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Reminder To CA Manufacturers: Sales Tax Exemption!

Remember when the California Manufacturing Sales Tax Exemption first came into fruition, on July 1, 2014? It seems like so long ago. But maybe it’s a good time to remind companies about this useful partial exemption available to manufacturing companies.

What exactly is this exemption?

It allows certain manufacturers and biotech companies to exempt a portion of California sales and use tax on purchases of qualified equipment used in manufacturing and R&D (research and development).

This exemption went into effect July 1, 2014 and applies to any sale, purchase, and lease of qualified tangible personal property on or after this date.  However, this exemption won’t be around forever- it sunsets on July 1, 2022.

The partial exemption rate is currently 3.9375% and applies to sales of qualifying property sold to a qualified person. In classic CA confusion that means that the purchaser still pays a portion of the state sales tax rate, plus applicable district taxes. For example, if the total tax rate would be 9.5%, a qualified taxpayer would pay a net sales tax rate of 5.5625% on the purchase.

Who qualifies for this exemption?

Purchasers are eligible for this exemption if:

  • The company engages in certain types of businesses, also known as a “qualified person.” The company needs to have a specific NAICS code: 311100 to 339999 (manufacturing), 541711 (R&D in biotech), or 541712 (R&D, other);
  • the equipment purchased needs to be “qualified property;”
  • the purchased equipment needs to be used at least 50% in the process of manufacturing or R&D.

For this exemption to apply, once the purchaser meets all of the qualifications, the seller accepts a completed exemption certificate.

Write it down!

On the surface, this exemption seems straightforward. But as always related to exemptions, it is important to write down all applicable information so that proper documentation is readily available in case of a future audit.

  • The Company may be audited several years from now. If proper documentation is not available to show the proper qualifications of the equipment, the company may lose the benefit.
  • Make sure that you have documented when the piece of equipment was in use and its duration. It is also important to document how the piece of equipment was used.

Am I able to go back and claim a refund?

If a company purchased qualifying property at the full tax rate, but thinks that they might have qualified for the exemption, there is hope! You can go back and claim a refund.

For example, if your company purchased machinery and paid tax at the rate of 7.50% and your purchase qualifies for the partial exemption, then the applicable tax rate for the transaction is net 3.5625% (7.5% minus the exempt amount of 3.9375%). A refund may generally be claimed at any time within the statute of limitations (generally, within three years). If you are seeking a refund for overpaid taxes on qualifying purchases of manufacturing or R&D equipment, the procedures are different depending on whether the original purchase was subject to sales tax versus use tax.

  • If the tax you paid was use tax (typically use tax applies when you purchase from an out-of-state vendor), you may file a claim for refund directly with the Board of Equalization. Complete form BOE-101, Claim for Refund and Credit and mail it to the address provided on the form. Include as the reason for the refund that the property purchased qualifies for the manufacturing and research and development partial sales and use tax exemption.
  • If the tax you paid was sales tax, you must request a refund from the retailer. The retailer would then file a claim for refund with the Board of Equalization. As the purchaser, you will need to provide the retailer with a completed partial exemption certificate (BOE-230-M) and documentary evidence that the original purchase should have qualified for the partial exemption.

Questions? Contact Monika Miles

Monika Miles

Monika founded Miles Consulting Group which focuses on multi-state tax consulting, helping clients navigate state tax issues such as sales tax and income tax in interstate commerce, including e-commerce.

Prior to forming the firm, Monika worked for 12 years combined in Big 4 Public Accounting and private industry. Monika has provided such services as federal and state income/franchise tax compliance and consulting, sales/use tax consulting, audit support, and credits and incentives reviews. She has served clients in a variety of industries including manufacturing, technology, telecommunications, construction, utility, retail and financial institutions.

Monika graduated from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) with a BBA in Accounting/Finance and has a Masters in Taxation from San Jose State University.