Tax Guide for Florists
Helping your business succeed is part of the mission of the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA). Taxes you collect and pay help fund state and local services and programs important to you and your community. We recognize that understanding tax issues related to your floral business can be time consuming and complicated. We want to help you get the information you need so you can focus on starting and growing your business.
To help you better understand the tax obligations specific to florists, we have created this guide detailing the tax issues and information important to your business.
How to Use This Guide
Each section of this guide provides information relevant to your business.
The Getting Started section provides key resources related to registration, account maintenance, filing returns, payments, and recordkeeping practices.
The Industry Topics section covers many topics, each in an at-a-glance format that can be expanded to provide more extensive information.
Lastly, the Resources section provides links to a wealth of information, including forms, publications, current updates, and other helpful resources.
The general information provided in this Tax Guide does not supersede any law or regulation. This guide summarizes the law and applicable regulations in effect when it was published. However, changes in the law or regulations may have occurred. If there is a conflict between this document and current law, the current law governs.
Get it in Writing
Tax and fee laws can be complex and difficult to understand. If you have specific questions regarding how tax applies to your floral business, we recommend that you get answers in writing from us. This will enable us to give you the best advice and may protect you from owing tax, interest, or penalties should we give you erroneous advice. Such protection is not provided for advice given to you verbally, in person or on the telephone.
For more details, please see publication 8, Get it in Writing
If You Need Help
If you need assistance with the topics included in this guide, feel free to contact us by telephone or email. Contact information and hours of operation are available in the Resources section and by clicking the “Contact Us ” link underneath the “Other Helpful Resources” heading.
Free Educational Consultations
Now that you have your new business up and running, you may be 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 personal assistance. It can help you prepare for your sales and use tax reporting requirements as well as answer any questions you may have.
If you have suggestions for improving this guide, please contact us via email.
If you own a floral business in California and sell flowers and other tangible personal property (merchandise), you are considered a retailer. As a retailer, you must register with us for a seller's permit and regularly file sales and use tax returns. Whether you are a new or existing business owner, you'll find these tools helpful in maintaining your account with us.
Online Registration – Register with us online to obtain your seller's permit or to add a business location to an existing account.
Filing, Payments and Account Maintenance
- Tax Return Filing Deadlines – Find your filing due dates.
- File a Tax Return Online – File online with us. The services are easy, fast, and free!
- Online Payment Options – Make payments online for tax and fee programs.
- Taxpayer Online Service Portal – Update your account information by logging in to our online services system.
If you hold a California seller's permit or any other CDTFA license or permit, you are required to maintain business records to verify that you have properly reported and paid the taxes and/or fees.
Maintaining complete and concise records will help you keep track of your sales and purchases and will assist you when preparing your sales and use tax returns. You are required to keep records for at least four (4) years, unless directed by us to keep them longer. Not maintaining records may be considered evidence of negligence or as an intent to evade the tax laws. This may result in penalties.
Your records should be adequate so our representatives may:
- Verify the accuracy of your tax returns; and
- Determine if you have correctly paid the tax due on your sales and purchases.
Records you should keep include, but are not limited to:
- Cash register tapes and receipts
- Purchase invoices
- Sales invoices
- Shipping documents
- Resale certificates
- Tax returns and supporting documents
For more information on recordkeeping, please see publication 116, Sales and Use Tax Records.
In California, all retail sales of tangible personal property, which the law defines as an item that can be seen, weighed, measured, felt or touched, are taxable unless the law provides a specific exemption or exclusion. As a retailer of flowers, your sales of flowers and other merchandise, and your charges for labor as well as fax, relay, and telephone services, are generally taxable.
Use tax is a companion to California's sales tax and is generally due whenever you purchase taxable merchandise without payment of California sales tax from an out-of-state vendor for use in California. You also owe use tax on merchandise that you remove from your inventory and use in California when you did not pay tax at the time of purchase.
If you use or give away taxable merchandise such as flowers or other merchandise you purchased without paying tax, you owe the use tax – usually equal to the sale tax – based on the cost of the merchandise to you.
To pay use tax, report the purchase price of the taxable merchandise under “Purchases Subject to Use Tax” on your sales and use tax return. Those purchases become part of the total amount that is subject to tax.
Most persons who sell taxable merchandise or perform taxable labor in California, even temporarily, must register with the CDTFA for a seller's permit.
Registering for a seller's permit is free, although in some cases a security deposit may be required.
