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California: Traveling? Remember to Pay Use Tax


 Shopping in Halong City, Vietnam? Remember to pay your state use tax!

The California State Board of Equalization has posted a short video on its website, reminding California travelers that use tax may be owed on purchases made abroad during vacations or business trips.

California use tax is owed in when California sales tax isn’t collected at the time of sale. California sales tax is never collected in Paris, Vietnam, or Machu Picchu, so California residents traveling abroad owe use tax on items carried or shipped back home. The same holds true for California residents traveling to other states in this country.

Travelers can bring a few small mementos home without paying use tax because the “first $800 of hand-carried property is exempt from the use tax.” Spend more than that, however, and use tax will be owed. Jewelry, electronics, and clothing are just a few examples.

There are three ways to report use tax:

Businesses must be particularly vigilant with respect to use tax, as they are more likely to be audited for use tax. A negative audit finding is a terrible way to remember a trip. Additional information for California businesses is available here.

Questions? Read “Save Room in Your Suitcase for Use Tax,” the BOE news release that links to the video.

Or switch to an automated sales and use tax solution.

photo credit: ethan.crowley 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.