Congratulations on opening your new business in California!
Helping your business succeed is important to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA). We recognize that locating and reviewing all of the information you need can be overwhelming.
Our goal is to provide information that is easily accessible, which will not only assist you in understanding your sales and use tax obligations but help you avoid simple filing mistakes. This guide provides the information that we believe is important to you in managing your business.
How to Use This Guide
Each section of this guide contains information important to your business.
The Filing and Payments section provides key resources related to filing returns and paying taxes or fees owed.
The Managing Your Sales section provides topics to help your business be successful and how to avoid problems with your taxes or fees. It also covers good recordkeeping practices, exemptions that may help you, where to find information specifically related to your type of business, assistance determining your tax and fee rates, and helpful guides and publications.
The Working with the CDTFA section helps you find the location of local CDTFA offices nearest to you for walk-in assistance, getting an educational consultation, obtaining tax and fee advice, and updating CDTFA with changes to your business.
Lastly, the Resources section provides links to a wealth of information, including forms and publications, current updates, web-based seminars, and access to live help from our customer service representatives.
Please note that the information included is general in nature and is not intended to replace any law or regulation.
If You Need Help
If at any time you need assistance with topics included in this guide, or with topics we may have not included, feel free to contact us by telephone or email. Contact information and hours of operation are available in the Resources section
If you have suggestions for improving this guide, please contact us via email.
Filing and Payments
If you hold a permit or license, you have to file a return and pay any taxes or fees you may owe. Depending on your type of business, California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) offers convenient online filing services. The online filing system offers helpful information to guide you through the process. It's secure, easy to use, and the calculations are done for you.
To learn more about filing online, please go to Online Services.
You can find specific filing instructions for your tax program:
When you have a permit or license with us, we will inform you when to file your return. Depending on the type of permit or license you have obtained, the return due dates will vary.
Sales and Use Tax
When you registered, you were assigned a reporting basis:
- Quarterly Prepay
- Fiscal Yearly
Make sure you file on time even if you can't pay. Find your due dates at Filing Dates for Sales & Use Tax Returns.
Other Taxes and Fees
For other tax and fee accounts, the filing dates will vary depending on each program. For filing dates for other tax and fee accounts please see Important Dates for Other Taxes & Fees for details.
You should gather all the information that you will need:
- Account number
- Sales transactions and deduction information for the reporting period
- Purchase information (to make Use Tax payments)
- Bank account information or credit card number
To learn more about filing online, please go to Online Services.
We offer a number of convenient payment methods for our tax and fee payers to apply toward current and past due liabilities.
Usually, when you file a return, you may also make a payment at the same time. You may pay directly from your bank account, with a credit card, check, or money order. Depending on your business operations, you may be required to make payment through an Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT).
- Pay Direct From Your Bank Account – You can authorize CDTFA to have the funds transferred directly from your checking or savings account to CDTFA's bank account by supplying your account number and bank routing number.
- Credit Card Payments – We accept American Express, Discover, MasterCard, and Visa. 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 CDTFA.
- Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) – This is a method for financial institutions to transfer funds from one account to another, eliminating the use of paper checks. It is required by law if your average monthly sales tax payments over a 12 month period are of $10,000 or more ($20,000 or more for special tax and fee programs). You can also make payments by EFT on a voluntary basis.
- Check or Money Order – A check or money order can be made payable to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration and mailed to:
California Department of Tax and Fee Administration
PO Box 942879
Sacramento, CA 94279-7072
Managing Your Sales
We know that running a business can be challenging; therefore we want to help you succeed. The following tips can help you avoid problems with paying your taxes and fees.
