California Board Equalization clarifies title transfer location tax

board of equalization

board of equalization

In California, all sales and use taxes are administered at the state level by an agency known as the Board of Equalization. Counties and cities may impose their own sales and use taxes, but the board handles all collection and distribution. The sales tax is assessed on retailers for the privilege of selling tangible goods within California, while the use tax is assessed on purchasers who use or store goods in California without paying any prior sales tax.

The distinction between sales and use taxes matters a great deal to local governments in California. The board allocates sales tax revenues directly to the city where the sale is completed. In contrast, the Board distributes use tax proceeds to a “countywide pool,” which is shared by all the cities and local governments within a particular county.

In 2012, a California Superior  Court judge sided with a group of cities that had sued the board over its distribution policies. Specifically, the cities said the Board improperly classified certain sales taxes as use taxes. Obviously, the cities wanted to maximize the direct distribution of sales taxes to them, as opposed to the indirect distribution of use taxes through the countywide pools.

But in a December 2014 decision, a California appeals court reversed the Superior Court and upheld the board’s policies. The dispute centered on how to classify sales shipped from out-of-state locations to customers in California. Under the board’s rules, sales tax applies when “title transfers to the purchaser in California”; use tax applies in all other cases. The cities argued sales tax should apply “to all transactions negotiated by a retailer in California regardless of where or when title passes.”

The appeals court explained the California legislature failed to define when “title transfers” occur for purposes of classifying a transaction as subject to either sales or use tax. That means the board has the discretion to make that call, provided it does so “in a rational manner” consistent with state tax laws. Here, the board applied theCalifornia Uniform Commercial Code, which states unless a contract provides otherwise, transfer of title occurs at the “time and place at which the seller completes his performance with reference to the physical delivery of the goods.” In other words, title passes when the goods are shipped, not when they are received. So items shipped from out-of-state are therefore subject to use, rather than sales, tax.

S.M. Oliva is a writer living in Charlottesville, Virginia. He edits the international legal blog Bonham’s Cases.

Sales and use tax changes for October 2014

Sales tax rate changes October 2014

Sales tax rate changes October 2014

Sales and/or use tax changes for 16 states in Zip2Tax products since September 2014. There were changes in Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, North Carolina, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, Ohio, Texas and Washington.

In Alaska, tax rates changed for Sitka, Skagway and Whittier.

In Alabama, tax rates changed for Enterprise, Childersburg, Greensboro, Marion, Tuskegee, Jackson, Trafford and Union.

In Arizona, tax rates changed for Flagstaff.

In Arkansas, tax rates changed for Crawfordsville, Ekins, Greers Ferry, Cleveland County, Crawford County and Crittenden County.

In California, tax rates changed for Anderson, Cotati, Davis, Hayward, San Pablo, Truckee and Watsonville.

In Idaho, tax rates changed for Nez Perce County.

In Kansas, tax rates changed for Fairway and Mulvane.

In Minnesota, tax rates changed for Douglas County.

In North Carolina, tax rates changed for Davidson County.

In North Dakota, tax rates changed for Burleigh County, Leeds, Morton County, Watford City and West Fargo.

In Nebraska, tax rates changed for Fairfield, Hickman, Atkinson and La Vista.

In Nevada, tax rates changed for Carson City.

In Oklahoma, tax rates changed for the counties of Greer, Latimer, Marshall, Washita and Logan and the cities of Kiowa, Kaw City and Chouteau.

In Ohio, tax rates changed for Erie County.

In Texas, tax rates changed for Tatum, Aubrey, Annetta, Fayetteville, Lakeport, Rogers, Shavano Park, Terrell Hills, Lucas and Tuscola.

In Washington, tax rates changed for Marysville TBA.

There were 12 states with ZIP code changes effective after September 2014 including Alabama, California, DC, Delaware, Massachusetts, North Dakota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee and Texas.

Download the full ZIP code change documentation.

For September’s changes click here.

Angel Sauer

Angel Sauer, sales tax research team leader

Amazon’s vested interest in universal online sales tax

universal online sales tax

universal online sales tax

With the addition of a new Amazon distribution center in Kenosha, WI, the number one largest online retailer will soon be collecting sales tax from almost 50% of the American population.

Amazon will begin collecting Wisconsin sales taxes on Nov. 1 and the state expects to benefit to the tune of $30 million per year.

universal online sales tax

Beginning Nov. 1st, Wisconsin will become the 14th state Amazon collects sales tax for. The mega-retailer has arrangements to add at least 6 more states to that list over the next 3 years.

