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California Outlaws Sales Tax Suppression Devices


 Zap. Use a tax zapper in California and you're a criminal.

California Governor Jerry Brown (D) has signed into law legislation that criminalizes the use of sales tax suppression devices, also known as tax zappers. It takes effect January 1, 2014.

By suppressing records of sales, tax zappers and similar phantom-ware enable users to “defeat or evade the determination of an amount [of sales tax] due or collected….” Under the new law, it is a misdemeanor to purchase, install or use any automated sales suppression device or zapper or phantom-ware. Anyone caught doing so is “punishable by fine, imprisonment, or both.”

In addition, convicted users of tax suppression devices are liable for all taxes due as a result of using tax zappers and similar devices, as well as interest and penalties.

Prison time for an offense may be limited to up to one year in a county jail or it may be extended to sixteen months, 2 years, or 3 years.

Fines vary depending on the extent of the crime. Anyone found guilty of selling, using, installing, transferring or possessing three or fewer sales suppression devices may be fined up to $5,000. More than three invokes a penalty of up to $10,000.

Fighting the good fight

Any individual or corporation possessing tax zappers or similar sales suppression devices “for the sole purpose of developing hardware or software to combat the evasion of taxes” won’t be prosecuted.

Zapping Zappers

California is not the only state to criminalize the use of tax zappers and the like. It has been a crime in Illinois since August and in Washington State since July. North Carolina is on track to criminalize them beginning December 1, 2013.

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photo credit: Angie C via photopin cc


Sales tax rates, rules, and regulations change frequently. Although we hope you'll find this information helpful, this blog is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal or tax advice.
Gail Cole
Avalara Author
Gail Cole
Gail Cole
Avalara Author Gail Cole
Gail began researching and writing about sales tax in 2012 and has been fascinated with it ever since. She has a penchant for uncovering unusual tax facts, and endeavors to make complex sales tax laws more digestible for both experts and laypeople.