California Used Car Sales Tax


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Frequently Asked Questions About Car Tax Deductions

California Motor Vehicle Sales Tax for Dealers
What documentation do I need to prove the sales tax I paid?

Keep the purchase order and/or finance contract when you buy a car so you have the right documentation to account for how much you paid. If youve lost that paperwork, call your lender and ask for a copy. The selling dealership may or may not keep a copy as well.

Do I need different sales tax documentation if I lease a car?

Whether you lease or buy a car, youll pay sales tax, so a purchase order works in both cases. The lease contract would also suffice.

Could I deduct car tax credits?

Yes, certain cars come with federal and/or state tax credits, especially electric and plug-in electric vehicles .

What type of vehicle operation expenses could I deduct?

Besides mileage and depreciation, business owners may be able to deduct the following costs: gas, oil, tolls, insurance, parking fees, garage rent, registration fees, repairs, tires and car lease payments.

Is buying a car for tax deductions worth it?

If youre after a quick tax credit, you might want to look at something like solar panels rather than a vehicle. But if you do need a car, it probably wont hurt to get one with a large tax credit attached. There are, of course, many different factors to consider: Here are 15 questions to ask when buying a car.

Vehicles Assigned To Other Employees

When you assign vehicles to employees other than salespersons, it is presumed it is for business purposes or personal use unless you can clearly establish otherwise.

If a vehicle is assigned for 12 months or less, you must report and pay use tax on the fair rental value, computed at 1/40th of the purchase price for each month the vehicle is in use.

If you assign the vehicle for longer than 12 month, you must report and pay use tax on the cost of the vehicle.

If you do not know how long the vehicle will be used, you can report based on the fair rental value for the first 12 months at 1/40th of the purchase price on the 13th month you must pay use tax based on the cost of the vehicle minus the tax previously reported.

Do You Have To Pay Taxes On A Car You Buy From A Private Owner

When you purchase a vehicle through a private sale, you must pay the associated local and state taxes. In most states, youll need to bring your Bill of Sale and signed title to the Department of Motor Vehicles or motor vehicle registry agency to pay your taxes and obtain your registration, new title, and plates.

Also Check: How To File Free Taxes

Buying A Car In California

Purchasing a vehicle in California follows pretty much the same process as it does in other states, which involves researching the car, taking a test drive, negotiating a fair price for your trade-in, filling out the required paperwork, and paying the fees required by the state. Still, as with every state, California has some unique laws and procedures for buying a car, such as its smog test and as-is laws.

The following rundown will help you buy a car in California the right way.

Do I Have To Pay Sales Tax On A Used Car

California Used Car Sales Tax &  Fees

Buying used is a great way to save on the cost of a vehicle, but it wont eliminate state taxes. The California sales tax applies to used and new cars. The state taxes are still 7.25% for used cars. Of course, this often means youll pay less in sales tax for used cars because the price of the vehicle is less expensive.

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How Does My Trade Or Business Pay The Tax Due1

Your payment method may vary depending upon the type of business. The following businesses are required to report purchases subject to use tax directly to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration:

  • Businesses that have a California sellers permit.
  • Businesses, known as Qualified Purchasers, not required to hold a California seller’s permit, but receive at least $100,000 in annual gross receipts.
  • Businesses that have a California consumer use tax account.

Businesses that don’t fall into one of the above categories have two options:

  • Pay use tax on state income tax forms – The business can complete the worksheet included in the instructions to the income tax return form applicable to its entity to determine the amount owed
  • Please note: different rules apply to purchases of vehicles, vessels or aircraft see ourTax Guide for Purchasers of Vehicles, Vessels, & Aircraft.

    For all purchases, you should retain documentation, such as receipts, invoices, shipping documents, etc., to support your claim that your purchase brought or shipped to California is not subject to use tax.

    Special Charges Related To Motor Vehicle Sales

    There are many common charges associated with vehicle sales. Tax applies differently to each type of charge and may change depending on whether they are listed separately or grouped together.

    Sales tax does not apply to license fees that you collect and remit to the DMV, unless you collect an amount in excess of the fee required by the DMV. Excess amounts collected are taxable.

    Documentation Fees

    If you use items for personal or business use that you purchased without paying tax, you owe use tax measured by its purchase price. Some of the most common items you may owe use tax on are listed below.

    Oil and Grease

    You must report and pay use tax on oil and grease used in company cars, service cars, loaner cars, tow trucks, and any vehicles subject to tax under the 1/40th or 1/60th formulas.

    Parts and Accessories

    You must report and pay tax on the cost of parts and accessories installed on the following vehicles:

    • Loaner cars whose use is subject to tax based on the cost of purchase.
    • Company cars, service cars, and tow trucks.

    You are not required to report or pay use tax on the cost of parts and accessories installed in the following:

    • Vehicles held for resale or taxable lease, including vehicles used for demonstration and display.
    • Vehicles whose use is subject to tax under the 1/40th or 1/60th formulas.
    • Loaner cars whose use is subject to tax based on the fair market value.