If you have more than one sales location, you generally must separately register each individual location with us.
You can register with us for a seller's permit using our Taxpayer Online Service Portal.
Be sure to let us know about any changes to your business, or to your mailing or email address so we can keep our records updated and inform you of important changes in laws, tax rates, or procedures. You can easily update your account information through our online services system by logging in with a username and password. You may also contact our Customer Service Center or any one of our offices throughout the state. Contact information is available in the Resources section of this guide.
The current statewide base sales and use tax rate is 7.25 percent. However, the total sales and use tax rates are higher in areas where district taxes are imposed. Please visit the Find a Sales and Use Tax Rate page to look up the rate for a specific address.
District taxes are voter-approved taxes imposed by cities, counties and other local jurisdictions. District taxes are added to the statewide base rate. As a retailer, you are responsible for reporting your retail sales and paying the tax to us at the proper rate. If you make retail sales in California from a business located in a taxing district, you are generally responsible for the district sales tax. You are also responsible for collecting, reporting, and paying the district use tax when you make sales that will be delivered into taxing districts when you are considered “engaged in business in the district.”
Generally, you are “engaged in business” in a district when you meet one of the following conditions. You:
- Have a permanent or temporary business location in the district, including a warehouse, salesroom, or office,
- Own or lease tangible or real property, including but not limited to, a computer server in the district,
- Have a representative or agent in the district, even temporarily, who, for example, makes sales, takes orders, or makes deliveries for you,
- Receive rental income from the lease of merchandise located in the district, or
- Make annual sales of merchandise in California, or for delivery in California exceeding $500,000*.
* On and after April 25, 2019, a retailer is considered engaged in business in all districts that impose a district tax if in the preceding or current calendar year the retailer and all persons related to the retailer pursuant to Internal Revenue Code section 267(b) and the regulations thereunder have total combined sales of merchandise in this state or for delivery in this state that exceed $500,000. All retailers meeting this threshold are responsible for collecting and paying district tax on taxable sales made for delivery in any district that imposes a district tax.
For more information on being engaged in business and to find the correct district tax rates, please see publication 44, District Taxes (Sales and Use Taxes) or our Local and District Tax Guide for Retailers.
You can look up tax rates by city and county or find the full tax rate in your city or county by going to the California City & County Sales & Use Tax Rates webpage.
Key Industry Topics
The information provided below includes common industry topics for floral businesses.
California law makes a distinction between ““florists” and other retailers of flowers. A “florist” is defined by Regulation 1571 as a retailer who conducts transactions for the delivery of flowers, wreaths, and other tangible personal property through a florist delivery association utilizing telephonic, electronic, or other means for the transmission of orders. However, the term “florist” does not include a retailer of flowers who does not fulfill other florists' orders for the delivery of flowers and other tangible property. If you meet the definition of a florist then special rules apply to orders you instruct other florists to fulfill and orders you fulfill for other florists and retailers of flowers.
This section discusses the general application of tax to sales made by florists operating out of a storefront, at a mobile location, on the Internet, or from their home.
As a florist, your sales may involve customers who walk into your store or who come to your mobile location such as at a street corner, swap meet, or farmer's market. In addition, your sales may include orders placed by customers through telephone, fax, Internet, or wire service. You may also fulfill orders taken by other florists or retailers of flowers and instruct other florists to fulfill your orders.
Generally, your charges for the sale of flowers and merchandise, as well as related delivery and service charges (i.e. wire, fax, or telephone) are taxable. As a florist, your business might include providing other taxable services such as decorating and designing in connection with the sale of flowers and charges for these services are generally subject to tax.
Delivery by Another Florist
If you are a florist and you instruct another florist to fulfill your sale for a customer, you are considered the retailer and responsible for collecting, reporting, and paying the tax. This is true even if you sell to an out-of-state customer and instruct an out-of-state florist to fulfill your sale.
Delivery for Another Florist or Retailer of Flowers
If other florists or retailers of flowers who are not florists under Regulation 1571 instruct you to fulfill their sale for their customer, they are responsible for collecting, reporting, and paying the tax. You are not responsible for the tax on transactions that you fulfill the sale on behalf of another florist or retailer of flowers.
You should maintain documentation demonstrating that other retailers instructed you to fulfill their sales.
You must register with us for each mobile sales location that you operate.
You need to register temporary locations, even if you already hold a seller's permit for your permanent place of business. A copy of your seller's permit is required to be posted at each sales location and conspicuously displayed.
