Do You Owe Use Tax?

You may owe use tax on purchases you made from out-of-state or Internet sellers. Use tax is similar to the sales tax paid on purchases you make in California. You may report use tax on your income tax return instead of filing a use tax return with the State Board of Equalization. To report use tax on your income tax return, use the Use Tax Worksheet in the tax booklet.

In general, you must pay California use tax if you purchase an item out-of-state (for example, by telephone, over the Internet, by mail, or in person) and

  •     The seller does not collect California sales or use tax, and
  •     You use, give away, store, or consume the item in this state.

To determine the amount of use tax you owe:

   1. Add the amount of all purchases made from out-of-state or Internet sellers made without payment of California Sales/Use tax. Include only items on which you would have paid sales tax if you had purchased them in California. See the Board of Equalization Website for more information on taxable items.
   2. Look up the use tax rate for the location where you used, gave away, stored, or consumed the items you purchased.
   3. Multiply the amount by the use tax rate.
   4. Subtract any sales or use tax you paid to another state for the items you purchased.
   5. Enter this amount.

Report use tax due on the following items directly to the Board of Equalization. Do not report it on your income tax return.

  •     Vehicles, vessels, and trailers that must be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles.
  •     Mobile homes or commercial coaches that must be registered annually as required by the Health and Safety Code.
  •     Vessels documented with the U.S. Coast Guard.
  •     Aircraft.
  •     Leases of machinery, equipment, vehicles, and other tangible personal property.

If you owe use tax for prior years

The Board of Equalization has established a voluntary use tax liability disclosure program for in-state qualified purchasers who wish to acknowledge their liability for California use tax. By voluntarily coming forward to the Board of Equalization under this program, you may be able to limit your liability for tax, penalties, and interest due for prior periods. Get more information.

Note: If you traveled to a foreign country and brought items back to California, generally the use tax is due on the purchase price of the goods you listed on your U.S. Customs Declaration less the $800 per-person exemption. This $800 exemption does not apply to goods sent or shipped to California by mail or other common carrier.

If your filing status is "Married/RDP Filing Separately", you may elect to report one-half of the use tax due or the entire amount on your income tax return. If you elect to report one-half, your spouse may report the remaining half on his or her income tax return or on the individual use tax return available from the State Board of Equalization.

For more information about use tax, please visit the State Board of Equalization's Website at, or call their Information Center at 800.400.7115 or TTY/TDD 800.735.2929.
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