return for under Recent Periods tab.
  • In the I Want To column, select File, Amend, or Print a Return.
  • Under the I Want To column, select Amend Return.
  • Complete the online tax return with your amended figures.
  • Select Next.
  • Follow the screen prompts to complete the submission process.

If you are unable to amend your return online, you may amend your paper return as follows:

  • Check the Amended Return checkbox on the return or write AMENDED RETURN on the top of the document.
  • Write in the correct information that should have been reported on the original return. Use a different color ink to distinguish from the original information if you are using a copy of a previously filed paper return.
  • Attach a cover letter explaining the changes made to the original return.
  • Make a copy of the amended return for your records.
  • Mail to the address listed on your return.

Program Specific Guidelines

The general guidelines discussed in this publication can be used when filing a claim for refund for most of the tax and fee programs administered by the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA). However, there are specific guidelines when filing a claim for refund for the following programs:

  • Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Fee
  • Covered Electronic Waste (eWaste) Recycling Fee
  • Diesel Fuel Tax
  • Lead-Acid Battery Fees
  • Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax and Aircraft Jet Fuel Tax
  • Tax on Insurers
  • Water Rights Fee

Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Fee

Claims for refund of childhood lead poisoning prevention fees disputing all or part of the fee assessed are reviewed by the Department of Public Health, Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch (DPH). CDTFA sends the claim to the DPH for its consideration. You should work with the DPH and the CDTFA to resolve these claims.

However, if you agree with the assessed fees but make an overpayment in error, you can file a claim for refund of the overpayment with the CDTFA using a CDTFA-101, Claim for Refund or Credit. You must file your claim within six months of the date on which the fee was paid.

Covered Electronic Waste (eWaste) Recycling Fee

The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) is responsible for handling any petition for redetermination or claim for refund based upon the grounds that a product is not a covered electronic device (CED). You may file a petition or claim for refund with the CDTFA and we will forward the request to the DTSC for response, or you may send your request directly to the DTSC at Fees@DTSC.ca.gov.

If you overpaid the eWaste fee directly to the CDTFA, you can file a claim for refund by using a CDTFA-101, Claim for Refund or Credit.

Diesel Fuel Tax

Licensed Diesel Fuel Suppliers

If you are a blender, enterer, position holder, refiner, terminal operator, or throughputter, you are a “supplier” as defined in Diesel Fuel Tax Law section 60033. Diesel fuel suppliers are required to file a tax return, CDTFA-501-DD, Supplier of Diesel Fuel Tax Return, with the CDTFA. For information on the types of credits you may be allowed on your return instead of filing a claim for refund, please see our Licensed Diesel Fuel Suppliers - Filing Claims for Refund webpage. You may file your CDTFA-501-DD online by logging in to CDTFA’s online services using your username and password.

Exempt Sellers

If you export or sell tax-paid diesel fuel to exempt customers (U.S. government, train operators, and others) and you are not a licensed ultimate vendor or supplier of diesel fuel, you are an exempt seller. Registered exempt sellers can file a claim for refund of the tax paid on undyed diesel fuel exported or sold without collection of tax to exempt purchasers using CDTFA-770-DZ, Claim for Refund on Nontaxable Sales and Exports of Diesel Fuel. You must register before filing a claim for refund. You may file your CDTFA-770-DZ online by logging in to the CDTFA’s online services using your username and password. For more information, please see our Exempt Sellers - Nontaxable Sales & Exports - Filing Claims for Refund webpage.

Ultimate Vendors

If you sell tax-paid undyed diesel fuel without collecting tax under an exemption certificate to ultimate purchasers, including farmers (who use the diesel fuel for farming purposes) and exempt bus operators (who use diesel fuel in exempt bus operations), you are an ultimate vendor.

Ultimate vendors must file CDTFA-770-DV, Diesel Fuel Ultimate Vendor Report/Claim for Refund, listing diesel fuel purchases and sales/uses that qualify for a refund. You must file a report even if you have no exempt transactions or refund to claim for the reporting period. Failure to file this report will result in a delay in processing any future refunds. You may file your CDTFA-770-DV online. Log in to CDTFA’s online services using your username and password. Some ultimate vendors may file CDTFA-770-DVW, Diesel Fuel Tax Claim for Refund – Sales to Ultimate Purchasers, for claim for refund periods of not less than one week and total at least $200. For more information, please see our Ultimate Vendors - Filing Claims for Refund webpage.