Many florists and retailers of flowers do not operate from a structure or retail shop. They may make sales from a vehicle, pushcart, wagon, or other portable method, or sell at a swap meet, flea market, or similar transient location. As a florist or retailer of flowers, you are subject to similar tax reporting requirements as a florist with a retail storefront. You are generally responsible for tax at the rate in effect at the location where the sale is made. For example, if you make over-the-counter sales in Anaheim (Orange County) in the morning, you will report those sales at the Orange County rate (at 7.75%*). Later in the day, if you make over-the-counter sales in Norwalk (Los Angeles County), you will report those sales at the rate in the city of Norwalk, which includes Los Angeles County and city of Norwalk district taxes (at 10.25%*).
*Example is using district tax rates in effect as of July 1, 2020. For more information on district tax rates, please see the heading above “Know Your Tax Rate.”
If you intend on temporarily making sales at certain venues such as but not limited to swap meets or farmers' markets, you must give the event operators, in writing, the following information:
- Business name
- Mailing address
- Telephone number
- Driver license number or state-issued identification (ID) along with the name of the issuing state
- Description of merchandise sold or displayed
- Seller's permit number
Even though it is not required, we recommend you provide a copy of your seller's permit to the event operator.
You can use the CDTFA-410-D, Swap Meets, Flea Markets, or Special Events Certification, to furnish to the operator the required information of the event where you sell your merchandise. The form is also available by calling our Customer Service Center at 1-800-400-7115 (CRS:711).
You are required to collect, report, and pay tax on the sales made at these venues using the applicable tax rate, for the jurisdiction, in effect.
You must notify the CDTFA in writing, by calling us, or by visiting one of the CDTFA offices, if you no longer make sales at a business location, including a temporary selling location registered under your account.
Please see publication 111, Operators of Swap Meets, Flea Markets, or Special Events for more information on this topic.
If you hire a common carrier such as the United State Postal Service, United Parcel Service, or other independent carrier, to deliver your flowers or other merchandise to your customer, your delivery charge may be exempt from tax if:
- You separately state the delivery charge on the invoice, and
- The delivery charge is not more than what you paid the common carrier or independent carrier to deliver the flowers or other merchandise.
Whether tax applies to delivery charges involves several factors. For more information about the application of tax to property delivered by your own facilities of for a delivered price, please see publication 100, Shipping and Delivery Charges, for more information on the application of tax to delivery charges.
As an operator of a flower delivery service, also known as a floral relay service, a floral wire service, a flower delivery association, a retailer network service, or other similar terms, your business will generally involve soliciting direct sales and facilitating sales for other florists through your website or through your toll-free telephone number. You may be considered a florist under Regulation 1571 if you also fulfill orders for other florists.
A flower delivery service may offer proprietary networks, clearing house services, or operate as affiliate marketing sources for member florists.
When you make a direct retail sale to your customer where you directly contract with the customer, bill the customer based on the prices you set, and instruct another florist in California to fulfill the order, you are responsible for collecting, reporting, and paying the tax. This is also true if you meet the definition of florist and make a sale to an out-of-state customer and instruct an out-of-state florist to fulfill the order. However, if you are not a florist under Regulation 1571 because you do not fulfill orders for other florists, then your sales to out-of-state recipients that are fulfilled by an out-of-state florist are not subject to California tax. Maintain documents to establish that property was delivered out of state.
The sale of a combination package may or may not be taxable depending on the value of the nonfood merchandise.
You may sell a combination package that includes food, such as candy and dried fruit, and nonfood merchandise, such as teddy bears, flowers, and wine. If more than 10 percent of the retail value of the entire package, not including the container, represents the value of nonfood products, tax is due based on the value of the nonfood merchandise, if you have documentation establishing the cost of the individual components. If you do not maintain records to support the cost of individual items, the entire package may be taxable. If the retail value of the nonfood products is 10 percent or less of the value of the entire package, not including the container, and the value of the container is 50 percent or less of the retail value of the entire package, the selling price of the entire package is not subject to tax. The sale of a combination package that only contains food, such as chocolate, cookies, or fruit, is generally exempt from tax.
For more information, please see publication 106, Combination Packages and Gift-Wrapping.
You may have customers who purchase merchandise from you to resell in their own business.
If your customer timely provides you with a valid resale certificate and you accept it in good faith, you do not owe tax on that sale because the sale is considered to be a sale for resale.
