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 with topics included in this guide – or with topics 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.
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 CDTFA-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?
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.
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.
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
Guides (English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese)
Browse our friendly electronic filing guide in multiple languages.
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)
Sellers of prepaid mobile telephony services (MTS), such as prepaid minutes and airtime, have certain surcharge and local charge collection requirements.
Beginning January 1, 2020, sellers of prepaid mobile telephony services (MTS) will be required to collect, report, and pay the Emergency Telephone Users (911) Surcharge as a flat fee on each purchase of prepaid MTS made by a prepaid MTS consumer. The 911 Surcharge will be due on each retail transaction that involves a sale of prepaid MTS to a California consumer, unless otherwise exempt.
Sellers of prepaid MTS must continue to collect local charges as a percentage of total prepaid MTS retail sales (if local charges apply).
The 911 Surcharge and local charges (if local charges apply) generally applies to amounts charged for:
- Prepaid wireless airtime cards
- Prepaid wireless cards compatible with pay-as-you-go cell phones
- Prepaid wireless minutes
- Prepaid wireless plans
- Prepaid wireless refill or top-off cards
- Prepaid wireless ‘e-Cards’
- Prepaid mobile data or any other services when sold with any of the above
- Any product or service (except a cell phone), when sold with prepaid MTS for a single non-itemized price
- A cell phone sold with prepaid MTS for a single non-itemized price, unless only a minimal amount of prepaid MTS is transferred. (A minimal amount of prepaid MTS is $5 or less, or 10 minutes or less)
The current 911 Surcharge rate and local charge rates may be found on our 911 Surcharge and Local Charge Rates webpage.
If you sell prepaid wireless products and services to California consumers, you must register with the CDTFA as a prepaid MTS seller. The prepaid MTS account is a separate account from your seller's permit. For more information about your collection requirements as a sellers of prepaid MTS, please see our Tax Guide for Sellers of Prepaid Mobile Telephony Services (MTS) and Telecommunication Service Suppliers.
Motor Fuel Tax
For more information on Motor Fuels program, online filing and FAQs, see Motor Fuels Online Filing Program.
File your IFTA online quarterly returns. See Online Services – Overview
For more information on Cigarette Tax registration, online filing, and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), please see our Cigarette Tax Online Filing Program webpage.
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.
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
- 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 the CDTFA's Annual Report.
The CDTFA publishes a newsletter with articles that provide important information to tax professionals.
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.
- Sales Tax Classes
Enroll in in-person seminars or take any of our many online seminars.
- Seminar Schedule
Find all the information you need to schedule events in your area.
- Public Meetings and Participation
Public meetings offer you the opportunity to provide input regarding formulation or amendment of rules and regulations administered by the CDTFA. Email Information Requests to add yourself to the interested parties listing.
Commonly Used Forms
- CDTFA-95, Sales and Use Tax Rate Chart
- CDTFA-105, District Taxes, Rates, and Effective Dates
- CDTFA-345, Notice of Business Change
- CDTFA-367, Filing Instructions for Sales and Use Tax Accounts on a Quarterly and Prepayment Filing Basis
- CDTFA-65, Notice of Closeout for Seller's Permit
- CDTFA-230, General Resale Certificate
- CDTFA-230-M, Partial Exemption Certificate – Manufacturing Equipment
- CDTFA-758, California Tax Matrix for Remote Sellers
- CDTFA-180, Sales Tax Reimbursement Schedule 7.25%
- CDTFA-101, Claim for Refund
Commonly Viewed Publications
- 73, Your California Seller's Permit
- 107, Do You Need a California Seller's Permit?
- 103, Sales for Resale
- 100, Shipping and Delivery Charges
- 101, Sales Delivered Outside California
- 105, District Taxes and Delivered Sales
- 44, District Taxes (Sales and Use Taxes)
- 117, Filing a Claim for Refund
- 115, Tips, Gratuities, and Service Charges
- 74, Closing Out Your Seller's Permit
Below are links to all forms, publications, and other reference material for each of the CDTFA's tax program areas.
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)
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.
- 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.