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California Basic Business Taxes

Corporate Taxes & Incentives Guide
Corporation Income Tax
The Franchise Tax Board (FTB) administers an 8.84% tax (known as the Bank and Corporation Franchise Tax) on net corporate income.

California S Corporations are subject to a tax rate of 1.5% on net income.

California uses the unitary method to determine the portion of income reasonably attributable to this state and thus subject to the Bank and Corporation Franchise Tax. Corporations deriving income from sources both within and outside the state are required to report the income of all related business units in a combined report. The combined income derived from all business activity is apportioned to each state or nation using an apportionment formula.

The percentage of property, payroll, and sales attributed to California, versus worldwide operations, is calculated. They are then added together, with double weight given to sales, and divided by four.

This calculation determines the percentage of the unitary or combined income subject to California's bank and corporation franchise tax.

Apportionment Formula = percentage of unitary income subject to California's corporate tax:

California   California   California   California
Payroll          Property     Sales          Sales
( percent) + ( percent) + ( percent) + ( percent)

Multinational corporations may make a "Water's Edge" election whereby they exclude most income derived from foreign operations from the combined report. Foreign business units or corporations that have an apportionment percentage in excess of 20% must be included in the combined report. The election lasts for seven years, but is continuously renewed unless a notice of non-renewal is filed by the business.

Effective January 1, 2011 California businesses
have to option to select a Single Sales Factor. This allows companies to choose to weigh only sales made in the state - not property or payroll -to determine corporate taxes owed.

Sales and Use Tax
Administered by the Board of Equalization, the State of California imposes a sales and use tax that is 7.25%. In addition local counties and cities can add a percentage to the State tax which is currently averaging 1.00%. The sales tax applies to the gross receipts of retailers from the sale of tangible personal property which is not specifically exempt. Specific exemptions include most food for home consumption and prescription medicine. Sales tax is imposed at the point of sale. It is the responsibility of the retailer, but paid by the purchaser. Use tax is paid on items purchased for the intent of use in California. Intent of use is defined as used in California within 90 days of purchase. The tax is self-reported and paid at the rate applicable in the jurisdiction in which the item will be used less the tax paid in another state.
Note: Construction materials are not exempt from sales tax and construction labor is not taxed.

Property Taxes
County government levies and administers property taxes. The State Board of Equalization performs an oversight role relative to county assessors' activities. Property tax is levied on 100% of assessed valuation. The tax rate is 1% plus a component representing bonded indebtedness for the district in which the property is located on the lien date. The average property tax rate in California is 1.1%, but varies on a parcel basis.

Real property is appraised upon change of ownership or new construction, and then adjusted annually at the lower of 2% or the rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index. Assessed values on real property may be reduced if the value is higher than the current market value.

Business personal property, including machinery, equipment, and fixtures is taxed at the same rate as real property, but is not subject to any special assessments. Unlike real property, business personal property is reappraised annually. Business owners must file a property statement with the county assessor each year detailing market value.

Finished goods and raw materials are not subject to property tax. Only finished goods held for use are assessed.

Unemployment Insurance
All employers are required to pay into the Unemployment Insurance Fund, which is used to pay unemployment benefits. All new employers are required to pay a rate of 3.4% on the first $7,000 in wages for up to three years.

Disability Insurance
There is a maximum of $434 per employee, per year. (Calculated at the highest UI tax rate of 6.2% x $7,000)

The State Disability Insurance (SDI) withholding rate for 2011 is 1.2%. The taxable wage limit is $ 93,316 for each employee per calendar year. The maximum to withhold for each employee is $1,026.48. Administered by the California Employment Development Department, this is an employee paid tax.

Workers' Compensation Insurance

California's workers' compensation system is overseen by the Department of Industrial Relations and the Department of Insurance. In 2005, SB899 was signed into law. This landmark reform legislation that overhauled the workers' compensation system and required independent medical reviews, established employer-selected doctor networks and imposed uniform standards. As a result, insurance capital has flowed into the state and new insurers have entered the market. According to the Department of Insurance, base rates have fallen over 35% since January 2004.

