Cigarette Online Filing Program – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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What is Online Filing

Online filing is a web-based application that allows users to view, modify, and submit tax filings (tax returns, reports, and claims for refund) online.

Online filing is fast, easy, convenient, and accurate. All you need is a computer and access to the Internet. You do not need to leave your home or office to file. You will receive confirmation that your return, schedule, and payment information has been accepted for processing and if tax is due, you do not need to write a check, funds can be transferred electronically.

No. Currently you are not required to file online; however, due to the many benefits of online filing, it is highly recommended.

Online filing of tax information includes the following advantages:

  • No paper tax forms to fill out and no signature documents to be completed and mailed.
  • No postage expenses are incurred.
  • Ability to file outside normal business hours.
  • Processing time is reduced.
  • Electronic security ensures confidentiality of data.
  • Electronic acknowledgment is provided by the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) when you file.
  • Less file storage space is required since data can be stored electronically.
  • Less chance for data entry errors.

Tax Forms

The CDTFA is currently accepting the following cigarette tax forms.

TYPE OF FILER FORM NUMBER RETURN/REPORT
Cigarette Distributor (CR) BOE-501-CD Cigarette Distributor's Tax Report
Cigarette Manufacturer (CM) BOE-501-CM Cigarette Manufacturer's Tax Return of Taxable Distributions in California

In addition to filing the BOE-501-CD and BOE-501-CM, two new information reports have been developed to replace the current cigarette distributors and manufacturers schedules. The new reports are BOE-810-CTI , Cigarette Tax Receipt schedule (Receipt Schedule) and BOE-810-CTF, Cigarette Tax Disbursement Schedule (Disbursement Schedule).

The following table lists the receipt schedule codes and indicates the tax forms that relate to each schedule:

  INFORMATION REPORTS TAX RETURNS
  Cigarette Distributor BOE-501-CD Cigarette Manufacturer BOE-501-CM
SCHEDULE CODES  
Schedule 1A X  
Schedule 1B X  

INFORMATION REPORTS TAX RETURNS
Cigarette Distributor BOE-501-CD Cigarette Manufacturer BOE-501-CM
SCHEDULE CODES  
Schedule 6A   X
Schedule 7A X X
Schedule 8A   X
Schedule 10B X  
Schedule F X  

Schedules provide the details needed by the CDTFA staff to verify the information pertaining to transactions between companies is properly reported.

Schedule Codes are used to identify the activity being reported. For example, Schedule Code 7A refers to: "Tax-Unpaid/Stamp Unaffixed Exempt Exports out of California." For a complete description of Schedule Codes, please refer to BOE-810-CTE, Instructions of Preparing Tax Schedules.

The "Declaration of Intent" accepted during the online filing process, affirms your intention to file your return online.

A transaction file is a file that contains the itemized informational data required to complete the form. For example, a distributor who purchases stamp-unaffixed product from a manufacturer is required to report those purchases on Schedule 2A. All Schedule 2A information goes into a transaction file that is submitted with the efiling. Transaction files are a text file created using the FLT file (also known as tab-delimited file) specifications provided by the CDTFA. Online filers can use the Excel workbooks provided by the CDTFA to create transaction files or they can develop them using their own methods. CDTFA can review your individualized files to make sure they are compatible.

Getting Started

No. There are no prerequisites to begin.

However, certification testing is offered and the CDTFA recommends online filers complete certification testing. Certification testing is done to ensure that you are able to submit valid electronic files to the CDTFA. It provides a safe environment where mistakes can be made and resolved and you can become comfortable with efiling without affecting "actual" returns.

You can sign up to become a Registered User with the CDTFA by navigating to our User ID Page.

You will be required to enter the following information:

  1. Account number
  2. Express Login Code (your unique eight character code, for instance, a123456b) currently printed on the top left corner of your paper return.
  3. Your full name as registered with the CDTFA (not the company name).

Next, you will be able to select your own personal User ID and password.
If you are currently signed up as a Registered User, there is no need to register again. Your express login code is also currently printed on your BOE-501-CD and BOE-501-CM return. If you are the business owner (as listed with the CDTFA), you can register yourself as an eClient. To authorize someone else to be the Registered User on your account, call the CDTFA at 1-800-400-7115 during regular business hours.

Certification

No. Certification is not required but it is recommended.

Certification testing is composed of steps a – e below. Some steps may be repeated until both you and the CDTFA are comfortable that you are able to submit valid electronic files to the CDTFA. The CDTFA recommends that you use actual data to create the certification test files. Each test file should represent one month's reporting.