    Tools and Equipment

    Recommended Reading: Corporate Tax Rate In India

    Sales Of Previously Leased Or Rented Vehicles

    Tax applies to the total selling price of previously leased or rented vehicles regardless of any tax that may have been previously paid on the lease or rental receipts.

    If a lessee chooses the purchase option as part of the lease agreement, tax generally applies to the purchase amount.

    If you are licensed by the DMV as a lessor-retailer, the following special rules apply to your retail sale of a leased vehicle:

    • If you sell the vehicle to the lessee, you are not required to file a report of sale with the DMV and you are not liable for the tax. The lessee will pay use tax directly to the DMV. If, however, you do file a report of sale, you will be liable for the sales tax.
    • If you make a retail sale of a leased vehicle to anyone other than the lessee, you are required to file a report of sale with the DMV and report and pay the sales tax.

    Sales of Company Vehicles and Demonstrators

    Tax applies to the total selling price of company cars, parts and service department vehicles, tow trucks, and demonstrators as if it were a retail sale.

    Repossessed Vehicles

    If you transfer a repossessed vehicle to a third party who assumes the unpaid contract or sell it to a new customer, you must report and pay sales tax based on the total sales price.

    Consignment Sales

    If you sell a vehicle on consignment for another person, the transfer and sale are considered to be made by you, and you must report and pay sales tax on the sale.

    Sellers Permits And The California Department Of Tax And Fee Administration

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    All Dealers and Auto Brokers must obtain a Sellers Permit from the CDTFA before you can collect sales or use tax and file your State Returns.

    Effective January 1, 2021, most Dealers must pay the sales tax they collect from customers, directly to the DMV. Not the CDTFA as they did in the past.

    There is no fee to obtain the Permit and you can apply online or at a nearby CDTFA office.

    Read Also: How To Amend Tax Return Turbotax

    How Much Is The Sales Tax In California

    You pay sales tax in 45 states when you purchase a product or service. Some of the 45 states may have cities and counties charging their own rates for sales taxes. If you buy a product or service in California, you might notice that there are 25 different sales tax rates explains Smartasset. These taxes will go to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration.

    The initial sales tax in the state is 6 percent, but you have to pay a sales tax of 1.25 percent to counties and cities in the area you buy your product in. Therefore, you must pay a minimum of 7.25 percent in sales tax for the purchase of a product, but only one-fourth of cities in the state charge this rate. This is one of the largest sales tax rates in the United States. California residents have one of the highest state income tax rate of any other state in the country at 13.3 percent.

    Let’s look at Oakland, located in Alameda County. You’ll pay 9.25 percent sales tax if you buy an item in this city because you add the state rate of 7.25 percent to the county rate of 2 percent. If you travel to San Francisco County, you’ll pay a sales tax rate of 8.5 percent since the county rate is 1.25 percent, which is .75 percent lower than Alameda County.

    Paying Fees And Filling Out Paperwork When Buying A Car In California:

    When buying a car in California, you typically have to fill out a lot of paperwork and send it all to the DMV. That includes the bill of sale, vehicle registration, vehicle title and application, and smog certificate. You may also have to provide loan documents if you took out a loan to buy the car. Notice of ownership transfer and a release of liability is required if you purchased the vehicle used.

    Currently, California’s statewide sales tax on both used and new cars is 7.25 percent, though city and county taxes can be higher. If you bought a car in another county from where you live, online tools such as the California Board of Equalization tool can help you calculate the sales tax you must pay.

    Also, you must pay a title transfer fee of $15 within 30 days of buying a used car. If the vehicle is new, you must pay a $21 title fee instead, also known as a pink slip fee. Car registration in California costs $58, and you can’t get a vehicle title if you don’t pay this fee. Other fees you may have to pay when buying a car in California include a $28 California Highway Patrol fee, a $1 reflectorized license plate fee, a $1 fingerprint ID fee, a $6 air quality management district fee, a $1 crime deterrence program fee, and an $8 smog transfer fee.

    Also Check: Do You Have To Pay Taxes On Inheritance

    Tips For Reducing California Used Car Tax

    If you buy a pre-owned vehicle in California, used car tax can add significantly to the cost of the vehicle. From sales tax to smog and emissions testing, the State of California always demands its fair share from motor vehicle owners. While we all need to pay lawful taxes, we don’t need to pay too much. So, here are some tips on how to reduce the amount of used car tax you will need to pay.

    Save on Used Car Tax with a Trade In at Purchase

    California sales tax rates are among the highest in the country and range from about 8% all the way up to nearly 11%. So, you can see that this will quickly increase the cost of a used car by a considerable amount. When you purchase a used car in California, you might want to trade your older car in to the dealership so that you can save on the amount of sales tax you will have to pay.

    Whenever you trade in a vehicle, the amount of the trade in allowance will be deducted from the sales prices of the vehicle you purchase. This will result in you being taxed only on the balance and not on the original sticker price. If your trade in is worth a few thousand dollars, this could result in considerable sales tax savings.

