By Cornelia de Bruin
Triplicate staff writer
A number of recent changes to tax and fee laws will take effect when the New Year passes. Others go into effect later in the year.
Some of the new laws increase penalties for retailers who withhold sales tax they collect, said State Board of Equalization Interim Chairwoman Betty T. Yee. Others add requirements on tobacco distribution, aid various nonprofit organizations and offer tax relief to disaster victims as a form of relief.
Bills that take effect Jan. 1 include:
Paying taxes in timely manner This law sets a 40 percent penalty for retailers who collect sales and use tax but fail to pay it to the state in a timely manner. The present penalty is 10 percent of the unpaid tax.
Printing delinquencies The new law directs the Board of Equalization and Franchise Tax Board to publicize the 250 largest income and sales tax delinquencies that are more than $100,000 in arrears. Those affected by the new law will have 30 days to correct the problem before their tax debts, which are normally confidential, become public. The first list of unresolved sales and use tax delinquencies will be available in spring.
Thrift store sales tax exemption The sales tax exemption will be extended through 2011 for thrift stores whose profits fund medical, hospice or social services that help victims of HIV or AIDS.
Art lease tax exemption This permits nonprofit organizations and government-linked groups to lease original works of art among themselves without having to pay sales tax.
Disaster victims' tax relief These regulations allow victims of governor-declared disasters in certain counties to retain their homeowners exemptions while they rebuild their homes. The prior law did not allow that. The tax relief includes storm-, flood-, mudslide- and wildfire-related disasters that happened between Dec. 2005 and Dec. 2006 in 40 counties.
Property tax values study This law requires the Board of Equalization to work with industry reps and local governments to study the property tax values of semiconductor manufacturing and biopharmaceutical equipment as well as nonproduction computers. Findings of the study will be used to update guidelines for local governments to use in future property assessments.
Energy property tax Makes it possible for cities whose electricity generators, substations and transmission lines were built after Jan. 1 to keep more of the property tax the properties generate. The change applies only to companies that are assessed by the Board of Equalization.
Some laws set to expire Jan.1 instead will be extended:
Vehicle sales tax Extends the tax code's 12-month test that's now used to determine whether a vehicle, boat or plane was purchased in another state for use here. When the out-of-state purchase can be proved, the state's use tax applies to the purchase. The law became effective July 1 and is now extended through June.
Marine Invasive Species Fee Makes permanent the Marine Invasive Species Fee. Ships coming into California with ballast water from outside the state's coastal zone pay the fee. It is used to monitor and address non-native species in California's water systems.
Another law won't take effect until later in the year:
Tobacco licensing The new law requires that tobacco manufacturers and importers they become licensed with the Board of Equalization, pay a one-time licensing fee to do so and meet new requirements for their recordkeeping. The purposed of the requirements is to help collect tobacco taxes. This law takes effect May 1.
Two other new laws already are in effect:
Vehicle repair tax Exempts vehicles, including RVs, that are brought into the state for repair or warranty service only from the 12-month use tax rule. The law became effective Sept. 20.
Disaster victims protection This allows disaster victims a five-year period to fix a damaged home or to buy a comparable place while protecting their property tax base-year values. The present law provides only a three-year period. This law took effect Sept. 18.
The equalization board collects nearly $53 billion annually in taxes and fees that support state and local government services.
The five-member board is composed of publicly elected members that hear business tax appeals, and acts as the appellate body for franchise and personal income tax appeals.