For more information, please see publication 103, Sales for Resale.
If you install and attach a finished product in place for a customer, tax does not apply to the separately stated charge for installation labor.
For example, if you install hooks on the wall at a wedding venue where you affix your customer's garland, the separately stated labor charge for such installation labor is exempt from tax. However, labor charges associated with arranging flowers into the garland prior to affixation are generally taxable as fabrication labor.
For more information, please see publication 108, Labor Charges.
Tax applies to amounts charged by California florists under Regulation 1571 who receive orders for the delivery of flowers, wreaths, etc., to points outside this state and instruct florists outside this state to make the delivery.
As a florist under Regulation 1571, you owe tax on the entire sales price, including charges for telephone, fax, or relay fees, and any service fee or other charge. The out-of-state florist who completes the order for delivery does not owe sales or use tax on amounts received for the transaction.
On other transactions, if you intend to ship flowers or other merchandise outside of California, your sales are generally exempt from tax if the following conditions are met:
- The contract of sale requires shipment out of state,
- The merchandise is shipped directly to the customer located outside California, and
- You use your own business vehicles, the U.S. Postal Service, or a common carrier to ship the merchandise.
Suzette owns a small retail gift shop located in Victorville, California that sells various merchandise. The merchandise includes but is not limited to food, stuffed animals, balloons, greeting cards, and flowers. Suzette's sales consist mostly of storefront sales and on occasion she makes online sales through her website.
Hank goes online to Suzette's gift shop website and makes a purchase for a flower bouquet for his wife to be delivered to his residence located in Reno, Nevada. The bouquet is being shipped directly to Hank. Additionally, Hank is not an out-of-state florist with the intention of making the delivery. Suzette's sale is an exempt sale in interstate commerce and is not subject to tax.
- Publication 44, District Taxes (Sales and Use Taxes)
- Publication 100, Shipping and Delivery Charges
- Publication 101, Sales Delivered Outside California
- Publication 103, Sales for Resale
- Publication 104, Sales to Residents of Other Countries
- Publication 106, Combination Packages and Gift-Wrapping
- Publication 108, Labor Charges
- Publication 109, Internet Sales
- Publication 111, Operators of Swap Meets, Flea Markets, or Special Events
- Publication 115, Tips, Gratuities, and Service Charges
Related Law Sections
- Revenue and Taxation Code section 6077, Retail Florists
- Revenue and Taxation Code section 6203, Collection by Retailer
- Regulation 1571, Florists
- Regulation 1628, Transportation Charges
- Regulation 1670, Gifts, Marketing Aids, Premiums and Prizes
- Regulation 1827, Collection of Use Tax by Retailers
- CDTFA-230, General Resale Certificate
- CDTFA-410-D, Swap Meets, Flea Markets, or Special Events Certification
Other Helpful Resources
- CDTFA Online Services – Learn about the online services CDTFA offers, including online registration for seller's permits and other accounts.
- CDTFA Offices – Contact us using this comprehensive listing of all CDTFA offices.
- City and County Tax Rates – You will find a listing of current and historical tax rates.
- Contact Us – This page shows the various ways you may reach us to resolve your questions and concerns.
- Find Your Tax Rate – You can look up the current sales and use tax rate for a specific address.
- Get It in Writing! – The Sales and Use Tax Law can be complex, and you are encouraged to put your tax questions in writing.
- News Releases – CDTFA News Releases cover a broad range of topics, including updates to tax laws and to resources for taxpayers.
- Special Notices – Special Notices offer taxpayers guidance regarding law and policy changes, significant news and program updates, and other important information.
- Sign Up for CDTFA Updates – Sign up to receive a monthly email detailing important business information, including Special Notices, Tax Information Bulletins, and updates for local services.
- Taxpayers' Rights Advocate (TRA) – The TRA Office helps taxpayers when they are unable to resolve a matter through normal channels (for example, by speaking to a supervisor), when they want information regarding procedures related to a particular set of circumstances, or when there are apparent rights violations.
- Verify a Permit, License, or Account – This page allows you to search for a permit, license, or account to verify a seller's permit, cigarette and tobacco products license, eWaste account, underground storage tank maintenance fee account, fuel supplier, and more.
- Videos and How-To Guides – These resources will help you avoid common mistakes, file your tax returns online, and more.
- Local and District Tax Guide for Retailers – A tax guide for retailers to learn more about how to property collect, report, and pay local and district taxes.