Helping your business succeed is important to the Board of Equalization. We recognize that understanding the tax issues specific to the agricultural industry and to those who sell farm and related supplies can be time-consuming and complicated, and we want to get you the information you need so you can focus on growing your business.
To help you better understand the tax obligations specific to your industry, we have created this guide detailing the tax issues and information important to your industry.
Each section of this guide contains information important to your business. The Getting Started section provides key resources related to registration, filing returns, account maintenance, other required licenses, and other important information you need.
The Farming Exemptions tab covers topics related to the exemptions available and the certificates you will need.
The Industry Topics section covers many topics in an at-a-glance format that can be expanded to provide more extensive information if you need it.
Lastly, the Resources section provides links to a wealth of information, including web-based seminars, forms and publications, statutory and regulatory information, and access to live help from our customer service representatives.
Please note that the information included is general in nature and is not intended to replace any law or regulation.
If at any time you need assistance with topics included in this guide - or with topics we may have not included - feel free to contact us by telephone or email. Contact information and hours of operation are available in the Resources section
If you have suggestions for improving this guide, please contact us via email.
If you own a business in California, and you expect to be making taxable sales, you must register with us for a seller’s permit and file regular sales and use tax returns. You may be required to register for other licenses or accounts using our online registration service and file other returns. Listed below are other tax and fee programs that may be applicable to the agricultural industry.
If you make sales to farmers who use diesel fuel for tax-exempt farming purposes, you may apply for an Ultimate Vendor license. As an ultimate vendor, you may file a claim for refund of the diesel fuel tax you paid on your purchase of diesel fuel that you sold to an ultimate purchaser without collecting the diesel fuel tax reimbursement. All claims for refund for sales of diesel fuel to farmers must be supported by a BOE-608, Certificate of Farming Use, accepted in good faith.
If you own an underground storage tank (UST) to store petroleum products, and it is even partially underground, you are required to register with us to file UST fee returns and pay any fee amounts due based on the number of gallons of petroleum products placed in the UST during the reporting period. For rates see the Underground Storage Tank Maintenance Fee Schedule.
In most cases, if you lease an underground storage tank, you are considered an operator and are not required to pay the fee. However, as an operator, you may have an agreement with the owner to report and pay the fee.
Online Registration — Register with us for your seller’s permit and apply for any of the licenses, permits, or accounts listed above.
Notice of Business Change – Keep your information current by using the links below and notifying us of any business changes.
In general, the sale of farm equipment and machinery is taxable. However, certain sales and purchases are partially exempt from sales and use tax.
The partial exemption applies only to the state general fund portion of the sales tax, currently 5.25%.
To calculate the tax rate for qualifying transactions, subtract 5.25% from the sales tax rate that would normally apply at the location where the purchase is made. For example, if the current tax rate in your area is 9%, the tax rate for a qualifying transaction would be 3.75%.
Note: The rate for the state general and fiscal recovery funds portion of the sales tax is subject to change. The rates used in this example are for demonstrative purposes only. You must use the rate in effect at the time of the sale, current rates can be found on our website.
Three requirements must be met for the partial exemption to apply. The item must be:
If any of the first three requirements is not met, the partial exemption does not apply and the sale or purchase is fully taxable.
When a lease meets the three requirements above, and the lease payments are taxable, the lease may also qualify for the partial exemption.
Mobile transportation equipment does not qualify for the exemption.
A Qualified Person
A “qualified person” is one whose business falls within the specified Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) Codes listed below:
For a full list of applicable SIC Codes, please see Appendix C of publication 66, Agricultural Industry. For more information on SIC Codes please select SIC/NAICS Search from the index on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website.
When you make a sale that qualifies for a partial exemption, you must obtain a valid exemption certificate from your buyer.
To be valid, the buyer or buyer’s representative must do all of the following:
*A certificate will be considered timely if it is given at any time before the seller bills the purchaser for the property, or any time within the seller’s normal billing and payment cycle, or any time at or prior to delivery of the property to the purchaser.
Listed below are the types of exemption certificates you may need:
Certain buildings may qualify for the partial farming exemption. The buildings must be a single-purpose building to house either livestock or plants (horticulture).
To qualify for the partial exemption, a livestock building must be:
Buildings, and materials used for their construction and repair, do not qualify as farm equipment when the buildings are:
To qualify for the partial exemption, a horticulture building must be:
You should obtain a partial farming exemption certificate when you make qualifying sales.