Overview of California Tax System
    • Tax
    • Base or Measure
    • Rate
    • Administering Agency
    • Corporate Income or Bank and Corpoation Franchise Tax
    • Combined net income apportioned to california
    • 8.84%
    • Franchise Tax Board
    • Sales and Use Taxes
    • Receipts from sales or lease of taxable items
    • 7.25 -
    • Board of Equalization
    • Property Tax
    • 100% of assessed valuation
    • Avg. 1.1%
    • Board of Equalization
    • Personal Income Tax
    • Taxable personal income
    • 1.25 -
    • Franchise Tax Board
    • Unemployment Insurance Tax (aka Payroll Tax)
    • First $7,000 of wages per employee per year
    • 1.5 -
    • Employment Development Department
    • Disability Insurance (employee paid)
    • Taxable wage limit for withholding of $90,669
    • 1.2%
    • Employment Development Department
    • Finished Goods, Raw Materials, and Inventory Tax
    • none
    • none
    • none
    • Workers' Compensation Insurance
    • per $100 of
    • Varies based on job classification, workplace, safety record, and insurance carrier.
    • Department of Insurance, Department of Industrial Relations

Overview of Payroll Tax System
    • Unemploy-
      ment Insurance
    • Employ-
      ment Training Tax (ETT)
    • State
    • California Personal Income Tax (PIT)
    • Who Pays
    • Employer
    • Employer
    • Employee (employer withholds from employees wages)
    • Employee (employer withholds from employees wages
    • Taxable Wages
    • First $7,000 of subject wages per employee per year
    • First $7000 of subject wages per employee, per year
    • First $93,316 of subject wages, per employee per year
    • No limit
    • Tax Rate
    • New Employer tax rate is 3.4 percent(.034) for up to three years. Following this period
    • Set by statute at 0.1 percent (.001) of UI taxable wages for employers with positive UI reserve account balances and employers subject to CUIC Section 977(c).
    • The 2011 SDI tax rate is 1.2 percent (.012) (this includes the rate for DI and PFL) of SDI taxable wages per employee, per year. The SDI taxable wages and tax rate are set by the California State Legislature, and may change each year.
    • Withheld based on employee's Form W-4 or DE 4
    • Minimum Tax
      (Except if employer is subject under CUIC Section 977[c])
    • $434 per employee, per year. (The amount has been calculated at the highest UI tax rate of 6.2 percent [$7000 x.062])
    • $7 per employee, per year ($7,000 x.001)
    • $1119.79 per employee, per year ($93,316 x.012)
    • No maximum

Overview of Permit Procedure
There are four elements generally required to initiate the permit process. The following is a summary of the steps that a project may follow to become fully permitted in California.
1. An adequate description of the proposed project.
2. A completed application form of usually less than four pages.
3. The appropriate filing fee as determined by the local, state, or federal permitting authority.
4. California law requires development projects to be reviewed for any potential effects on the environment. Impacts on air and water quality, traffic, housing, and land use are generally considered. If there is a significant effect on resources, then further documentation may be required.

The permit process starts at the local level in the planning department. Local permits called "land use" permits are generally required to ensure that a proposed project or business is located in the appropriate region of the city that has been identified for similar use.

These regions, called "zones," are identified in the city or county's general plan, and represent what the local government (on behalf of the citizens of that community) requires of the business to operate in a particular zone. Land use permits ensure that the proposed project use is consistent with the general plan and verify that the proposed project conforms to the overall plan for the local community.

When a proposed business first initiates the permitting process with the local authorities, it automatically begins an environmental review process. This is in the form of an Initial Study, which checks whether or not the project may have an effect (for example, increased demand) on such factors as water supply (yes, no or maybe). Any "yes" and "maybe" impacts may need to be mitigated, depending on the local environmental and political climate. A significant number of "yes" answers may inspire the lead agency (which is in charge of coordinating all permits), to require an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

The Permit Streamlining Act places lead agencies on strict timelines in which to issue all necessary permits.

Incentive and tax information is provided to Area Development by each state's economic development or commerce agency for information purposes only and is subject to revision at any time by the state government. Please contact the state agency directly for full requirements and offerings. This information was last updated November 2014.

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