Publication 178, Voluntary Disclosure Program

February 2014

  • Overview
  • In-State Voluntary
    Disclosure Program
  • Out-of-State Voluntary
    Disclosure Program
  • How to Request
    a Written Opinion
  • Related Links

Use tax is imposed upon the purchaser. It generally applies to purchases from out-of-state vendors who do not collect California tax on their sales. Generally, if sales tax would apply when you buy a particular item in California, use tax applies when you make a similar purchase from a business outside the state. For further information, please see publication 110, California Use Tax Basics.

If you owe California use tax as a purchaser of tangible personal property purchased for use in this state, or if you are an out-of-state business that should be collecting use tax on sales of tangible personal property to California consumers, you are encouraged to apply for participation in the appropriate voluntary disclosure program.

What is Voluntary Disclosure?

The Board of Equalization (BOE) administers two distinct voluntary disclosure programs for reporting use tax. The In-State Voluntary Disclosure Program (Revenue and Taxation Code section 6487.06) is available for an in-state purchaser for the purpose of reporting use tax on purchases of tangible personal property from a retailer outside of this state. The Out-of-State Voluntary Disclosure Program (Revenue and Taxation Code section 6487.05) is available for an out-of-state business for the purpose of reporting use tax on sales to consumers in California. Both programs provide the following benefits for participants:

  • Limits the time the BOE can make an assessment for use tax to the prior three years. Without this program, the applicable statutory period may be extended to eight years.
  • Allows the BOE to waive late filing and late payment penalties.
  • Allows applicants to anonymously describe their circumstances and obtain from the BOE a written opinion regarding whether the BOE might approve their voluntary disclosure request.

For more information

Additional information, including copies of referenced publications and law sections and the location of BOE field offices, are available on our website or from our Customer Service Center at 1-800-400-7115.

Note: This publication summarizes the law and applicable regulations in effect when the publication was written, as noted above. However, changes in the law or in regulations may have occurred 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.


The In-State Voluntary Disclosure Program is available for an in-state purchaser for the purpose of reporting use tax on purchases from a retailer outside this state.

Who Qualifies

To qualify for the In-State Voluntary Disclosure Program, you must meet all of the following conditions:

  • You reside or are located within California, and have not previously registered with us;
  • You have not previously filed an Individual Use Tax Return with us;
  • You have not reported an amount for use tax on your Individual Income Tax Return filed with the Franchise Tax Board;
  • You are not engaged in business in this state as a retailer as defined in Revenue and Taxation Code section 6015 (please see publication 107, Do You Need a California Seller's Permit? for more information);
  • You have not been contacted by us for failure to report the use tax as imposed by Revenue and Taxation Code section 6202;
  • Your failure to pay the tax or file a return was due to reasonable cause and not as a result of negligence or intentional disregard of the law;
  • Your purchase is not of a vehicle, vessel, or aircraft; and
  • You voluntarily come forward to us.

How to Apply

To apply for participation in the In-State Voluntary Disclosure Program:

  • Register on our website at www.boe.ca.gov by selecting New Registration, and then select Register a business activity with BOE. You can also register in person at any of our field offices, and
  • Complete and submit a BOE-38-I, Application for In-State Voluntary Disclosure, within thirty (30) days of registration.

Submit the Application for In-State Voluntary Disclosure document to your nearest BOE field office. It will take approximately two weeks after we have received the application, assuming the application and registration information are complete, for you to be notified of your status in the program. If your application is approved, you will receive an acceptance letter. You will be notified in writing if you do not meet the requirements for the Voluntary Disclosure Program. You may not qualify for this program if your application is not submitted within thirty (30) days.

After you have received notification of your status in the program, you will be required to electronically file your tax returns. Registration will provide you with a registered User ID to file your tax returns. Payment may be made online at the time of filing or mailed with a printable voucher.

To request a written opinion as to whether the BOE would approve a voluntary disclosure request, see the instructions on the tab "How to Request a Written Opinion".

How to Seek Relief from Penalty

To seek relief of penalty, a written request which sets forth the facts regarding why the late filing occurred must be made and signed under penalty of perjury.

The BOE-38-I application contains a section where you may request relief from penalty. The request for relief from penalty will not be considered until the total tax and interest due have been paid in full.


The Out-of-State Voluntary Disclosure Program is available for an out-of-state business for the purpose of reporting use tax on sales to consumers in California.

Who Qualifies

To qualify for the Out-of-State Voluntary Disclosure Program, you must meet all of the following conditions:

  • You are located outside California and have not previously registered with us as an entity engaged in business in California as defined by Revenue and Taxation Code section 6203;
  • You have not been previously contacted by us regarding your activities in California;
  • Your failure to pay the tax or file a return was due to reasonable cause and not as a result of negligence or intentional disregard of the law; and
  • You register voluntarily with us.

How to Apply

To apply for participation in the Out-of-State Voluntary Disclosure Program:

  • Register on our website at www.boe.ca.gov by selecting New Registration, and then select Register a business activity with BOE. You can also register in person at any of our field offices, and
  • Complete and submit a BOE-38, Application for Out-of-State Voluntary Disclosure, within thirty (30) days of registration.

The completed application for the Out-of-State Voluntary Disclosure Program may be sent to the following address:

Out-of-State District Office
State Board of Equalization
3321 Power Inn Road, Suite 130
Sacramento, CA 95826-3893

It will take approximately two weeks after we have received the application, assuming the application and new registration information are complete, for you to be notified of your status in the program. If your application is approved, you will receive an acceptance letter. You will be notified in writing if you do not meet the requirements for the Voluntary Disclosure Program. You may not qualify for this program if your application is not submitted within thirty (30) days.

After you have received notification of your status in the program, you will be required to electronically file your tax returns. You can register on our website at www.boe.ca.gov by selecting New Registration, and then select Register a business activity with BOE. We will provide you with a User ID to file your tax returns. Payment may be made online at the time of filing or mailed with a printable voucher.

To request a written opinion as to whether the BOE would approve a voluntary disclosure request, see the instructions on the tab "How to Request a Written Opinion."

How to Seek Relief from Penalty

To seek relief of penalty, a written request which sets forth the facts regarding why the late filing occurred must be made and signed under penalty of perjury.

The BOE-38 contains a section where you may request relief from penalty. The request for relief from penalty will not be considered until the total tax and interest due have been paid in full.


To request an opinion as to whether or not the BOE would approve your voluntary disclosure request or to discuss your eligibility for consideration under either voluntary disclosure program, please contact the Voluntary Disclosure Specialist at the following address:

Board of Equalization
Voluntary Disclosure Program
PO Box 942879 (MIC:76)
Sacramento, CA 94279-0076
1-916-323-9668
1-916-323-8344 (fax)
voluntary.disclosure@boe.ca.gov (email)

Your representative may request an opinion on your behalf without disclosing your identity.


Voluntary Disclosure Application

BOE-38-I Application for In-State Voluntary Disclosure

BOE-38 Application for Out-of-State Voluntary Disclosure

Electronic Registration

Register for a permit, license, or account

Publications

77 Out-of-State Sellers: Do You Need to Register with California?

107 Do You Need a California Seller's Permit?

110 California Use Tax Basics