For more detailed information on this exemption see Regulation 1533.1, Farm Equipment and Machinery
If you otherwise qualify for the partial farming equipment, your solar power facilities may also qualify.
If your solar power facilities are tied to the local power grid, but not directly attached to qualifying farm equipment, it may still qualify for the partial exemption if they are designed to generate power for such equipment and machinery.
How does a system qualify?
What support do I need to claim the partial exemption?
It is important you document the annual amount of electricity consumed by qualifying farm equipment and machinery for the first 12 months after the solar power facility is operating.
For more information see our November 2012 Special Notice: Solar Power Facilities May Qualify as Farm Equipment
Most sales and/or purchases of diesel fuel are taxable. However, a partial sales and use tax exemption exists for certain sales and purchases of diesel fuel used in farming activities or food processing.
The partial exemption applies to the sale or purchase of diesel fuel only if the diesel meets the following two requirements:
You should identify diesel fuel accordingly on your sales invoices. It is important that you obtain a timely exemption certificate from your purchasers and maintain copies for your records to support exempt fuel sales.
Sales of diesel to farmers or ranchers will qualify for the partial sales and use tax exemption when they use the fuel to:
An example of a use that qualifies for the partial exemption is: A farmer raises lemons and sells the crop to a citrus cooperative in which he holds shares. The cooperative grades and packs the farmer’s lemons and sells them to a grocery distributor. In this example, these diesel sales would qualify for the partial exemption:
Sales of diesel to food processors will qualify for the partial tax exemption when they use the fuel for:
Diesel used to move the product after processing is completed, does not qualify for the exemption.
The sale of diesel to persons who contract to haul agricultural products for a rancher, farmer, or food processor may qualify for the partial tax exemption. The contractor must use the diesel to:
For more detailed information about diesel fuel used in farming, see Regulation 1533.2, Diesel Fuel Used in Farming Activities or Food Processing.
You are responsible for paying tax on many items sold for ranching, farming, and gardening. However, sales of certain ranch, farm, and garden supplies may not be taxable.
Seed sales are generally taxable. However, tax does not apply when:
Tax does not apply to the sale of fertilizer to be applied to land; including foliar application to plants, provided the land is used to produce any of the following:
All other sales of fertilizer are taxable.
Note: if you sell a combination of insecticide and fertilizer, the portion of the sales price representing the price of the fertilizer is not taxable if the fertilizer otherwise qualifies.
Sales of ornamental and landscaping plants are generally taxable. However, tax does not apply to the sale if the plants will produce either of the following:
If the customer is purchasing a nonfood plant and intends to resell the plant or its products, the customer should give you a resale certificate for the plant. For more information on sales for resale see publication 103, Sales for Resale.
For more information about these exemptions see Regulation 1588, Seeds, Plants, and Fertilizer.
In general, passenger vehicles and pickup trucks do not qualify as farm equipment and machinery. Therefore, your purchases of parts and accessories for use on a passenger vehicle or pickup truck generally do not qualify for the farm equipment and machinery partial exemption.
Purchases of farm equipment and machinery (including repair and replacement parts) for use by a qualified person and primarily used in producing and harvesting agricultural products, are subject to a partial exemption from tax. However, for a vehicle to be considered farm equipment and machinery, it must be designated as an implement of husbandry in the California Vehicle Code and used exclusively in agricultural operations by a qualified person. Examples of implements of husbandry include farm tractors, bale wagons, and fertilizer rigs. For more information, including a list of items that generally do not qualify for the farm equipment and machinery partial exemption, please see our Special Notice, Auto Part Retailers' Sales Generally Do Not Qualify for the Farm Equipment and Machinery Partial Exemption.
Sales of LPG for agricultural use are not taxable when purchased by a qualified buyer and used in commercial crop or livestock production or harvesting.
You should obtain a timely LPG exemption certificate from the qualified buyer and maintain a copy in your records.
Nonagricultural use does not qualify for the exemption, even if used on a ranch or farm.
LPG is considered a use fuel; you must have a Vendor Use Fuel Tax Permit to sell this fuel. You can register for this permit online.
For diesel fuel excise tax purposes, a farmer may purchase diesel fuel tax without paying the excise tax by issuing an exemption certificate to his/her vendor, or by purchasing dyed diesel fuel.