  1. Contact Special Taxes and Fees via email and notify us that you wish to complete certification testing. Submit CDTFA-82, Authorization for Electronic Transmission of Data, with this notification. The CDTFA-82 authorizes CDTFA to communicate efiling matters with you via email and is available on the Cigarette Online Filing Program website.
  2. Wait for CDTFA email notification to begin certification testing. Contact Special Taxes and Fees if you have not received this notification after three (3) business days by email.
  3. Log in and submit an electronic tax form that includes a transaction file (see item 6) for the account you are testing. Refer to Submitting an Electronic Tax Form in Chapter 5 of the eFilingGuide for more information. Remember to flag your transaction file as "Test."
  4. Request that the test tax form be reviewed by sending CDTFA a Certification eFile Review Request form. You can email this form for faster processing. Certification eFile Review Request forms are available on the Cigarette eFiling Program website.

    The CDTFA will review your test efiling to confirm that the information provided on the Certification eFile Review Request form agrees with the electronically filed information and that the transaction information is complete and correctly reported. The CDTFA will also review the test efiling to ensure that all reporting requirements are met. Upon completion of the certification test file review, the CDTFA will contact you with the results of the review.

  5. Begin filing actual returns or re-test. Based on the results of your test file submission the CDTFA will move you into production status or ask you to submit another test file.

The CDTFA anticipates that an electronic filer will exercise due diligence in order to complete certification testing as swiftly as possible. In no event should certification testing exceed 120 days unless an extension is granted by the CDTFA. Upon request from the CDTFA, the electronic filer will provide a timeline for its test process or an update to a timeline previously provided.

Online Filing

The CDTFA will only accept properly formatted online tax forms. Magnetic tape, floppy diskette, CD, or other media will not be accepted from online filers. Online filers interested in utilizing an alternative filing format may contact the CDTFA via email to discuss their proposal.

In order to perform basic maintenance on the CDTFA website, the system will be unavailable for Cigarette online filing access from Sunday at 7:00 p.m. to Monday at 5:00 a.m., Pacific Time. This is regularly scheduled downtime that will be posted on the CDTFA's website. CDTFA will not accept the participant's inability to submit a timely filing because of this downtime as a valid reason for granting relief of any penalty and/or interest that may result from filing late.

The CDTFA only accepts transaction files submitted in the FLT file (also known as tab-delimited file) format. More information on the FLT file specifications which can be found on the Cigarette Online Filing Program Information page.

The filing for a period is considered to be filed timely if the tax form and any applicable payment are received by the CDTFA on or before the due date. If either is received after the due date, the filing is considered late. Tax forms and EFT payments filed online receive an electronic "postmark" of the date and time they are submitted. This postmark is used to determine if the filing is timely.

In general, if a tax form or payment is received by the CDTFA after the due date, interest and/or penalty may be charged. Failure to file a tax form, or filing an incomplete tax form, may result in charges for interest, penalty, and/or license revocation.

Tax forms available to be filed under the Cigarette Online Filing Program are due on the twenty-fifth (25) day of the month following the close of the reporting period.

If the due date falls on a weekend or holiday, the tax form is due on the next business day.

The transaction file will be validated upon filing your tax form. Transaction files will be validated in the order they are received. This may result in a delay in receiving the online filing acknowledgement during peak filing periods. The validation confirms that the transaction file's syntax is correct and that the CDTFA will be able to process it. You must log back in using your Registered User name and password to check the status of the submission. Follow these steps to view the results:

  1. Log in as a Registered User.
  2. Select the account on the Registered User Services Menu. This will display the Account Services Menu page for the selected account.
  3. On the Account Services Menu page, click the View History link. This will display the View History page.
  4. On the History page, find the desired filing. The result is displayed for each filing.
    • If the status remains "In Process" after three (3) business days, contact the CDTFA.
    • If the status of the submission indicates "Success," your filing is complete.
    • If the status of the submission indicates "Failure," you must correct any transmission error that caused the electronic transmission to be rejected. If you do not resubmit a corrected file on or before the filing due date and verify that you received a "Success" message, the filing will be considered delinquent. If you areunable to submit corrections, you should contact the CDTFA immediately.

You can also view the results of your filing online by logging into your Registered User account and navigating to the View History page from the Account Services Menu page. You may also contact us via the following methods for assistance in resolving any filing issues:

Telephone: 1-800-400-7115 (TTY:711); from the main menu, select the option "Special Taxes and Fees."

Email

Mail:

California Department of Tax and Fee Administration
Special Taxes and Fees, MIC: 88
PO Box 942879
Sacramento, CA 94279-0088

Typically you will not be required to submit any paper documentation after filing your tax form. The majority of participants do not send any paper with their electronic filings. However, the CDTFA may request that you provide additional or supporting documentation for your tax form. You will be contacted by CDTFA staff if additional information is needed.

If you need to amend a tax form that you have already submitted, login to your Registered User account and follow these steps:

  1. Select the account for which you need to file an amended tax form.
  2. From the subsequent Account Services Menu page, select Amend a Prior Return.
  3. On the Amended Returns Main Menu page, select the period to be amended
  4. File the amended return following the same steps as the original filed return.

Once you have successfully submitted the amended tax form, notify Special Taxes and Fees. Email the notification.

Subject Line: Acct: (enter your account number here) Amended Electronic Filing Notification

No. CDTFA office computers are not equipped with the necessary software to file your cigarette returns and schedules online.

Payment

No. Both the return and payment must be made by the due date to avoid late penalties and/or interest charges, but they do not need to be done at the same time. You may, for example, submit your return on the (10th) of the month and wait until the due date to make your payment.

Payments on tax returns available to be filed under the Cigarette Electronic Filing Program are due on the twenty-fifth (25th) day of the month following the reporting period. Go to the Online Services web page for information on making electronic payments.

If the due date falls on a weekend or holiday, the payment is due on the next business day. See our Online Services web page for information on making electronic payments.

Below are the payment methods available.

ACH Debit

Choose this option to authorize the CDTFA to transfer funds from your checking or savings account to the CDTFA's bank account. You must provide your bank account number and the routing number of your financial institution (ABA number), which is located on your check.

Paper Check

Choose this option to print out a payment voucher to mail with your paper check. The payment voucher will print after the confirmation page and will only be available to print one time. Use the address printed on the voucher to ensure that your payment is processed correctly.

Credit Card

Choose this option to pay by credit card through a third-party vendor. American Express, Discover, MasterCard, and Visa cards are accepted. A convenience fee will be charged by the third-party vendor. This fee is not revenue to the CDTFA.

Please note: You must return to the online filing web page to complete the filing of your tax return. Once you receive your confirmation number, your transaction is complete.

EFT

Below are the payment methods available to accounts required by law to pay their tax filings by Electronic Fund Transfers (EFT). Taxpayers who are required to make payments by electronic funds transfer must continue to meet those requirements when efiling in order to avoid penalty charges.

ACH Debit

EFT accounts registered to pay by this method will have their banking information pre-populated when they efile and select this option. You must complete your payment transaction by 3:00 p.m. Pacific time on the tax due date.

ACH Credit

If you efile your return and choose to pay by ACH credit, you must contact your financial institution to initiate your payment in sufficient time for it to be deposited into the CDTFA's bank account by the due date.

Return Only

File your return online only and make your payment separately. You can pay by ACH debit through our data collection service. For ACH credit, you must initiate payment through your financial institution.

For more information regarding the EFT payment program.

How you make a payment depends on the payment method you have selected. See our Online Services web page for information on making electronic payments.

No. However, the CDTFA recommends that all Cigarette Online Filing Program participants pay any taxes due electronically. See our Online Services web page for information on making electronic payments.

No. CDTFA does not charge a fee.

Depending on your method of electronic payment, your bank or creditor may charge a fee. The CDTFA is not responsible for those fees. See our Online Services web page for information on making electronic payments.

Troubleshooting

The following are the most common causes of this problem:

  • The password is case-sensitive. Be sure to check the "Caps Lock" button on your keyboard, and make sure that you are entering any characters of your password in the proper case.
  • Incorrect Password or User ID

If you've checked everything and are still having problems, contact the CDTFA at 1-800-400-7115.

Click "Forgot password?" Enter your Registered User ID. Answer your forgotten password question. A new default password will be sent to your personal email address. Click the link in the email message and login to Online Services using your User ID and the default password that was emailed to you. You will be required to enter a new personalized password.

You must contact the CDTFA at 1-800-400-7115 during regular business hours. For security reasons you will be required to provide authentication information.

Every filing will be identified as either a Success or a Failure. Success means the file was accepted as filed by the CDTFA while Failure means the file was rejected by the CDTFA and is not considered filed.
Common reasons for a file to fail include submitting an Excel workbook instead of a FLT File (also known as tab-delimited file) and submitting a transaction file that does not meet standard data formatting requirements, such as dashes in account numbers or FEINs. To see the reasons for the failure:

  1. Log in with your Registered User ID.
  2. Select the account on the Registered User Services Menu. This will display the Account Services Menu page for the selected account.
  3. On the Account Services Menu page, click the View History link. This will display the View History page.
  4. On the History page, find the desired filing. If the result of the filing is "Failure" click on the "Failure" link to open the eFiling Results page.
  5. On the Results page, review the schedule/transaction file processing results to determine what corrections are needed to create a valid schedule/transaction file. A maximum of 30 errors will be listed. If you are unable to determine the reason for your Failure notice, contact Special Taxes and Fees using one of the options below. You will need to provide your name, phone number, email address, company name, account numbers, and tracking number. Please have that information ready or include it in your email.

