Tax Guide for
Tax Practitioners

Tax Guide for Tax Practitioners

Helping you serve your clients is important to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA). Taxes paid to the state help fund state and local services and programs important to you, your clients, and your community. We recognize that finding information relevant to you can be time-consuming, and want to help you get the information you need so that you can focus on your clients and your business.

How to Use This Guide

Each section of this guide contains information important to your business. The Getting Started section provides information about registering, recordkeeping, and audits.

The Filing and Payments section includes the links and information you need to get started.

The News and Outreach section provides links to our special notices, news releases, and other important information for tax practitioners and their clients.

The Forms section is a one-stop-shop for forms and publications.

Lastly, the Resources section provides links to a wealth of information, including web-based seminars and access to live help from our customer service representatives.

If You Need Help

If at any time you need assistance, feel free to contact us by telephone or email for assistance. Contact information and hours of operation are available in the Resources section.

If you have suggestions for improving this guide, please contact us by email.

The California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) understand that helping your client to be successful is important to you. Our goal is to provide guidance and relevant information to help assist your client in maintaining their accounts with us. We know time is valuable so we have made it easy, quick, and convenient for you to do business online.

Your client may register for a permit, license or account number at the CDTFA website and click the Register button at the top right corner of the page. Once registered, your client may also file returns and make payments online.

As a tax practitioner, you can request to register, file or make payment on behalf of your clients by registering as an electronic client (e-client) and creating a user id. You can request access for an account by filing out form BOE-91-B, Tax/Fee Payer Authorization For Tax Preparer To Perform Electronic Services.

Once you are registered as an electronic client for an account you can:

  • Electronically file returns or prepayments
  • View prior CDTFA-filed returns
  • Personalize your own User ID and password
  • Receive email reminders of approaching due dates
  • Change business email address' online

Or, you can access the account through express login that will grant you one time access to file returns. Express logins are unique eight digit numbers that can be obtained from the following sources:

  • Correspondence received from the CDTFA
  • By contacting our customer service representatives at 1-800-400-7115, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time, excluding state holidays
  • From the top of your returns

If a taxpayer holds a California seller's permit, they are required to maintain business records to verify that they have properly paid tax.

Your clients' records should be adequate enough that CDTFA representatives may:

  • Verify the accuracy of their sales and use tax returns; and
  • Determine if they have correctly paid the tax due on their sales and purchases.

Your client may be charged a negligence penalty if an audit reveals that their records are not adequate.

Records your client should keep include but are not limited to:

  • Normal books of account that show their business income and expenses.
  • Documents of original entry, such as invoices, receipts, job orders, purchase orders, contracts, or other documents used as the basis for their books of account; and
  • All schedules or working papers used in preparing their sales and use tax returns.

Your clients' records need to show:

  • The gross receipts from all of your business income, including sales, leases, service charges, and labor income;
  • All of the deductions claimed on your sales and use tax returns, along with supporting documents for those deductions; and
  • The total purchase price, including receipts, for all items you purchase for; resale, lease, or your own use.

The level of detail required varies by industry. Records need to be adequate enough for the CDTFA to determine the date of sale, what your clients sold, all taxable and nontaxable charges, and how much tax was applied to the sale. It is important that they keep all documents to support nontaxable sales.

Records should be retained for at least four years. If your client is being audited, retain all records that cover the audit period until the audit is complete, even if it is longer than four years.

Sales Made on State-Designated Fairgrounds

Effective July 1, 2018, if your client is 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"), they must separately state the amount of those sales on their 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.

In general, accounts are subject to audit in three-year intervals, at the time a permit is closed out, or in connection with another permit held by the taxpayer.

The objective of an audit is to verify that taxpayers are correctly reporting taxes and fees on their sales and use tax returns. You may be designated to represent your clients in an audit.

It is important to remember that the conduct of audits is governed by law and CDTFA policy. In particular, you should keep in mind that:

  • Our auditors will impartially determine whether you have reported the correct amount of taxes or fees. Overpayments, as well as underpayments, are considered during an audit.
  • Records are required to be provided according to the provisions of Regulation 1698, Records.
  • Our audit program is intended to correct errors that result in underreporting or over reporting and to inform you how to properly report your taxes or fees. During an audit, you may ask any questions you have about the law governing taxes or fees or your reporting requirements.
  • Our auditors are expected to conduct audits in a professional, courteous and helpful manner.
  • Frequently, audits do not result in any change in tax or fee liability.

The following materials can help you to prepare if your client is selected for audit.

Did you know that 98% of our taxpayer returns are filed electronically?

Filing

General Information
Electronic filing is the fast, easy and convenient method of filing tax returns or reports and paying amounts owed over the Internet. Use the link below for general information about electronic filing. Please see File a Return for general information about electronic filing.

Sales and Use Tax Return (including Qualified Purchaser)
Use this link to electronically file your standard or qualified purchaser returns using you password or express login code. Please see our Online Services page for more details.

Due Dates
The CDTFA assigns a filing frequency (quarterly prepay, quarterly, monthly, fiscal yearly, yearly) based on reported sales tax or anticipated taxable sales at the time of registration. Please see our Filing Dates for Sales & Use Tax Returns page for more details.

