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How to Get a California Seller’s Permit

A document reading "seller's permit" in front of stacks of brown boxes

You’ll need a California seller’s permit if you are selling tangible goods in California. To get a seller’s permit, you’ll register your business for sales and use taxes by creating an account with the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA). Sales tax and use tax, though often talked about together, are two separate forms of tax. In California, sales tax is a tax on the sale of goods, which retailers charge to consumers. Use tax is for the storage, shipping, use, or consumption of goods in or to California that are not subject to sales tax. The sale of services isn’t taxed in California. Here’s how you get a seller’s permit.

1. Set Up a CDTFA Account

To get your California seller’s permit, you’ll first need to register for an online account with the CDTFA. Setting up an account allows you to quickly access your business tax information and file the required taxes and documents.

To set up a CDTFA account, follow these steps:

  1. Go to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration sign up page. In the login box, you’ll select the option to Sign Up Now.
  2. You’ll have to select which type of account you want to create. For getting your seller’s permit, select Register a New Business Activity.
  3. Next, you’ll be prompted to select whether you’re the owner of the business or a third-party representative, like an employee or accountant.
  4. In the Ownership Chain Access section, you’ll answer if you’ve received a letter with a security code for your business.
    • Selecting Yes: On the next page, you’ll enter your security code, identification information, account type, and account number. Your account type will be Sales and Use Tax and your account number will appear on letters you’ve received from the CDTFA or your past year’s tax return.
    • Selecting No: On the next page, you’ll enter your identification information and select whether you already have a CA permit, license, or account with CDTFA. If you don’t have an existing account or permit, you can continue to the next step. If you do have an existing account or permit, you’ll need to enter your account number (found on your previous tax return) and account type (Sales and Use Tax).
  1. Next, you’ll choose your user name, password, and security question.
  2. After that, you’ll enter your contact information, including your phone number and email.
  3. The final step is choosing your authentication information for securing your account. You can choose to have two-step verification sent to your email, phone, or both. Once chosen, you’ll be redirected back to the sign-in page, where you’ll use your information to log in.

Where do I get my CDTFA security code?

You’ll get a CDTFA security code after you’ve created an account with the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration online system. Once you enter your mailing information, you’ll receive a letter from the department with your security code. It usually takes 7-10 business days to receive your security code once you create your account. If you’ve lost your CDTFA security code, you can request it again by contacting the office at 1-800-400-7115.

2. Print Your Seller’s Permit

Once in your CDTFA account, you’ll have access to your seller’s permit, tax returns, and business account information. Here’s how to print your seller’s permit.

Existing businesses

If you have previously filed your sales and use tax return, you can print your seller’s permit directly from your account.

  1. Click on your Sales and Use Tax account under the Accounts tab on the bottom half of the homepage.
  2. Once on your Sales and Use tax profile click on the Locations tab. You’ll see all the registered locations for your business and a prompt to print your permit.

New businesses

If you are a new California business, you’ll first need to add your business to your CDTFA account. To do that, follow these steps:

  1. Go to your account profile’s I Want To category on the homepage and select Register a New Business Activity.
  2. Select the first option: selling items or goods in California (Seller’s Permit) from the list of business activities.
  3. Answer two pages of questions about the types of products you sell.
  4. Select your business, industry, and business type.
  5. Provide your home and business mailing addresses, along with how you’ll be processing sales, supplier information, and your merchant card processor information.
  6. Estimate your monthly sales, including taxable sales, and enter the date you want your seller’s permit to go into effect.

Once you’ve submitted your application, the CDTFA will notify you by mail and on your online account when your seller’s permit is approved and ready to print.

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3. File Your California Sales Tax Return

Once you’ve created your CDTFA account, you’ll get notified on your account and by mail when your sales and use tax is due. Your filing frequency and due date are determined by the CDTFA based on your reported or estimated sales tax. Check your account to find out when your sales and use tax return is due.

To file your California sales and use tax return, go into your CDTFA account and click on the Accounts tab on the home screen. Under Accounts, click on the Sales and Use Tax account for your business, and you’ll be taken to your Sales and Use Tax account page where you’ll have the option to file and view your return.

How do I request a sales tax refund?

If you need to request a refund from the CDTFA, you’ll also use your online business account. To request a sales and use tax refund, you’ll go to your Sales and Use Tax account found under the Accounts tab on the homepage. Under the I Want To list, you’ll click on More. You’ll get the option to Submit a Claim for a Refund.

To submit a claim for a refund from CDTFA, you’ll need to provide:

  • Reason for the refund
  • Period of the claim
  • Amount of the claim
  • Documents to support your claim
  • Contact person’s information, including name, title, phone number, and email address

Is a Seller’s Permit the Same as a Business License?

Not exactly. California does not have a general state business license. Most California business licenses are either required at the state level for the sale of specific professional services (such as contracting, law, or medical services), or at the local level as imposed by cities or counties. A seller’s permit is a document that allows a business to collect sales tax.

This entry was posted in Opinion.