Telephone: 1-800-400-7115 (TTY:711); from the main menu, select the option "Special Taxes and Fees."
Email

For technical assistance, please contact Special Taxes and Fees using one of the options below. You will need to provide your name, phone number, email address, company name, and account numbers. Please have that information ready or include it in your email.

Telephone: 1-800-400-7115 (TTY:711); from the main menu, select the option "Special Taxes and Fees."

Email

Mail:

California Department of Tax and Fee Administration
Special Taxes and Fees, MIC: 88
PO Box 942879
Sacramento, CA 94279-0088

Administration

Once a taxpayer begins filing a Cigarette tax form online, they must continue to file the tax forms online until further notified. You cannot alternate between paper and online filing unless you receive prior permission from the CDTFA.

The rules and responsibilities for online filing are provided on the Cigarette Tax Online Filing Program website.

General

All information and documentation for the Cigarette Online Filing Program is available on the Cigarette Filing Program page. This page contains all the manuals, instructions, examples, templates, applications, and general information for the Cigarette Online Filing Program. Click here to go to the Cigarette Online Filing Program page.

Yes, Notify the CDTFA that you are filing online and do not want to receive paper returns. The CDTFA will no longer mail the paper tax forms to you.

The CDTFA periodically includes useful tax information with the paper tax forms, including Special Notices and the Cigarette and Tobacco Products Taxes Newsletter. To ensure that you are notified of any developments regarding cigarette and tobacco laws, regulations, and taxes in California, you will have to register with the CDTFA's subscription service. Please note that, as a Cigarette Online Filing Program participant, you are responsible for complying with any notifications provided through this subscription service. To receive Special Notices, the Tax Information Bulletin, and other information, you need to subscribe to the CDTFA's update list. You may also want to register to receive the Special Taxes and Fees Newsletter electronically.

You can contact Special Taxes and Fees using one of the options below. You will need to provide your name, phone number, email address, company name, and account numbers. Please have that information ready or include it in your email.

Telephone: 1-800-400-7115 (TTY: 711); from the main menu, select the option "Special Taxes and Fees."

Email

Mail:

California Department of Tax and Fee Administration
Special Taxes and Fees, MIC: 88
PO Box 942879
Sacramento, CA 94279-0088

Security

Personal information, such as a driver license number, a social security number, or a residence address, is not disclosed to the public. However, some records are subject to disclosure. These include CDTFA license or permit numbers, business name and address, and license status. Also, for purposes of enforcing the cigarette and tobacco products tax laws, personal information may be disclosed to federal agencies and other state agencies. For more information, please review the CDTFA-324-GEN, Notice to Individuals Regarding Information Furnished to the CDTFA, also included on the Cigarette Electronic Filing Program webpage Online Services.

Special Taxes and Fees will be glad to assist you in developing your Cigarette Online Filing Program capabilities. We are available to provide technical expertise relating to the requirements on the Cigarette Online Filing Program web page. If you require assistance, please contact Special Taxes and Fees using one of the options below. You will need to provide your contact information (name, phone number, email address, company name, and applicable account numbers) as well a description of your technical questions. Please have that information ready or include it in your email.

Telephone: 1-800-400-7115 (TTY:711); from the main menu, select the option "Special Taxes and Fees."

Email

Mail:

California Department of Tax and Fee Administration
Special Taxes and Fees, MIC: 88
PO Box 942879
Sacramento, CA 94279-0088

Independent companies may provide assistance, products, or services. CDTFA does not recommend or endorse these companies. However, in the past some companies may have successfully completed CDTFA acceptance testing for other programs. They are identified as Electronic Return Originators (EROs) or software providers on this web page.

Online Services

Special Taxes and Fees will be glad to assist you in developing your Cigarette Online Filing Program capabilities. We are available to provide technical expertise relating to the requirements on the Cigarette Online Filing Program web page. If you require assistance, please contact Special Taxes and Fees using one of the options below. You will need to provide your contact information (name, phone number, email address, company name, and applicable account numbers) as well a description of your technical questions. Please have that information ready or include it in your email.

Telephone: 1-800-400-7115 (TTY:711); from the main menu, select the option "Special Taxes and Fees."

Email

Mail:

California Department of Tax and Fee Administration
Special Taxes and Fees, MIC: 88
PO Box 942879
Sacramento, CA 94279-0088

Independent companies may provide assistance, products, or services. CDTFA does not recommend or endorse these companies. However, in the past some companies may have successfully completed CDTFA acceptance testing for other programs. They are identified as Electronic Return Originators (EROs) or software providers on this web page.

No. Not at this time.

No. Not at this time.