Publication 117, Filing a Claim for Refund

May 2015

  • Filing a Claim
  • Required Information
  • Where Do I Send My Claim
  • Additional information

If you believe you have paid more sales or use tax than you owe, you may file a claim for refund. This publication explains how to file a claim and what you should expect.

What's the deadline for filing a claim for refund?

Whichever of the following dates occurs last is your filing deadline:

  • Three years from the due date of the return on which you paid too much tax. Payment of use tax to the Department of Motor Vehicles is deemed to be the filing of a return.
  • Six months from the date you overpaid tax.
  • Six months from the date a determination (billing) became final.
  • Three years from the date we collected an involuntary payment, such as from a levy or lien.

Be sure to file your claim for refund by the applicable deadline. If you don't file on time, you will not receive a refund, even if you paid too much tax.

How do I file a claim?

You must send the BOE a timely written claim for refund. You can use the form in this publication (BOE-101, Claim for Refund or Credit) or send us a letter. Your claim must state all of the following:

  • The specific reasons you paid too much tax.
  • The excess tax amount you paid, if you know it. If you're not yet sure of the amount, you may file for an unspecified amount.
  • The reporting period or periods for which you paid too much tax. Your claim can cover more than one reporting period.

You must sign and date your claim. Please include your phone number so that we can contact you if we have questions or need more information.

If you believe you have paid more tax than you owe, you must file a timely claim for refund, otherwise the BOE is unable to issue a refund. Whichever of the following dates occurs last is your deadline to file a timely claim for refund:

  • Three years from the due date of the return on which you paid too much tax. Filing an application for registration of your vehicle with the Department of Motor Vehicles is generally considered a return and relieves you of further obligation to file with the BOE.
  • Six months from the date you overpaid tax.
  • Six months from the date a determination (billing) became final.
  • Three years from the date we collected an involuntary payment, such as from a levy or lien.

Be sure to file your claim for refund by the applicable deadline. If you don’t file on time, you will not receive a refund, even if you paid too much tax.

Claim for refund or credit for tax paid to Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)

If you purchase a vehicle through a private-party sale (not from a registered dealer) you are required to register it with the DMV. Typically, the DMV will charge use tax on the transaction based upon the address of the location where the vehicle is registered. In some cases, the wrong tax rate may be charged when the address is based upon a zip code that crosses a city or county line. You may want to verify your tax rate prior to going to DMV to ensure the correct amount of tax is charged.

To verify your tax rate, use the BOE’s interactive map at www.boe.ca.gov/taxrate and enter the address where the vehicle was registered. Compare this rate to the rate you were charged when you registered the vehicle. If you paid the wrong amount to the DMV, you may file a claim for refund and submit it to the BOE.

Our California City & County Sales & Use Tax Rates page on our website provides tax rate information and also explains recent tax rate changes, the history of sales and use tax rates, rates and effective dates of district taxes, and the combined sales, use, and district tax rate in certain cities and communities in California.

Additionally, some cities have developed a database of addresses available at www.boe.ca.gov/sutax/cityaddresses.htm to assist retailers and consumers in identifying addresses located within the special taxing jurisdictions. In cooperation with these cities, the BOE website provides links to their address databases. If you have questions about the addresses, you should contact the cities directly.

Example: You register your car at your home in Fresno County. You live near, but not in, the City of Reedley, which has a special tax district. Homes in the City of Reedley have the same zip code as your home in Fresno. If the use tax rate charged by the DMV includes the Reedley district tax, you are not liable for that district tax, and are entitled to a refund of the overpaid district tax.

If the DMV charges you a district tax that you are not liable for (for example, your address is located outside the district tax boundary), as described above, you have two options. You can:

  • Pay the correct tax at a BOE field office and obtain a tax clearance before you register your vehicle with the DMV, or
  • Pay the tax requested by the DMV and file a claim for refund for any overpaid district tax and submit it to the BOE.

