Sales Tax Fundamentals
Get up to speed on the basics of sales tax
How to Register for a Sales Tax Permit in California
byJune 1, 2020
Looking for more information on how to navigate sales tax in California?
1. Who needs a sales tax permit in California?
In California, you must obtain a sales tax permit (i.e. “seller’s permit”) if: You must obtain a seller’s permit if you:
- Are engaged in business in California, and
- Intend to sell or lease tangible personal property that would ordinarily be subject to sales tax if sold at
Not sure if you’re engaged in business as California defines it? Find out more on page 4 of California Publication 73.
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 Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) by clicking Register then Register a New Business Activity.
Alternatively, you may register in person at one of their field offices. (Do you never want to visit the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration 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 Department of Tax and Fee Administration if you have any questions. 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
- If you purchased the business, name and contact information for previous business owner
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 CDTFA: 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)
8. How can I learn more about California sales tax?
- Read our California Sales Tax Guide for Businesses
- Find the best contact number to call the California Department of Revenue
- Got questions? Ask our vetted list of sales tax experts
Filing a California sales tax return is painful. TaxJar makes it easy. Ready to automate sales tax? To learn more about TaxJar and get started, visit TaxJar.com/how-it-works.
Need to register for sales tax in another state?
Check out our list of How to Register for a Sales Tax Permit in Every State.
Would you prefer another tax professional handle your sales tax registration?
Fill out our State Registrations form and we’ll put you in touch with a vetted sales tax pro.