Amazon currently has nexus is 18 states. Nexus, a physical in-state business presence, has long been the determining factor behind which businesses have to collect sales tax. Nexus is created by brick and mortar stores, distribution centers or warehouses, call centers,  offices, sales people, and sometimes just by sending an employee to a convention.

The mega-retailer already collects sales taxes in Arizona, California, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia. Amazon has a physical presence in all of those states except for Georgia and New York.

Georgia passed a law in January requiring all online retailers doing business within the state to collect sales taxes and Amazon complied starting last September. New York won a court appeal upholding the state’s right to claim nexus is created when an out-of-state retailer pays in-state affiliates a commission to promote their products or services. New York refers to this as “click-through nexus”.

Amazon shut down its Connecticut affiliate program back in 2011 to avoid click-through nexus in that state but may be thinking about restarting the program as it recently announced that it will begin to collect Connecticut sales taxes and invest $50 million over the next two years for a jobs initiative.

Amazon has distribution centers in New Hampshire and Delaware where neither state has a sales tax. It also has centers in Indiana, Massachusetts and Nevada and has agreed to begin collecting sales tax in these states in the near future.

Amazon has acknowledged that it has nexus in Tennessee and South Carolina, but made special deals with those states which allow it to postpone sales tax collections for a time. Tennessee Gov. Haslam agreed to hold off on an Amazon tax until 2014 if the retailer agreed to send notifications to all customers about how much tax they owed on their purchases going back through 2012. South Carolina made a deal that exempts the company until 2016 in return for a promised distribution center and its 1,200 jobs. The state left itself an escape clause saying the agreement would be nullified should the Marketplace Fairness Act pass and create a standardized set of federal regulations.

This patchwork of regulations, state-by-state agreements and endless legal battles seems to be the main impetus behind Amazon’s support for the Marketplace Fairness Act or universal online sales tax. This law would significantly ease Amazon’s burdens while simultaneously increasing the burden on other smaller online retailers. Amazon stands to significantly widen its lead over the competition.

Sales and use tax changes for Oct. 1, 2013

Tax rate changes effective October 1, 2013

Tax rate changes effective October 1, 2013

Sales and/or use tax rates in the states of Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Georgia, Kansas, Maine, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming have changed in Zip2Tax products as of October 1, 2013.

In Alaska, tax rates changed for Sitka, Skagway and Whittier.

In Alabama, tax rates changed for Taylor, Pelham, Arab, and Woodland.

In Arkansas, tax rates changed for Blytheville, Elm Springs, Green Forest, Keiser, Monette, Osceola, Pocahontas, Vilonia and Hempstead County.

In Arizona, tax rates changed for Yuma County.

In California, tax rates changed for San Fernando.

In DC, the state tax rate changed.

In Georgia, tax rates changed for Pierce County.

In Kansas, tax rates changed for Andover, Goodland, Harper, Mound Valley, and the counties of Ellis, Chase, Graham, Miami and Reno.

In Maine, the state tax rate changed.

In North Dakota, tax rates changed for Crosby and Lidgerwood.

In Ohio, tax rates changed for Erie County.

In Oklahoma, tax rates changed for Broken Bow, McCurtain, Sallisaw, and Wetumka.

In Texas, tax rates changed for Gregory, Reno, White Deer, Presidio, Trophy Club, Breckenridge, Bryson, Claude, Drum, Lakeside, Lavon, Odern, Olton, Petersburg, Riesel, Rising Star, Sachse, Stockdale, and Wheeler.

In West Virginia, tax rates changed for Charleston, Harrisville, Quinwood and Wheeling.

In Wyoming, tax rates changed for Crook County.

There were 45 states with ZIP code changes effective after September 2013 including Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, DC, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Wyoming.  Download a complete list of the ZIP code changes.

For September’s changes click here.

Angel Sauer

Angel Sauer, lead tax researcher

California struggles with lower sales tax revenues, but new changes unlikely

sales tax revenues

sales tax revenues

California sales tax revenuesDespite charging the highest sales tax rate in the country, California is struggling to bring in sales tax revenues. In 1979, sales taxes made up roughly 36 percent of the state’s revenue. Today, they only make up 22 percent.

The issue is that while Californians pay a 7.5 percent sales tax rate, many large categories like healthcare, education, and rent are exempt from taxes. Consumers are spending more of their incomes on these tax-exempt items and less on taxable retail goods which is why sales tax revenues are falling.

While some are calling for the government to remove some of the sales tax exemptions, an aide to the governor says this is unlikely. California just increased its sales tax rate from 7.25 percent to 7.5 percent in 2013. The governor doesn’t want to take any further action and ask residents pay more in sales taxes.

Read more at The Wall Street Journal

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