To file a claim for refund on overpaid use tax to the DMV, please follow these steps:

  • Verify the correct tax rate for the address where your vehicle is registered.
  • Compare this rate to the rate you were charged at the time of registration with DMV.
  • If you were in fact overcharged, please download and submit a completed BOE-101-DMV, Claim for Refund or Credit for Tax Paid to DMV, and your supporting documentation to the BOE to request your refund.

Submit your completed BOE-101-DMV form and supporting documentation to any BOE field office or the BOE’s Consumer Use Tax Section at:

Consumer Use Tax Section MIC:37
State Board of Equalization
PO Box 942879
Sacramento, CA 94279-0037

Please see publication 52, Vehicles and Vessels: How to Request an Exemption from California Use Tax, or call the BOE’s Customer Service Center at 1-800-400-7115 (TTY:711) for assistance.


How much detail should I provide?

Reason for overpayment

Be specific. For example, if you find you did not take a deduction for $1,550 in nontaxable sales for resale, your claim would state that you paid too much tax because you didn't take a $1,550 sales for resale deduction on that return. If you are filing a claim disputing an audit determination, be sure to state why you believe the tax assessed in the audit is not due.

Claims for more than one tax reporting period

If your claim covers more than one reporting period, please indicate how much excess tax you paid in each period, if known. Please break down each period's overpayment into state, local, and specific district tax amounts.

Supporting documents

You may wish to send supporting documents along with your claim, such as copies of invoices or exemption certificates. This will help us process your claim more quickly. However, it's not necessary to attach extensive documentation to your original form or letter. We will let you know if we need more information.

You should file amended returns when you discover an overpayment on a return. Copies of original returns should be used whenever possible with corrected figures entered to the side of the original figure in a different color than the original figures. Attach a cover letter or BOE-101 explaining the changes to the amended return, and write the notation "AMENDED RETURN-DO NOT PROCESS AS ORIGINAL" on the face of the return. Never use a new return to apply for a refund.


Where do I send my claim for refund?

Claim for current reporting period

Current period claims are unusual, but could arise if you made prepayments that exceed the amount you owe with your return. Please attach your claim for refund to the current return you are filing and mail it to the usual address.

Claim for prior reporting periods

Send your claim for refund and supporting documents to: Refunds Section, MIC:39, Board of Equalization, P.O. Box 942879, Sacramento, CA 94279-0039. (For certified mail or delivery service: 450 N Street, MIC:39, Sacramento, CA 95814.)

How will I know whether my claim has been approved? How long does it take?

We will send you a letter acknowledging receipt of your claim. We review claims as quickly as possible, generally in the order received, but the process may take several months.

If we approve your claim, it will take an additional four to six weeks for the State Controller's Office to send you a check and a Notice of Refund. During this time, we must determine whether you owe any tax to the state. If you do, we may have to transfer all or part of your refund to cover that debt. In addition, refunds of $100,000 or more must be approved by the Members of the Board of Equalization, which adds time to the process. We will pay interest on your refund if it meets certain criteria (see Regulation 1703, Interest and Penalties).

If we deny your claim, we will send you a letter and a Notice of Denial of Claim for Refund. If you disagree with our decision, you have further appeal options with our agency or you can file a lawsuit. These options are explained in the Notice and in publication 17, Appeals Procedures: Sales and Use Taxes and Special Taxes.

If we have not acted on your claim within six months of the date you filed it, you may file a lawsuit to recover the amount you believe you overpaid (see publication 17, Appeals Procedures: Sales and Use Taxes and Special Taxes).

Note: This publication summarizes the law and applicable regulations in effect when the publication was written, as noted. However, changes in the law or regulations may have occured since that time. If there is a conflict between the text in this publication and the law, decisions will be based on the law and not on this publication.


Regulations

1703 Interest and Penalties

Publications

17 Appeals Procedures: Sales and Use Taxes and Special Taxes

76 Audits

Sales and Use Tax Law sections (Revenue and Taxation Code)

6591.5 Interest rates

6902 Claim; limitation period

6902.3 Overpayments from levies or liens

6904 Form and content of claim