Licensed Government Entities

Government entities are not exempt from the diesel fuel tax; however, you are allowed to purchase dyed diesel fuel for on-highway use. To do so, you must register with the CDTFA for a license and report and pay the excise tax on dyed diesel fuel used on public highways. You may take a credit on your CDTFA-501-DG, Government Entity Diesel Fuel Tax Return, for the tax paid to your retail vendor, and if this exceeds your tax liability for the period, you will be issued a refund. You may file your CDTFA-501 online. Log in to CDTFA’s online services using your username and password.

Diesel Fuel Users

If you purchase tax-paid diesel fuel and use it in a nontaxable manner, you are a diesel fuel user. You must register with the CDTFA before filing a claim for refund. To submit a claim for refund, you must file a CDTFA-770-DU, Diesel Fuel Claim for Refund on Nontaxable Uses. You may file your CDTFA-770-DU online. Log in to CDTFA’s online services using your username and password. For more information, please see our Users - Nontaxable Uses - Filing Claims for Refund webpage.

Lead-Acid Battery Fees

The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) is responsible for handling petitions for redetermination or claims for refund based upon the grounds that a battery is or is not a lead-acid battery. You may file a petition or claim for refund with the CDTFA, and we will forward the request to the DTSC for response, or you may send your request directly to the DTSC at Fees@DTSC.ca.gov.

Only a person who has paid the lead-acid battery fees to the state, or a consumer who has paid a separately stated amount for the California battery fee to a dealer, or a representative of such a feepayer, may file a claim for refund. If you have overpaid either of the lead-acid battery fees, you may file a claim for refund by using a CDTFA-101, Claim for Refund or Credit.

Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax and Aircraft Jet Fuel Tax

If you are a blender, enterer, position holder, refiner, terminal operator, or throughputter, you are a “supplier” as defined in Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax Law section 7338. Motor Vehicle Fuel (MVF) suppliers are required to file a tax return, CDTFA-501-PS, Supplier of Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax Return. In general, claims for refund of motor vehicle fuel (MVF) tax must be filed with California State Controller’s Office (SCO). Instead of filing a claim for refund with the SCO for refunds on certain sales, a licensed MVF supplier may take a credit on its tax return up to the amount of tax owed on the return (the return cannot be a negative/credit return). If you make errors in reporting that result in an overpayment when you file your CDTFA-501-PS, Supplier of Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax Return or CDTFA-501-MJ, Aircraft Jet Fuel Dealer Tax Return, you may file a claim for refund with the CDTFA using a CDTFA-101, Claim for Refund or Credit, or you may file a claim for refund using CDTFA’s online services. To submit a claim for refund online, simply log in using your username and password and select the account for which you want to request a refund. Click on the More link under the I Want To section. Then, select the Submit a Claim for Refund link and follow the prompts.

The following claims for refund must be filed on Form SCGR-1, Gasoline Tax Refund Claim, with the State Controller's Office within three years from the date of purchase of the motor vehicle fuel:

Mail State Controller’s Office claims to:

Bureau of Tax Administration
State Controller's Office
PO Box 942850
Sacramento, CA 94250-5880

For more information, please see our Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax Supplier - Filing Claims for Refund webpage.

Tax on Insurers

If you have overpaid the tax on insurers, you may file a claim for refund by using a CDTFA-101, Claim for Refund or Credit, or by filing an amended return(s), stating the specific reason(s) for the overpayment. Claims for refund must be in writing, be signed by you, and should specify the period and amount for which you are making the claim.

Mail claims for refund and/or amended returns to:

Appeals and Data Analysis Branch MIC:33
California Department of Tax and Fee Administration
PO Box 942879
Sacramento, CA 94279-0033

Or email to: adab@cdtfa.ca.gov

A copy of the claim for refund and amended return must also be sent to:

Premium Tax Audit Unit
California Department of Insurance
300 South Spring Street, 13th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90013-1230

ATTN: Amended Tax Return

Water Rights Fee

Disputes of water rights fees are considered Petitions for Reconsideration under the Water Code and must be filed with the State Water Resources Control Board, Division of Water Rights within thirty days from the date of the notice assessment.

Mail your claim to:

Division of Water Rights
State Water Resources Control Board
PO Box 2000
Sacramento, CA 95812

However, if you agree with the assessed fees but make an overpayment in error, you can file a claim for refund of the overpayment with the CDTFA using a CDTFA-101, Claim for Refund or Credit. You can mail your completed claim to the address listed on the form. You must file your claim within six months of the date on which the fee was paid.

