News Column

Online Purchases Subject to Tax, State Warns Filers

March 28, 2013

Claudia Buck, The Sacramento Bee

The State Board of Equalization is reminding taxpayers who shop online that they may owe taxes and there's an easy way to pay up.

Whether it's catalog clothes, mail-order car parts or eBay purchases, the state requires a "use tax" on purchases from out-of-state sellers who don't charge California sales tax. It applies to all purchases of personal items priced below $1,000 each.

And it's supposed to be paid when filing your 2012 income taxes this year. If you don't have receipts, the BOE has a Use Tax Lookup table on its website -- -- that spells out what you owe, based on income.

For instance, if your adjusted gross income is $30,000, you owe $17. For higher earners with adjusted gross income between $175,000 and $199,000, the amount owed is $94.

The BOE notes that use tax has been around since 1935. It's not an "Internet tax" but partly intended to protect California businesses from out-of-state retailers that can undercut them on price by not charging sales tax.

Source: (c)2013 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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