Relief Requests
Submit a request for relief from penalty and/or interest charges or fee. You may also submit a request for an extension if additional time is needed to file a tax or fee return or prepayment. You may submit a relief request online on behalf of your client if you have the express login for your client or if you have a User ID. If you are not already registered with a User ID, you may register by following the prompts on our online services registration page. If you are unable to submit a relief request online, you may use form CDTFA-735, Request for Relief from Penalty, Collection Cost Recovery Fee, and/or Interest, to submit a relief request by mail. Please note that relief requests submitted online are generally processed faster than requests submitted via mail.

Frequently Asked Questions
Find answers to FAQs about electronic filing for Sales and Use tax and Prepaid Mobile Telephony Services (MTS) Surcharge.

Guides (English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese)
Browse our friendly electronic filing guide in multiple languages.

Tutorial Video
View a quick video Filing My Return demonstrating how to electronically file your returns.

Use the links below to file your other tax returns

Prepaid Mobile Telephony Services (MTS) Surcharge
Beginning January 1, 2016, a prepaid mobile telephony services (MTS) surcharge is imposed on purchasers (consumers) of prepaid MTS as a percentage of the sales price of each retail transaction involving prepaid wireless cards/service in this state. Sellers of prepaid MTS (prepaid wireless services) are required to charge and collect the prepaid MTS surcharge from the purchasers at the time of the retail sales.

Beginning January 1, 2017, sellers (other than telecommunication service suppliers) with less than $15,000 of sales of prepaid MTS in the previous calendar year are no longer required to register and collect the surcharge.

Please read our guide Prepaid Mobile Telephony Services (MTS) Surcharge for more information about this program.

Motor Fuel Tax
For more information on Motor Fuels program, online filing and FAQs, see Motor Fuels Online Filing Program.

IFTA Tax
File your IFTA online quarterly returns. See Online Services – Overview

Cigarette Tax
For more information on Cigarette Tax registration, online filing, and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), please see our eFile Cigarette Tax webpage.

Payment Options

Electronic Filing
Make a payment and file your sales and use tax return or prepayment in one transaction.

Find answers to Frequently Asked Questions about payment options for Sales & Use tax and Prepaid Mobile Telephone Services (MTS) Surcharge.

Credit Card Payments
Make a payment with your credit card by calling 1-855-292-8931 or visit Credit Card Payment Program for more details.

Find answers to Credit Card Payment Program for Tax & Fee Payments-Frequently Asked Questions when making a tax and/or fee payment using a credit card.

Electronic Payment
Make a payment and have the funds electronically withdrawn from your bank account to apply towards your current and past due taxes and fees.

Note: Sending an electronic payment will not satisfy your filing requirement. Log in to file a sales and use tax return or prepayment.

Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) Payment
Make your EFT payment and file your return in one transaction

Third Party Payment Processor – Initiate a separate EFT payment through the state data collector

Find answers to Frequently Asked Questions about EFT

Annotations and Legal Opinions

Summaries of the conclusions reached in selected legal opinions and text of the supporting opinion letter addressing a specific tax application inquiry.

CDTFA Outreach

Top Ten Forms

Top Ten Publications

Below are links to all forms, publications, and other reference material for each of the CDTFA's tax program areas.

Sales and Use Tax
Forms and Applications
Publications
Manuals

Special Taxes and Fees
Forms and Applications
Publications
Manuals

View
All Forms
All Publications
Translated Publications

Order
Online ordering system
By fax: Call 1-800-400-7115 and choose the automated fax option.

If you need documents in alternative formats or other reasonable accommodations for the disabled, you may request them from:

Kathleen Neal, CDTFA ADA Coordinator
California Department of Tax and Fee Administration
P.O. Box 942879, Sacramento, CA 94279-0051

916-322-0064 (voice) or 711 (TTY)

Continuing Education

Other Helpful Resources

  • CDTFA Public Resources — Annotations, Legal Opinions, Policy Guidelines, and Manuals for all CDTFA Tax Programs
  • Business and Property Taxes Law Guides — The Business Taxes Law Guide and Property Taxes Law Guides compile the statutes, regulations, court opinions, and CDTFA decisions (known as memorandum opinions) that govern the various tax and fee programs the CDTFA administers.
  • Use Tax – What You Should Know — Helpful information and videos about use tax.
  • Sign Up for CDTFA Updates — Subscribe to our email lists and receive the latest news, newsletters, tax and fee updates, public meeting agendas, and other announcements.
  • Videos and How-To Guides — These resources will help you avoid common mistakes, electronically file your tax returns, and more.
  • Classes and Seminars — Enroll in our in-person seminars and workshops or take our online seminars.
  • City and County Tax Rates — A listing of current and historical tax rates.
  • Special Notices — CDTFA special notices are issued whenever there is a change in law, tax rates, or CDTFA procedures.
  • CDTFA Online Services — Learn about the online services CDTFA offers.
  • Verify a Permit or License — 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.
  • Internal Revenue Services (IRS) Guides — IRS guides that provide insight to issues unique to specific industries.

Federal and State Income Tax Resources