|Put the Taxes and Fees Collected into a Separate Bank Account||The taxes and fees you collected from your customers are meant to be remitted to California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) along with your tax or fee return. It should not be used to pay other business or personal financial obligations. Set aside the actual amount of taxes or fees collected in a separate account.|
|File and Pay Together On or Before the Due Date||You are required to file and pay your taxes or fees on or before the due date. Note your due dates on your calendar so you won't forget. For many accounts, you can file your return and make payments together online.|
|Don't Forget to Report and Pay Use Tax if You Owe It||Your online purchases may be subject to use tax. For more information go to California Use Tax Information.|
|Report Accurately||Make sure the amounts you report on your return are the total taxes or fees you collected from your customers plus any use tax you owe.|
|Keep Books and Records for a Minimum of Four Years||You are required to keep all your tax and fee records for at least four years.|
|Keep CDTFA Notified of Changes||You are required to keep us notified of changes to your business, including changes in ownership, address, contact information, or when you close your business. You can submit changes on form CDTFA-345-WEB, Notice of Business Change.|
If you hold a California seller's permit or other CDTFA license or permit, you are required to maintain your business records to verify that you have properly paid the tax or fee.
Records must be kept for at least four years. If you are being audited, retain all records that cover the audit period until the audit is complete, even if it is longer than four years.
Your records should be adequate so CDTFA representatives may:
- Verify the accuracy of your tax or fee returns; and
- Determine if you have correctly paid the tax or fee due on your sales and purchases.
Records you should keep include but are not limited to:
- Sales invoice
- Cash register tapes
- Sales journal
- Purchase invoices
- Cancelled checks
- Purchase orders
- Purchase journals
- Resale certificates
- Exemption certificates
- Shipping documents
- Working papers
Other taxes and fees have their own recordkeeping requirements. For specific information on recordkeeping for other taxes and fees, please see Special Taxes and Fees Programs.
Effective July 1, 2018, if you are a retailer who makes sales of tangible personal property that take place on the real property of a California state-designated fair ("state-designated fairground"), you must separately state the amount of those sales on your Sales and Use Tax return.
Sales that take place on state-designated fairgrounds include over-the-counter sales on the fairgrounds and also may include sales in which the property is shipped or delivered to or from the fairground. The separately reported amount will be used for funding allocation purposes only. There is no additional tax or fee due on these sales.
For more information on the new reporting requirement, please see Tax Guide for Reporting Requirements on State-Designated Fairgrounds.
Tax rates vary by location and may change during the course of the year. When there is a tax rate change, we will post a special notice on our website.
Sales and Use Tax
The sales and use tax rate in a specific California location is comprised of four parts: state tax rate, local tax rate, county rate, and any district tax rate that may be in effect.
As a retailer in California, you have a duty to report and pay the state's sales tax, which applies to all retail sales of goods except those sales that are exempted by law. The current statewide sales and use tax rate is 7.25 percent. In addition, you are also responsible for any voter or local government approved district taxes that exist in cities and counties in which you are engaged in business.
To view notices of tax rate changes, please go to Special Notices on our website.
For more information on how to determine your sales and use tax rates, please see California City & County Sales & Use Tax Rates.
Other Taxes and Fees
Other taxes and fees have different rates based on the tax or fee program. To find rates for other taxes and fees, please see the rate tables at Tax-Rates Special Taxes and Fees.
If you purchased property without tax and used it in your business, you may owe use tax.
California's sales tax generally applies to the sale of merchandise, including vehicles, in the state. California's use tax applies to the use, storage, or other consumption of those same kinds of items in the state.
Generally, if sales tax applies when you buy physical merchandise in California, use tax applies when you make a similar purchase without tax from a business located outside the state.
If you hold a California seller's permit, you must report and pay the use tax due on business related purchases on your sales and use tax return in the period in which your business first used, stored, or consumed the merchandise in California.
For more information, please see California Use Tax Information.
As a registered seller's permit holder, you are entitled to purchase property that you plan to resell without payment of tax. However, if you remove items from resale inventory and make a use of the property rather than reselling the property, you owe use tax on your purchase price of the property. If you hold a California seller's permit, you must report and pay the use tax due on property withdrawn from resale inventory on your sales and use tax return.
