Getting Started with Timber Yield Tax
About Timber Yield Tax
The Timber Yield Tax is a property tax paid by timber owners when they harvest trees, or timber. The California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) administers and collects the Timber Yield Tax, which, after state administrative costs, is allocated to the counties where the timber was harvested. The CDTFA also determines the harvest values of timber and timberland production zone values.
Prior to 1976, timber and timberlands were subject to an annual ad valorem property tax administered by each individual county assessor. The Timber Yield Tax Law, passed in 1976, replaced the ad valorem tax on standing timber with a yield tax on the value of harvested timber. While the timber yield tax is a state tax deferred until the time of harvest, the taxation of timberland is still part of the local annual property tax that is administered by each county assessor.
The CDTFA receives notice of timber harvest permits filed with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) and the federal government agency timber harvest contracts. If you filed harvest forms with CAL FIRE or purchased a timber contract from federal agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) or the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the CDTFA will establish a timber yield tax account for you and assign an account number. Your registration will remain in effect until you notify the CDTFA that you will no longer harvest timber. Exception: The CDTFA will not register the owners of timber harvests that appear to have, in total, an immediate harvest value of $3,000 or less within a quarter.
If you own and harvest timber without authorization from CAL FIRE or the federal government, use a timber harvest plan approved for someone else, or sell Christmas trees from a Christmas tree farm, it is your responsibility to register with the CDTFA for the timber yield tax.
Whether you are automatically registered or register yourself with the CDTFA, you will be asked to furnish:
- The name(s) of the legal timber owner(s)
- Your driver license number
- Your Social Security number
- Your phone number
- Your mailing address (and county name)
- The type of ownership (individual, partnership, corporation, husband and wife, domestic partner, other)
- Type of harvest products (logs, fuelwood, Christmas trees, other)
- First date of harvesting (cutting the trees)
The CDTFA may request additional information necessary to fully complete your registration.
To register for your timber yield tax account, a seller's permit, any other permit, license (cigarette, tobacco, or fuel), or account with the CDTFA, visit our online registration system (beginning 8/12/2019). Online registration is the convenient way to register and is available 24 hours a day. If you have questions, please contact our Customer Service Center at 1-800-400-7115 (CRS:711), Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:00p.m., (Pacific time), except state holidays.
Updating Your Business Information with CDTFA
Go to www.cdtfa.ca.gov, login with your username and password to update your account information including, but not limited to, selling your business, changing your mailing address, email address, or telephone number, or closing your business. If you prefer, you may use form CDTFA-345-SP, Notice of Business Change, Special Taxes and Fees Accounts to notify CDTFA of changes. It is important to notify us so we can update our records to ensure you receive information, email reminders to electronically file, and other updates timely.
You may also contact CDTFA Customer Service Center at 1-800-400-7115 (CRS: 711) and select the option for Special Taxes and Fees or send a message through our website at Email Your Tax Questions.
Timber Tax Rates
The CDTFA determines the Timber Yield Tax rate each December to be effective January of the following calendar year. The current and historical yield tax rates are available on our Tax & Fee Rates page.
The amount of tax due is dependent upon the volume of timber harvested, the CDTFA established value for the species harvested (see harvest value schedules above), and the tax rate. To compute your tax liability, simply multiply the net volume, by the species harvest value, and by the yield tax rate.
Filing Timber Tax Harvest Report and Timber Tax Return
File a Return Online – File your return and report through our online services using your username and password. Simply login using your username and password, click on the account for which you want to file a return, then select the File a Return link and follow the prompts.
Visit our Tutorials page for video instructions for filing your Timber Yield Tax Return and Harvest Report through our online services.
Additional Return Filing Options – You may also file your return by mail using the return or report forms listed below:
- CDTFA-401-APT, Timber Tax Harvest Report
- CDTFA-401-1PT, Timber Tax Return
- CDTFA-401-SPT, Timber Tax Return (Supplement)
For most accounts, timber yield tax returns must be filed for each calendar quarter. However, if Christmas trees are the only forest product you harvest and you harvest them in the fourth quarter of each year, you will file a return only for the fourth quarter of each year. The filing date is the last day of the month following the end of the quarter.
You must file your timber yield tax return as long as you remain registered with CDTFA, even if you do not harvest any timber during a reporting period or if all of your harvests for the reporting period qualify for the low-value exemption. Check boxes on the return allow you to indicate that you did not harvest timber during the reporting period, or all your harvests qualify for the low-value exemption.
You may owe the following penalty charges and/or interest if you do not file a timber yield tax return, if you file after the due date, or if you do not pay the tax you owe by the due date. The penalty for filing or paying late is ten percent of any tax amount due that was not paid by the due date.
- Late-file penalty - One hundred dollars ($100) if the tax return is not filed by the due date.
- Late-pay penalty - 10 percent (10%) of the tax amount due if the tax is not paid by the due date.
- Late-file and late-pay penalty - 10 percent (10%) or one hundred dollars ($100), whichever is greater, if the tax return is not filed and paid by the due date.
Interest accrues on a monthly basis. In certain cases, you may be eligible to request relief for interest on electronic payments made one business day late. For more information, see CDTFA-734, Request for Interest Adjustment on Electronic Payments—One Day Late.
Average Volume Per Log Calculator
For harvests of Ponderosa Pine, Douglas Fir, Redwood, and Port Orford cedar, you may need to determine the size code for the log, which indicate log quality and log value. The size code is determined by the average volume per log segment (AV/L), based on the industry standard of 16-foot short-log segments. For those species requiring a size code, only one size code per species may be reported in a quarter. Do not report multiple size codes for the same species on an operation in a reporting quarter. If you are reporting multiple species from the same harvest plan or contract in the same quarter, you must calculate the AV/L for each species.
If you need additional help with calculating the AV/L, please visit our Average Volume Per Log Calculator webpage.
Current Adopted Harvest Values Schedules
- Harvest Values Schedules
- Modified Harvest Value Schedule
- E-mail us if you would like to request prior records of Adopted Harvest Value Schedules.
When filing online, you are able to file your timber yield tax return and pay the timber tax due in one transaction. You may also visit our website to conveniently make a payment or learn about our various payment options.
Payments must be submitted by the due date to be considered timely. If you use the ACH Debit payment method and initiate your payment on the filing due date, you must complete your transaction by 3:00 p.m. (Pacific time) and select the next banking day as your debit date. Otherwise, your payment will not be initiated until the next banking day and will be late.
You must maintain adequate and complete records that will back up your timber yield tax returns, and make them available to the CDTFA upon request. Your records need to show all of the following:
- The contractual or financial agreements related to the ownership and logging of your trees
- The locations of the trees cut
- Wood product volumes
- The basis for computing harvest values
The timber industry customarily uses a variety of items to record this information. Your records may include the following:
- Financial books (ledgers and journals)
- Income tax returns
- Complete harvest plans
- Timber sale contracts
- Bills, receipts, invoices, statements, worksheets, and summaries
- Check stubs
- Scale tickets
- Appraisal notes
- Property maps
- Any other document used in preparing your timber tax return or that can substantiate your return
You must generally maintain records for a period of four years from the due date of your quarterly tax return, or the date the return was filed, whichever is later.