California Partial Sales Tax Exemption for Manufacturing Equipment

September 8, 2014

A new California sales tax exemption that goes into effect later this year will generate significant savings for eligible businesses. California taxpayers engaged in manufacturing and certain types of research and development will pay a reduced sales and use tax rate of 3.3125% on qualifying equipment purchases. The exemption is effective on qualifying purchases on or after July 1, 2014, so eligible businesses should plan their equipment purchases accordingly to take advantage of the exemption.


Due to the enactment of S.B. 90 in the summer of 2013, California will allow businesses primarily engaged in manufacturing or in research and development (“R&D”) in the fields of biotechnology or the physical, engineering and life sciences to purchase or lease manufacturing or R&D equipment at a reduced sales and use tax rate for purchases occurring on or after July 1, 2014. The partial exemption will reduce the state sales tax rate from 7.5% to 3.3125%.

“Qualifying tangible personal property” generally includes machinery and equipment and certain other items purchased for use in any stage of manufacturing or R&D activities including equipment used to operate, regulate or maintain the machinery, such as computers and items used in pollution control and any special purpose buildings integral to the manufacturing process. The exemption will also apply to property purchased by contractors for use in construction contracts that are integral to manufacturing and R&D activities. The exemption will not apply to consumables; furniture, inventory, and equipment used in the extraction process; or equipment used to store finished products that have completed the manufacturing, processing, refining, fabricating, or recycling process. Items used primarily in administration, general management, or marketing also are ineligible for the exemption. Note that a single taxpayer or combined reporting unit is limited to $200 million in exempt purchases per calendar year. The exemption is set to expire on June 30, 2022.

There are no application requirements or any fee requirements. Sellers of qualifying property will have to obtain a timely exemption certificate from the purchaser. According to Special Notice L-372, the California State Board of Equalization (“BOE”) will have exemption certificates available on its website by July 2014. Additionally, the BOE is developing a regulation that will provide further guidance on which equipment qualifies for the exemption.