CA Sales Tax 101 Sales Tax Permits

How to Register for a Sales Tax Permit in California

by Mark Faggiano

Register Sales Tax License California
For more information about collecting and remitting sales tax in California, check out California Sales Tax Resources.

1. Who needs a sales tax permit in California?
If you’re engaged in business in California, intend to sell or lease tangible personal property that would ordinarily be subject to sales tax if sold at retail, and/or will make sales for a temporary period, normally lasting no longer than 90 days at one or more locations, you need a sales tax permit.

2. How do you register for a sales tax permit in California?
You can register for a California sales tax permit online at the California State Board of Equalization Online Service portal. Alternatively, you may register in person at one of their field offices. (Do you never want to visit the California Board of Equalization website ever again? We don’t blame you! Check out TaxJar AutoFile and let us file your California sales tax returns for you!)

Important Note: You may be asked for your California Secretary of State number. If this happens to you, and you are not based in California, you can call the California Board of Equalization and explain your situation to get an override. The best number for out-of-state seller to call is 916-227-6600.

3. What information do you need to register for a sales tax permit in California?

  • Social Security Number
  • Driver License Number
  • Email Address
  • Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN)
  • State Employer Identification Number (SEIN)
  • For Corporations:  corporate name, corporate number, State and date incorporated
  • Name, address and phone number of partner(s), corporate officer(s), member(s) or manager(s)
  • Name(s) and phone number(s) of personal references
  • Name(s) and address(es) of supplier(s)
  • North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code
  • Standard Industrial Classification (SIC)
  • Bank Information (name and address)
  • Name and account number of the merchant credit card processor
  • Name, address, and phone number of the person(s) who maintains the books and records

4. How much does it cost to apply for a sales tax permit in California?
There is no cost to apply for a permit. However, there may be a security deposit if you have unpaid taxes if the business closes. The amount of this deposit will be determined at the time you apply. Other business registration fees may apply. Contact each state’s individual department of revenue for more about registering your business.

5. How long does it take to receive your California sales tax permit?
Many applicants receive their permit immediately after they submit their application online. In person, registration can usually be completed the same day.

6. Do you have to renew your California sales tax permit?
California does not require you to renew your sales tax permit.

 7. What are the penalties for operating without a California sales tax permit?

According to the California BOE: You are required to obtain a seller’s permit if you are engaged in business in California and intend to sell or lease items that are ordinarily subject to sales tax when sold at retail (even if you make no retail sales).

If you do not obtain a valid seller’s permit and a citation is issued, the business owners will be required to appear in court and may be subject to fines up to$5000 and/or one year in jail. Any back taxes, including penalty and interest, must also be paid. (Source)

Filing a California sales tax return is painful. TaxJar makes it easy. Try your 30-day free trial of TaxJar today!

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  • Jade Rosjun

    I am in California. Thinking to be a middle-man like ebay inc. who allows multiple sellers to sale their stuffs on my website and I only collect small commission from whatever sold. Do I need to get sale permit? What kind of paper work I should get it done to open this type of business online?
    Thank you!!

  • Ron

    When I try to register for the tax permit with California it requires a California Authorizing Agent from the secretary of state. To apply with the secretary of state they charge 800 per member if your a LLC. For a small business you would have to sell an awful lot of product to cover the $800 annual fee. Am I doing something wrong when I’m applying? I didn’t think this would cost me anything.

    • We’ve talked to sellers who called the Department of Revenue, explained their situation, and were given an override so they didn’t have to meet this requirement. I recommend calling the California Board of Equalization and explaining your situation. Be warned that sometimes you have to call back to get a knowledgeable agent.

  • Hi Jade, I recommend you contact a qualified accountant about your specific situation.

  • Robin

    When trying to apply for tax permit in CA it asks for ”
    Name(s) and address(es) of supplier(s)”, am I supposed to put the Amazon Warehouse address here?

  • We’ve had this question come up in our Sales Tax for eCommerce Sellers Facebook group and sellers there said that they put their actual suppliers where they buy their goods: Big Lots, Target, etc. I hope this helps! (Feel free to ask sellers in the group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/SalesTax4EcommerceSellers/)

  • Fredy

    sales tax permit and Certificate of Registration – Use Tax
    The same? or im doing the wrong application?

  • It’s called the “Seller’s Permit” from what we can tell.

  • Roopa Vohra

    I am planning a two day trunk show in LA… Am I
    liable to collect sales tax or use tax… And what is the procedure …

  • From what we’ve seen, California asks you to apply for a temporary sales tax permit if you’re doing business there but less than 90 days out of a year. Here’s more about that straight from the California BOE: https://www.boe.ca.gov/formspubs/pub107/

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  • David East

    Registering for a tax ID I enter my LLC (number part only, according to the instructions). It complains that it needs to be 12 digits, the one issued to me by the state of MO is 7 digits. I am unable to get past this question to complete the registration.

    • Hi David,

      We see this problem sometimes and the advice is usually to call the BOE and ask them to override the system. A lot of the states just don’t play nice together, unfortunately. You can contact them here:

      Phone Number: 303-238-7378
      Press 4 for Sales Tax & More, then 5 for Sales Tax, finally 0 for Account Manager.

      Also, you can ask on our sales tax group (over 3k members) what they’ve done in this situation in the past. It seems like most of them have nexus in CA. https://www.facebook.com/groups/SalesTax4EcommerceSellers/

  • Hello there,
    I am an European. I have been selling on Amazon for a few months as a person – I have my LTD established the other day. I have to apply for taxes but I have never been to the USA and I do not have a

    Social Security Number

    What to do? Can I apply for taxes without it? Can I apply for all taxes as if they were made from my company that has not been existing by the time of the sales?
    Thanks!