For more information

If you need additional information regarding filing a claim for refund for special tax and fees programs, please see our Filing Claims for Refund - Special Taxes and Fees webpage which has a variety of information, including frequently asked questions and recordkeeping requirements.

Claim Processing

How will I know whether my claim has been approved? How long does it take?

We will send you a letter acknowledging receipt of your claim. We review claims as quickly as possible, generally in the order they are received, but the process may take several months.

If we approve your claim, a Notice of Refund showing the amount you overpaid will be issued. The amount shown on the Notice of Refund as overpaid will not be paid directly to you if any of that amount is credited against other amounts you owe to the CDTFA or to other state agencies. In addition, if it is concluded that an amount in excess of $50,000 should be refunded, that conclusion must be available as matter of public record for at least 10 days prior to its effective date. We will pay interest on your refund if it meets certain criteria. For more information, see publication 75, Interest, Penalties, and Fees.

If we deny your claim and you wish to continue your appeal, the next step is to file a lawsuit for refund in court. If you wish to do so, you must file the lawsuit within 90 days after the mailing of CDTFA’s Notice of Denial of Claim for Refund. For more information, see publication 17, Appeals Procedures: Sales and Use Taxes and Special Taxes and Fees.

If we have not acted on your claim within six months of the date you filed it, you may file a lawsuit to recover the amount you believe you overpaid (see publication 17, Appeals Procedures: Sales and Use Taxes and Special Taxes and Fees).

Please note: This publication summarizes the law and applicable regulations in effect when the publication was written, as noted. However, changes in the law or regulations may have occurred since that time. If there is a conflict between the text in this publication and the law, decisions will be based on the law and not on this publication.

Additional Information

Regulations

1703 Interest and Penalties

Publications

17 Appeals Procedures: Sales and Use Taxes and Special Taxes and Fees

76 Audits

Sales and Use Tax Law sections (Revenue and Taxation Code)

6591.5 Interest rates

6902 Claim; limitation period

6902.3 Overpayments from levies or liens

6904 Form and content of claim

Fee Collection Procedures Law sections, which apply to the following programs:

  • California Tire Fee
  • Cannabis Tax
  • Covered Electronic Waste Recycling Fee
  • Lead-Acid Battery Fees
  • Lumber Products Assessment
  • Marine Invasive Species (Water Ballast) Fee
  • Natural Gas Surcharge
  • Water Rights Fee

55221 Credits and refunds

55222 Claim; limitation periods

55225 Interest on overpayments

Alcoholic Beverage Tax sections

32402 Claim; limitation period 6901

32402.1 Claim limitation; financially disabled

32402.2 Overpayments from levies or liens

Childhood Lead and Occupational Lead Poisoning Prevention Fees sections

43452 Claim; limitation period

43452.1 Claim limitation period; financially disabled

43452.2 Claim limitation period; overpayments from levies or liens

Cigarette & Tobacco Products Tax sections

30362 Claim; limitations period

30362.1 Claim limitation; financially disabled

Diesel Fuel Tax Law sections

60522 Credits and refunds; claim; limitation period

60522.1 Claim limitation; financially disabled

60522.2 Overpayments from levies or liens

Emergency Telephone Users Surcharge sections

41101 Credit and refund limitations

41101.1 Claim limitation period; financially disabled

41101.2 Claim limitation period; overpayments from levies or liens

Energy Resource Surcharge sections

40112 Refund and credit limitations

40112.1 Claim limitation period; financially disabled

40112.2 Claim limitation period; overpayments from levies or liens

Hazardous Substances Tax Law sections

43452 Claim; limitation period

43452.1 Claim limitation period; financially disabled

43452.2 Claim limitation period; overpayments from levies or liens

Integrated Waste Management Fee Law sections

45652 Claim; limitation period

45652.1 Claim; limitation period; financially disabled

45652.2 Claim; limitation period; overpayments from levies or liens

Aircraft Jet Fuel Tax and Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax Law sections

8128 Claim; limitation period

8128.1 Claim limitation; financially disabled

Oil Spill Prevention, Response and Administration Fee

46502 Claim; limitation periods

46502.1 Claim limitation period; financially disabled

46502.2 Claim limitation period; overpayments from levies or liens

Tax on Insurers Law section

12978 Time for presentation of claim

Underground Storage Tank Maintenance Fee sections

50140 Claim; limitation period

50140.1 Claim limitation period; financially disabled

50140.2 Claim limitation period; overpayments from levies or liens

Use Fuel Tax Law sections

9152 Claims; limitation period

9152.1 Claim limitation; financially disabled

9152.2 Overpayments from levies or liens