    Know Your California State Tax Laws

    Keep a Record of Your Mileage

    Keep Those Receipts and Records for Your Vehicle

    Keep Your Car Properly Tuned Up and Save on Taxes

    California Sales Tax On Car Purchases

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    According to the Sales Tax Handbook, the California sales tax for vehicles is 7.5 percent. Of this, 1.25 percent goes to the applicable county government. Districts, cities, and other local government entities may collect additional taxes up to 2.5 percent. A $50 emissions testing fee applies to the sale of the vehicle as well. Other fees such as registration, title, or plate fees may also apply to California car purchases.

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    Warranties: Optional Vs Mandatory

    Warranties provide a great opportunity for both the dealer and the customer. The dealer can make a little extra profit, and the customer can drive off with peace of mind.

    As an additional benefit, these customers purchase of a warranty is a non-taxable sale. This means you will not have to worry about collecting more tax when selling this product. Please note however, warranties only qualify as tax exempt if they are optional to the buyer.

    Persuading purchase is ok, but beware of the sales tax liability created when the customers choice is hindered. If the customer does not want to buy the warranty, the dealer should not be called off the sale.

    This might pose an issue for dealers who tack most of their gross onto the back end. Due to an over-saturation of dealerships in the market, dealers undercut competitor prices as they often find themselves vying for the same customer.

    Before the last wave of lease returns came due, a shortage of inventory caused auction prices to spike this severely limited the ability of most dealers to engage in these price wars. These dealers use mandatory warranties to gain a competitive edge.

    This is done by marking the vehicle at or near cost to bring the customer in. The dealer then makes up the profit on the back end by mandating the purchase of warranty.

    The customer may leave or reluctantly oblige figuring that if they are going to pay the same overall price elsewhere anyway, they may as well get the added benefit of a warranty.

    How A Car Dealerships Incentives And Discounts Affect California Sales Tax

    Car dealerships often employ a variety of special pricing, discounts, and other incentives to increase their sales and move products. Your dealership should carefully consider the appropriate sales tax application when structuring different deals to ensure accurate sales tax collection and reporting.

    • Trade-ins: The trade-in value of a customers car does not affect the newly purchased vehicles price for California sales tax purposes. . For example, you would still collect sales tax on the $10,000 purchase price of a vehicle that a customer paid $8,000 after trading in their old car for $2000.
    • Standard discounts: Apply the sales tax rate to the purchase price adjusted to reflect the discount.
    • Third-party discounts and rebates: You will generally pay sales tax on amounts received as part of a rebate or other offer from a manufacturer or vendor .
    • Dealer-Purchased Incentives: Dealers only pay sales tax on the initial purchase of supplies later given to customers as free incentives .
    • Factory-Dealer Incentives: Car dealers should collect and pay sales tax on the actual selling price, regardless of any discount on the vehicles fair market value when purchased from a manufacturer or other vendor.

    Read Also: When Are Tax Payments Due 2022

    Vehicles Assigned To Salespersons

    A salesperson specifically refers to employees who directly participate in negotiating sales. The following information assumes you purchased the vehicle in question with a resale certificate. Vehicles can be assigned, rented or sold to the salesperson.

    If you assign a vehicle for 12 months or less, you must report and pay use tax on the vehicle’s fair rental value, calculated at 1/60th of the purchase price for each month used.If you assign the vehicle for longer than 12 months, you must pay and report use tax based on your cost for the vehicle.

    If you do not know how long the vehicle will be used, you can report and pay tax based on the fair rental value for the first 12 months at 1/60th of the purchase price on the 13th month you must pay use tax based on the cost of the vehicle minus the tax previously reported.

    If you rent a vehicle to a salesperson, you must report and pay use tax on the rental receipts. If you sell a vehicle to a salesperson, you must report and pay use tax based on the amount paid by the salesperson.

    How To Deduct Sales Tax And Property Tax

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    The IRS only allows you to deduct up to $10,000 total in sales, income and property taxes . So when you itemize, youll want to compare you sales and income tax and deduct whichever is larger. If your state doesnt charge sales tax , or doesnt charge income tax , the decision is a no-brainer.

    If your state charges both, you may need to play with the numbers. Tax preparation programs, many of which allow taxpayers to file federal returns for free, may be able to help you calculate your best approach, but here are two strategies:

    • Itemize. This method requires that you keep receipts of everything you buy for the year, then add up the sales tax to account for deductions. To do this, you would use the IRS Schedule A . Property taxes or other value-based fees would be entered on Schedule As state and local personal property taxes line.
    • Take the standard sales tax deduction, plus big-ticket items. Rather than meticulously keeping receipts, you could use the IRS sales tax deduction calculator to estimate what your standard sales tax deduction would be based on your income, family size and ZIP code. It allows you to add the sales tax you paid for big-ticket items such as a car, recreational vehicle or boat to get an estimate.

    Also Check: Montgomery County Texas Tax Office

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