  • Hi Mihail,

    Great questions! Here are some resources for international sellers selling into the U.S.:

    http://taxjar.wpengine.com/international-sellers-deal-sales-tax-u-s/

    http://taxjar.wpengine.com/sales-tax-for-international-business/

    We also recommend Sylvia Dion, CPA. She helps many international sellers get set up correctly. http://www.sylviadioncpa.com

    Good luck with your business venture!

    • My questions were about Social Security Number. I did not find anything about it in the links provided.
      I will try to find something on Sylvia’s website. Thanks for sharing it.

  • CrazyKZ

    Do I need an FEIN and a SEIN if not a corp to get a sellers permit? Can I just use my SSN?

    • From what I’ve researched, you usually can. Remember all states are different, and every once in awhile some states will have a crazy requirement.

    • dave

      you can use your federal identification number

  • Shawna AndJustin Wood

    I live & operate my business in KY, but sell through Amazon FBA, so I am trying to apply for the CA sellers permit. That online application requires a “CA Secretary of State #.” When I called the BOE, they told me I had to complete an LLC-5 (Application to Register a Foreign LLC) by mail. When I printed that off, it requires a “CA resident or CA registered corporate agent.” I don’t have such a person or address. Any suggestions? Am I not following the right track for this process? Thanks in advance for your help.

    • Hi Shawna,

      I think you guys may have already asked this question and gotten an answer in our FB group, but if not, I definitely recommend it: https://www.facebook.com/groups/SalesTax4EcommerceSellers/

      I hope this helps!

      • Kenneth Murphy

        I just signed up with taxjar and am going through this same situation. Any resolution to this situation? I am an LLC.

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  • Adem Ahmed

    Hi
    I have LLC company in California and imported raw coffee and wanted to distributed to roasters and grocery stores in California , do I need to register as sales tax permit?
    Your advise will be highly appreciated!
    Adam

    • Hi Adem,

      You need to register for a sales tax permit if you are selling good at retail. Right now it looks like you’re selling at wholesale so wouldn’t need a permit. That said, you should always contact either your department of revenue (the California BOE) or a vetted CPA for these types of decisions on whether or not you need a permit. Here’s a list of vetted CPAs: http://www.taxjar.com/sales-tax-accountant-directory/

  • Dan

    Hello,
    I have an LLC in CA. I have a sellers permit. Where do I place this information?

    • Just to make sure I’m clear, do you mean when selling on Amazon? If that’s what you mean, we wrote a step-by-step guide to setting up sales tax collection on Amazon here. I hope it helps! http://www.fbasalestax.com

    • Just to make sure I’m clear, do you mean when selling on Amazon? If that’s what you mean, we wrote a step-by-step guide to setting up sales tax collection on Amazon here. I hope it helps! http://www.fbasalestax.com

  • Dan

    Hello,
    I have an LLC in CA. I have a sellers permit. Where do I place this information?

  • Dan

    I have an LLC in CA. I already have a sellers permit. How do I go about collecting the sales tax?

  • Dan

    I have an LLC in CA. I already have a sellers permit. How do I go about collecting the sales tax?

  • Russ Tanner

    I’m brand new to ecommerce, sales tax, etc. Is there a good overview about how all of this works? Do I need to pay sales tax depending on which Amazon warehouse a product is being mailed from? Or do I pay sales tax to the location the product is being mailed to? Or do I collect sales tax on every sale for the state I live in? I’m really confuse about how all of this works. Thanks for your help.

    • Hi Russ,

      Great question! You charge sales tax to customers in states where you have sales tax nexus. This is regardless from where the item is shipped. We’ve written several great overviews, but this one might be best for you: http://www.taxjar.com/guides/intro-to-sales-tax/

      Good luck and let us know if you have any questions! You can also ask over in the Sales Tax for eCommerce Sellers Facebook group, here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/SalesTax4EcommerceSellers/

      • Russ Tanner

        Great information. Thanks. I didn’t realize sales tax was such a pain.

  • Russ Tanner

    I’m brand new to ecommerce, sales tax, etc. Is there a good overview about how all of this works? Do I need to pay sales tax depending on which Amazon warehouse a product is being mailed from? Or do I pay sales tax to the location the product is being mailed to? Or do I collect sales tax on every sale for the state I live in? I’m really confuse about how all of this works. Thanks for your help.

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  • JD

    My church has a craft fair once a year. They sell homemade items donated by parishioners. The customers are also parishioners. Do they need to collect sales tax on the items? The make around $5,000/year.

  • Ryan Wiley

    Hi there. I am Canadian and I live in Canada. I sell with FBA on Amazon.com. I purchase my products from wholesalers in the USA and then ship them to a prep service in Arizona. The prep service then ships my products to the different FBA warehouses as per Amazon’s requests. Two questions – 1. Does the fact I am Canadian change anything about my Sales Nexus status in each state? ie. When applying for a state registration number they require all of my US addresses, etc. I do have a EIN# but my business licence is from Canada. 2. Would I need to include Arizona as a Nexus state as the product isn’t shipped or sold from that state, it is there for approx. 24-48hrs and then shipped to Amazon? Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Ryan,

      Great questions!

      1.) You still have nexus in states that consider Amazon inventory to be nexus. http://blog.taxjar.com/sales-tax-nexus-every-state/

      2.) The prep center doesn’t create nexus because your items aren’t for sale there. They are just passing through. I hope this helps!

  • Sam

    Hi,
    I am based in the uk and dropship products from my US based supplier to my US based customers. However my supplier has asked me for a sales permit. How can i apply for one as i am not based in the US?

    Thanks
    Sam

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