Sam Brotman, JD, LLM, MBA August 23, 2014 5 min read

California Sales Tax Audits


Sam Brotman, JD, LLM, MBA

Owner and Director of Legal
Brotman Law

One of the most common targets in a California sales tax audit is sales for resale. Sales for resale is the most common deduction claimed by California taxpayers and one of the most common targets of the Board of Equalization (BOE).

Board of Equalization sales tax auditors are especially careful in examining accounting methods used by taxpayer and use various procedures to verify amounts. Often, California taxpayers will estimate this deduction and will get tripped up in a sales tax audit when the Board of Equalization auditor uses their verification procedures.

Normally, there are two ways that a Board of Equalization auditor will verify sales for resale. First, if the claimed deduction consists of relatively few items so that all transactions can be examined in a reasonable amount of time, the California sales tax auditor will audit every item in detail. Consequently, if sales for resale are numerous and of a reasonably similar unit value, the verification will be made on a test or sample basis.

The auditor will develop perimeters for their test, such as a time period and a method for screening data. This test will then be imputed to the rest of the audit period. California sales tax audits for sales for resale generally are broken down into three classification categories:

• Detailed audit — lists of claimed sales for resale available.

• Detailed audit — lists of claimed sales for resale not available.

• Audit on test basis

California Procedures for Detailed Sales Tax Audits Where Resale Data is Available

In the case of a detailed audit, and when list of claimed resales is available, claimed resales will be summarized by months or by quarters in accordance with the taxpayer’s listings and records. The taxpayer’s detailed schedules will be used as a basis for the verification. Auditor will examine sales invoices and other documentary evidence of the non-taxability of the sales, such as resale certificates, purchase orders, correspondence, or contracts. The nature of transactions and the type and number of items purchased will be scrutinized to determine whether resale certificates appear to have been taken in good faith.

All sales questioned by auditor for any reason will be listed on a subsidiary schedule. A copy of this schedule will be given to the taxpayer as an aid in attempting to support the exempt status of the questioned items.

A reasonable period of time must be given to taxpayer to obtain this information before closing the audit. If list of claimed resales not available, then the auditor will request the taxpayer to prepare a detailed listing of all claimed sales for resale and taxpayer must be allowed a reasonable amount of time to do so. If questioned resales are not proven up by the taxpayer to the auditor’s satisfaction during a California sales tax audit, then those sales will be disallowed.

One special item of note. Sales to Mexican merchants for resale are allowable if certain requirements are met. For example, Mexican Merchant Identification Card must be valid and not expired at the time of the sale and the merchandise purchased for resale must be related to the special business classification codes on the card.

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Last updated: June 8, 2024

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Sam Brotman, JD, LLM, MBA

Owner and Director of Legal
Brotman Law



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