For example, if you give away merchandise as a gift or use the property yourself, you owe use tax on the purchase price of the property. Also, if you use resale inventory for marketing purposes or research and development, that is considered a use of the property and you owe use tax on the purchase price of the property.
Other Taxes and Fees
In addition to use tax, if you purchase property without paying certain taxes and fees, you are required to report taxes on those purchases to CDTFA. Some examples include:
Cigarette Internet Tax Program – If you purchased untaxed cigarettes and/or tobacco products from out-of-state internet retailers, and/or by the way of mail or telephone, for self-consumption in California, you are responsible for the excise tax and the use tax. Please see the PACT Act & Consumer tab on our Tax Guide for Cigarettes and Tobacco Products for more information.
Covered Electronic Waste (eWaste)Recycling Fee – If you purchased a covered electronic device (CED), such as televisions or computer monitors, for personal or business use, and did not pay the eWaste fee at the time of purchase, you must register and pay the fee to CDTFA. Please see our Covered Electronic Waste Recycling Fee Guide for more information.
Tire Recycling Fee – If you purchased new tires for personal or business use, and did not pay the tire fee at the time of purchase, you must register and pay the fee to CDTFA. Please see our California Tire Fee for more information.
Depending upon your type of business, some of your sales transactions may qualify for a full or partial sales tax exemption.
Exempt sales are transactions not subject to tax and a deduction for those transactions can be taken on your sales and use tax return. You must obtain all documentation to support the deduction. For a list of all exemptions, please see publication 61, Sales and Use Taxes: Tax Expenditures. Some common exempt sales transactions include:
|Sales for Resale||
You may have customers who purchase goods from you with the intent of reselling those goods in their own regular course of business. If your customer provides you with a valid CDTFA-230 General Resale Certificate and you accept it in good faith and in a timely manner, your sale to them is not taxable. To be valid, resale certificates must contain specific information.
A record of resale certificates must be retained to substantiate claims that a sale was for resale.
For more information, please see publication 103, Sales for Resale.
The sale of food for human consumption is generally exempt from tax unless sold in a heated condition (except hot bakery items or hot beverages, such as coffee, sold for a separate price), served as meals, consumed at the seller's facilities, or sold for consumption at a location where admission is charged.
Sales of nontaxable food must be separately accounted for and supported by documents, such as guest checks or cash register tapes.
Generally, tax does not apply to your itemized charges for repair or installation labor. However, in California some types of labor charges are subject to tax. For instance, charges for fabrication labor are generally taxable, whether you itemize your labor charges or include them in the price of the product.
You must keep records of all sales invoices showing segregated charges for labor not subject to tax.
For additional information, please see publication 108, Labor Charges.
|Sales to the United States Government||
Your sales and leases made to the United States government and its instrumentalities are generally exempt from California sales and use tax.
The following documentation must be retained to support the tax exempt sale:
Keep in mind that this sales and use tax exemption only applies to sales to the United States government and its instrumentalities. Sales to state, county, and city government agencies are still generally subject to tax.
For more information, please see publication 102, Sales to the United States Government.
Unlike sales and use taxes, other taxes and fees in connection with sales to the U.S. Government may not be exempt. For questions concerning the application of other taxes and fees, please contact our Customer Service Center at 1-800-400-7115.
|Sales in Interstate or Foreign Commerce||
Sales that involve shipments or deliveries from California to locations outside the state are generally exempt from sales or use tax if certain conditions are met.
However, when you deliver goods to a California resident at an out-of-state location, it is presumed that the goods were purchased for use in California. You are required to collect the use tax, calculated on the sales price of the goods, and remit it to CDTFA. You are relieved from collecting the tax if you receive a signed statement from the purchaser stating that the goods were purchased for use outside the state.
In general, you must retain all documents that will support any tax exemptions you claim. For a list of documents you should keep, please see the Documenting Your Sale and Delivery section in publication 101, Sales Delivered Outside California.
The manufacturing exemption allows manufacturers to receive a partial sale and use tax exemption on specific manufacturing and research and development equipment purchases if the purchaser and the transaction meet certain conditions.
You must obtain a timely exemption certificate from your customer to support the partially exempt sale.
Partial exemptions are transactions exempt from the state portion of the sales and use tax rate. To claim a partial exemption on your return, you must obtain a valid, timely partial exemption certificate from your customer. Below is a list of the most common partial exemptions:
If you purchase property for resale, the transaction is not subject to sales or use tax if the sale is properly documented.
Your supplier will ask you to provide a resale certificate as proof that the property was purchased for resale. You should not provide a copy of your sellers permit in-lieu of a resale certificate. The certificate must be taken in good faith and in a timely manner, which is any time within your normal billing and payment cycle and must include specific information. If you make several purchases from one vendor, you may file one resale certificate with that vendor to keep on file.
You may use a resale certificate to buy property that you will:
- Sell, as is, in your regular business operations
- Sell as a physical part of another product
- Use for demonstration or display while holding it for sale in your business
You should not use a resale certificate when buying a product that you will:
- Use rather than sell
- Use before you sell it
- Use for a personal purpose
If you knowingly use a resale certificate to purchase items that you will not resell, you will owe the tax due on the transaction, plus interest. For each purchase made for personal gain or to evade the payment of taxes you may also be required to pay a 10 percent penalty of the tax due or a $500 fine, whichever is greater, for each purchase.
For more information on using a resale certificate, see publication 103, Sales for Resale.
If you maintain no permanent place of business and your business activities consist of you or your sales representatives travelling and soliciting sales door to door or at fairs, shows or special events, you are considered an itinerant seller. You must calculate the tax based upon the tax rate at the location where your sales are made.
For more information, please see Regulation 1802, Place of Sale and Use for Purposes of Bradley-Burns Uniform Local Sales and Use Taxes.
To combat against the use of sales suppression devices or sales-hiding software, California law makes it a crime for anyone in California to purchase, install, or use any automated sales suppression device or software to misrepresent records. The use of this technology is estimated to cost California more than $200 million in sales tax revenue each year. Violators may face jail time as well as fines.
Our website offers many resources to help you understand California Department of Tax and Fee Administration's (CDTFA) tax and fee programs.
We have a number of helpful industry guides, online seminars, and frequently asked questions. If you are unable to locate the information you need or require immediate assistance, you may call our Customer Service Center Monday through Friday (except state holidays) from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Pacific Time).
- Toll-free: 1-800-400-7115
- Outside the US: 1-916-445-6362
- California Relay Service (CRS): 711 (for hearing and speech disabilities)
You can email us with any general or non-confidential tax or fee questions.
We offer many online services, but also have local offices located throughout California and across the nation. You can make an appointment over the phone to meet with a representative at the office of your choice.
Below are some of the services available:
- Receive tax advice/educational consultation
- Make updates to your permits, licenses, and accounts
- Assist you with completing a return
- Request a certificate of tax clearance for the purchase of a business
- Request a use tax clearance for nontaxable vehicle and vessels transfers
- Obtain an escrow clearance
We also have a number of computer kiosks located in our offices that enable you to file and make payments. Feel free to visit the local offices nearest you.
As a California taxpayer, you have a right to be treated courteously and professionally by our employees.
We are committed to upholding all your taxpayer rights. When you are unable to resolve a matter through normal channels, you may contact The Taxpayers' Rights Advocate Office (TRA). TRA can explain your rights and help facilitate resolutions between you and the CDTFA.
To learn more, please see publication 70, Understanding Your Rights as a California Taxpayer.
Now that you have your new business up and running, you are now faced with the challenge of interpreting and complying with the complex and changing Sales and Use Tax laws.
As part of our commitment to helping you understand your sales and use tax obligations, we have established The Taxpayer Educational Consultation Program. This free program provides eligible businesses with education and assistance, and helps them prepare for their sales and use tax reporting requirements.
If you have specific sales and use tax questions regarding your business, we recommend that you get answers from us in writing. This will enable us to give you the best advice and will protect you from penalties and interest in case we give you erroneous information.
For details, please see publication 8, Get It In Writing!
To ensure we can provide you with the most helpful information about your account, please inform us of any changes made to your business.
Some significant changes include, but are not limited to, adding and closing sub-locations, updating mailing address and changing account ownership. You can contact our Customer Service Center at 1-800-400-7115 (TTY:711) or the nearest local office to make changes to your account information.
You can also submit changes on form CDTFA-345-WEB, Notice of Business Change and mail it to the provided address.
We offer many forms and publications in multiple languages. Go to the links below and look for a reference to a language in the Title column.
If you require interpreter assistance, please call us to schedule an appointment. We will make every attempt to provide access to a CDTFA employee who speaks your language.
Now that you have registered with CDTFA, we suggest you visit the Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development to help you determine if other state, federal, and local agencies have any licensing or registration requirements that may affect you.
The Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) offers extensive information on state, local, and federal permit requirements:
- CalGold – Provides information about other federal, state, or local government permits that may be required for your business.
- California Office of Small Business Advocate – Provides personalized business assistance including quick start guides for starting and growing your business and the California Business Navigator that provides custom information for your business including permits, licenses, and incentives.
In an effort to ease the process for a taxpayer who is interested in starting a business in California, CDTFA partnered with the Employment Development Department, the Franchise Tax Board and Internal Revenue Service to establish the California Tax Service Center. The website acts as a one-stop source for the latest tax information.
In addition, we offer links to other state and federal agencies, see OtherTax Resources located at the bottom right of our webpage.
Need to know more? Follow the links below for more information about the topics covered in this guide, as well as other information you might find helpful.
- Industry Tax Guides
- Publication 110, California Use Tax Basics
- Publication 73, Your California Seller's Permit
- Publication 105, District Taxes and Sales Delivered in California
- Publication 61, Sales and Use Taxes: Tax Expenditures
- Publication 74, Closing Out Your Account
- CDTFA-367-SUT, Filing Instructions for Sales and Use Tax Accounts, Quarterly and Prepayment
- CDTFA-345-WEB, Notice of Business Change (Sales and Use Tax)
- CDTFA-345-SP, Notice of Business Change (Special Taxes and Fees)
- CDTFA-230, General Resale Certificate
- CDTFA-101, Claim for Refund or Credit
- CDTFA-65, Notice of Closeout for Seller's Permit
- Special Notices
Special Notices offer guidance to taxpayers regarding changes in law or policy, significant news and program updates, and other important information.
- News Releases
CDTFA News Releases cover a broad range of topics, from agency appointments to improvements and enhancements to CDTFA customer service.
- Sign Up for CDTFA Updates
Sign up to receive a monthly bulletin detailing important information, including Special Notices, Tax Information Bulletins, and updates to CDTFA's Annual Report
- Seminars and Workshops
Lists of dates and locations for various in-person seminars and workshops.
- On-line Seminars
CDTFA offers on-line seminars to help answer our most commonly asked questions.
Other Helpful Resources
- Videos and How-To Guides — These resources will help you avoid common mistakes, electronically file your tax returns, and more.
- California City and County Sales and Use Tax Rates — A listing of current and historical sales and use tax rates.
- Tax Rates – Special Taxes and Fees – A listing of current and historical tax and fee rates.
- CDTFA Online Services — Learn about the online services CDTFA offers.
- Verify a Permit, License, or Account — You can use this application to verify a seller's permit, Cigarette and Tobacco product retailer license, eWaste account, or Underground Storage Tank Maintenance Fee account.
- CDTFA Offices — A comprehensive listing of all CDTFA offices and contact information.
- Get It in Writing! — The Sales and Use Tax Law can be complex, and you are encouraged to put your tax questions in writing.
- Contact Us — A listing of CDTFA contacts for your questions and concerns.
- Local and District Tax Guide for Retailers – A tax guide for retailers to learn more about how to properly collect, report, and pay local and district taxes.