Alcoholic Beverage Tax Program - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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The alcoholic beverage tax is a per-gallon excise tax collected on the sale, distribution, or importation of alcoholic beverages in California. Revenues from the tax are deposited into the Alcohol Beverage Control Fund and are withdrawn for use by the state‘s General Fund or used to pay refunds under this program. The California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) collects the tax and administers the program in cooperation with the Board of Equalization.

In general, you must register with the CDTFA, if you are required to obtain one or more of the following licenses issued by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC):

  • Craft distiller
  • Customs Broker
  • Distilled spirits manufacturer's agent
  • Importer (Beer and Wine; Beer and Wine Importer’s General, Brandy, and Distilled Spirits)
  • Industrial alcohol dealer
  • Manufacturer (Beer, Small Beer, Brandy, and Distilled Spirits)
  • On-sale general brew pub
  • On-Sale general for airplanes
  • On-Sale general for trains
  • Rectifier
  • Wholesaler (Distilled Spirits, Brandy)
  • Wine blender
  • Wine direct shipper
  • Winegrower

Common carriers, other than railroads and steamship companies, must also register with the CDTFA in order to transport alcoholic beverages into this state.

Online Registration

You may register for a permit, license, or account using online registration. Online registration is the convenient way to register and is available 24 hours a day.

All registered taxpayers, other than common carriers, must file a tax return on or before the 15th of the month following the period covered by the return. Common carriers must file a tax return on or before the first day of the second month following the monthly period. You must file a return even if you do not owe tax for the reporting period.

You should keep a copy of your return on the licensed premises for verification by our auditors.

  • Penalty for filing a late tax return:
    The penalty for filing a late return (including returns for which no tax was due) is fifty dollars ($50).
  • Penalty for late payment:
    The penalty for late payment of tax is 10% (0.10) of the tax amount due. The above penalties shall be limited to either the fifty dollars ($50) or 10 percent of the tax amount due, whichever is greater.

Beer and wine. The excise tax on beer and wine is generally paid by manufacturers, wine growers, and importers. Sellers of beer and wine must pay the excise tax if the tax was not paid by the manufacturers, winegrowers, or importers.

Distilled spirits. In general, the excise tax on distilled spirits is paid by distilled spirits wholesalers based on sales to in-state retailers. Sellers of distilled spirits must pay the excise tax if the tax was not paid by the wholesaler.

Tax credits are allowed for

  • Beer or wine exported outside California, and
  • CDTFA-authorized destruction of spoiled beer or wine.

You must maintain your records at your licensed premises unless we have given you permission to keep them at another location.