Dyed diesel fuel may not be used to operate a vehicle on any public highway in this state. There are severe penalties for using dyed diesel fuel on the highway (Either $10 for every gallon of diesel involved or $1,000, whichever is greater.)
To claim the exemption for the excise fuel tax the diesel fuel must be used:
Please note that transporting/hauling agriculture products from the farm/ranch to buyers is not an exempt use of diesel fuel for excise tax purposes.
Your diesel fuel vendor may provide you with a BOE-608 that you must complete to purchase diesel fuel for farming activities without paying the excise tax. The farmer exemption certificate meets criteria established by the Internal Revenue Service. To be valid, all requested information on the certificate must be provided. You will need to note on the certificate if it covers a particular purchase, all purchases, or a percentage of your purchases. You must annually renew your exemption certificate.
For further information, see Diesel Fuel Tax Regulation 1431, Diesel Fuel Used on a Farm for Farming Purposes.
In California, all sales are taxable unless the law provides a specific exemption. In most cases, taxable sales are of tangible personal property, which the law defines as an item that can be seen, weighed, measured, felt, or touched.
Use tax is a companion to California’s sales tax, and is due whenever you purchase taxable items without payment of California sales tax from an out-of-state vendor for use in California. You also owe use tax on items that you remove from your inventory and use in California when you did not pay tax when you purchased the items. To pay use tax, report the purchase price of the taxable items under "Purchases Subject to Use Tax" on your sales and use tax return. Those purchases become part of the total amount that is subject to tax.
Generally, sales of animal-related products, such as tack, cages, and pet supplies are taxable. However, some sales of animals and supplies are exempt from tax.
Tax does not apply to the purchase or sale of food animals that are commonly used in producing food or are intended for human consumption. See publication 66 for a list of common food animals.
Sales of animals that do not meet the definition of food animals are taxable sales, regardless of their use. See publication 66 for a list of common nonfood animals.
Feed includes grain, hay, seed, kibble, and similar products. Tax does not apply to sales of feed for food animals.
Some feed, like alfalfa, can be used for either food or nonfood animals. When selling this type of product, you should obtain a feed exemption certificate to support the exempt sales. You should itemize all invoices that include taxable and nontaxable sales.
You do not need a seller’s permit or pay sales tax if the only products you sell are feed for the following:
Hay growers fall in this category provided they either:
You do not need exemption certificates for the following nontaxable sales:
Feed sold for a nonfood animal is generally taxable. There are two exceptions, if the feed is sold for the following purposes, you may accept a feed exemption certificate:
Facilities that charge a flat fee to their customers are responsible for paying the tax on items they purchase such as feed, grains, hay or other merchandise.
Facilities that separately itemize taxable charges for the feed they sell may purchase the items with a resale certificate and they are required to report those taxable sales.
Note: if a boarding or training facility boards animals owned by ranchers and farmers, items they purchase may be eligible for a partial exemption described under Farming Exemptions.
Under certain circumstances, tax does not apply to your sale, or a buyer’s purchase or use of drugs or medicines that will be administered to animals, as explained below. Drugs and medicines are products intended to prevent or control disease in animals. In addition, vitamins and insecticides labeled for livestock, including poultry, may be considered drugs and medicines. Under certain circumstances, oxygen can also be considered a drug.
Drugs and medicines include, but are not limited to:
To qualify as nontaxable, the drugs and medicines must be intended for the prevention or control of disease in any of the following:
See publication 66 for a list of common drugs and medicines.
The table below shows how tax applies for transactions involving animal drugs and medicine:
|Drug or Medicine Administered|
|Type of Animal:||in Feed or Water:||Directly¹:|
|Nonfood animal (if it or its offspring will be sold in the regular course of business)||Nontaxable||Taxable|
|Other nonfood animal||Taxable||Taxable|
¹ oral, hypodermic, external, or topical application, including injections, implants, drenches, repellents, and pour-ons.
Any time you make a nontaxable sale of drugs, medicine, or oxygen, you should obtain a timely drug exemption certificate, completed by the purchaser with all required information, and keep a copy with your records. See Regulation 1587, Animal Life, Feed, Drugs and Medicine, for more detailed information and exemption certificates.
Need to know more? Follow the links below for more information about the topics covered in this guide, as well as other information you might find helpful: