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April 2, 2019

How to collect the new Unincorporated Area sales and use tax in California?

California New Sales and Use Tax Effective April 1, 2019

When we were thinking CA sales tax couldn’t get any more complicated, we were wrong!

For the first time ever, California now has a new district sales and use tax that only applies to an un-incorporated area within a county. Voters in County of Santa Cruz has approved a “Santa Cruz County Unincorporated Area Transactions and Use Tax” for 0.50% operative April 1, 2019. Voters in Yuba County also approved a same tax named “Yuba County Unincorporated Area Transactions and Use Tax” for 1% however this one is subject to pending litigation. Such tax only applies to areas that are not within an incorporated cities. It does not affect the rate that applies in incorporated cities within the these counties either.

Some people are confused about this un-incorporated tax with the county-wide tax. County-wide tax applies to every address within the county. The un-incorporated tax is only for areas that are not within the boundaries of any incorporated cities within the county.  We consider this “un-incorported tax” as a special district tax because it is not a county-wide tax. Neither it is an incorporated city tax because these un-incorporated areas are not within any incorporated city.

So how to determine if an address is in an incorporated city or not?

The only way to accurately determine it is to find out if such address is within the incorporated city boundary. Incorporated city is also called Municipality. USgeocoder has the incorporated city boundaries for the entire US. When you send an address to our geocoder, it first tries to geocode the address and find out where this address is located on the map, then by querying the incorporated city mapping database, We know exactly whether the address falls in a particular incorporated city boundary or not. If you want to know more about how to find the municipality by address, here is another blog article explains it in full details with real life examples.

For an address you have, mostly of the time it’s a mailing address issued by US Postal Office. The city in the address could be a mailing city only, which has nothing to do with incorporated city. So the “City” name in your address might not necessary be the name of its municipality. Usgeocoder uses street address and a five digit zip code to determine the municipality of an address. If it’s in a particular municipality, it provides the name of the municipality; If it’s not in a particular municipality, it will provide “Unincorporated” as the value for the given address.

Sometime every address within a mailing city is in un-incorpoted area, for example, addresses in city of Aptos in Santa Cruz county are all in un-incorporated areas. However for the incorporated city of Santa Cruz, some areas within Santa Cruz city are outside of the incorporated city boundary. They are just having Santa Cruz as a mailing city for US Postal Office mail person to deliver mail to. For these un-incorporated areas with “Santa Cruz” as their mailing city, there is no other way but using geocoding technology to find out whether they are within the incorporated city limit or not.

How to correctly calculate sales and use tax rate?

USgeocoder API offers realtime sales tax rate for every address in California. The formula we use is statewide tax rate + countywide tax rate + incorporated citywide tax rate + special district tax rate. You can take a test drive with our live demo by entering a California street address and zip code, press “Free Lookup” and see the sales and use tax rate information for the input address.

Click here to learn more about how to correctly calculate the California Sales Tax Rate Using Geo-based technology.

September 20, 2017

Why It’s Worthless to Use a Postal Zip Code to Determine Its Municipality

Municipality is a city or town that has corporate status and local government. Some people are under the impression that we can find out the municipality from postal zip code. This is wrong.

Postal zip codes were created for the post office 

Postal zip codes were developed for only one purpose, creating a computer readable code for the post office from which letter carriers carried a letter from the station to the addressee. The first computerized character readers could only read a fixed width string of numerical characters. Cities and towns have variable length names, thus precluding the simple solution of an automated system reading the name of the city. Also, some cities had several post offices, so simply reading a city name would not answer the query, to which post office does this letter go so it can be found by a letter carrier and carried to the addressee? To get around these limitations a 5 digit numeric code was developed for each post office, the Zip code.

Postal zip codes may not represent the same city that the mail goes to

The first digit represents the region of the country to which the mail goes, such as Northeast, Great Lakes, or Pacific. The first 3 digits represent the major sorting facility to which the mail pieces go. For instance, 951xx means the mail is sorted at Lundy Avenue sorting facility in San Jose and is distributed to post offices in San Jose, California. 950xx means the mail will be delivered to addresses in Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Contra Costa, Monterey, and additional counties in North Central California, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island. The full five digits equals the name of the post office from which mail travels to the final delivery point.

But the name of the post office may or may not be the name of the city in which the address the letter going to is. For instance, the Los Gatos, California Post Office delivers mail to 95030, 95031, 95032, and 95033. 95033 is entirely outside the city of Los Gatos. In fact, almost two thirds of the addresses in 95033 are outside the county in which the city of Los Gatos is found. 95030 serves both Los Gatos and the entire neighboring town of Monte Sereno. Many towns, like Monte Sereno, California don’t have their own post office, so they don’t get a town zip code. For some post offices in Alaska, their service areas, and thus their Zip Codes cover areas larger than the state of Connecticut.

Many postal zip codes’ mailing cities may not even exist.

Many “mailing cities” meaning the name of the post office, are not named after cities or towns at all. For instance, 95464 for Nice, 95426 for Cobb, and 95458 for Lucerne in California’s Lake County are mailing cities, but no such town or city government actually exists. They are just unincorporated areas within Lake County California. In sum, the cities associated with a Postal Zip Code may or may not exist. There is no way from a postal Zip Code to know.

For the reasons above stated, if the municipality does exist, there is no way from the postal Zip code to know if the street, within the zip code is within the boundaries of the named “mailing city” associated with the Zip Code. But it gets worse. In most areas outside of New England, cities and towns are full of “unincorporated holes”. In San Jose California, for instance, multiple blocks are county islands surrounded by the City of San Jose.  The zip code for the city does not stop at any of these borders but continues through that post office’s service area. For this reason, even when the post office’s mailing city is unique to a single post office and shares the name of an actual city or town, it is impossible, from merely the 5 digit zip code, to determine if an address is within or without that municipality’s borders.

Postal zip codes and Municipality boundaries are independent from each other.

While postal zip code was developed for Postal Office, municipality was formed by voters living in a particular area within a county. Once a municipality is formed, county will recognize its boundaries and send such information to the state. State then reports the municipality boundary information to US Census who records it and publishes it. As you can see, postal zip code is created in a different way than municipality. USgeocoder has mapped out the physical address of the entire United States and the municipality. Once USgeocoder identifies the latitude and longitude of an address, it will be able to locate its municipality. Click here to learn more about how USgeocoder technology works.

To find out the municipality of a particular address, you can use USgeocoder’s free municipality lookup tool on: https://usgeocoder.com/api_live_demo, simply enter the street address and the zip code, it will tell you its municipality along with other district information.

July 22, 2017

Physical Address vs. Mailing address and when it matters

Mailing address standards and physical address standards are the two address standards in the US.

In the USA, there are two standards for addresses: mailing address that address standardizationUS Postal Service standards for mail delivery, and physical location for everything else. Physical address of a location includes US Census Bureau Standardization for anything to do with advocating or interacting with any government entity. It’s the only standard for insuring delivery of services to the 15% of the US population who cannot receive mail where they live.

Mailing address and physical address are not always the same. This blog will show you how to find out if an address is a mailing address or a physical (real) address but does not receive mail, and how to know whether you need mailing addresses only, real (i.e. physical) addresses only, or both for your organization and mission to succeed.

The differences between mailing address and physical address

The Post Office names for cities are the name of the city or local name for the unincorporated area of the county in which the post offices that deliver the mail are located; not the name of the jurisdiction in which the physical address sits. But the Jurisdiction of where the address sits (also known as municipality) is the real address for all government purposes, especially advocating for your cause, all tax purposes, all land development purposes, building purposes, and all home and commercial mortgage regulation and programs.

For instance, the entirety of zip code 95033 states mail there is delivered to Los Gatos, California. But in fact, it is delivered outside the Town of Los Gatos in portions of the unincorporated areas of Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties in California. The real address for the mailing address 21850 Bear Creek Road, Los Gatos, 95033-9438 is 21850 Bear Creek Rd, Santa Cruz County, CA 95033, more than 3 miles away from Los Gatos.

Here is another example, for the entire zip code of Nice, California, 95464, there is no city or town of Nice. Nice was the name given to the post office at the insistence of the local chamber of commerce and realtors because they thought Nice was so nice it should become a city or town. But the people of Nice think the area is too nice to have its own municipal government. So all mailing addresses in Nice California are actually to the unincorporated area along the north shore of Clearlake in Lake County, CA. For address 3565 Beynon St. Nice CA 95464, it is actually 3565 Beynon St., Lake County, CA 95464   When you enter 3565 Beynon St, Nice CA address in google or bing maps, you only get the mailing address if the address were to get mail, which as we’ve just seen, is not always the case. If you want to confirm if that address actually gets mail, use https://tools.usps.com/go/ZipLookupAction_input, and you’ll get the message “Unfortunately, this address wasn’t found” which means the post office does not deliver to it and does not have it in its records.

If you want to get the actual, or physical address which is the address for all government purposes, including matching people to their Congress people or state representatives, determining how much sales tax you need to charge, what school district they are in, whether they are eligible for any special government sponsored lending or mortgage program, or to which planning department you need to go to pull a construction permit, just enter the address into our free live demo on https://usgeocoder.com/api_live_demo and look for the “Municipal” result. Let’s look at three examples using https://USgeocoder.com.

Sample one: 18041 Saratoga-Los Gatos Rd, Los Gatos, CA 95030

Physical Address Vs Mailing Address

What USgeocoder is telling you in the standardized address that the address is identified as being within the territory served by the USPS office in Los Gatos, CA, but the lack of a zip+4 value shows USPS does not deliver to that address. You can see at the bottom left that the address is in the county of Santa Clara in the municipality of Monte Sereno. So it’s address for all government and regulatory purposes is 18041 Saratoga-Los Gatos Rd, Monte Sereno, CA 95030. The city hall address for Monte Sereno, CA is in fact 18041 Saratoga-Los Gatos Rd, Monte Sereno, CA. If the owner needs to pull a building permit, he’ll have to go to the Monte Sereno planning department, not Los Gatos planning department.

Now let’s see what the physical address is for mailing address 21850 Bear Creek Road, Los Gatos, CA 95033:

Screen Shot 2017-07-22 at 12.22.04 PM (2)

What USgeocoder is telling you is that the address receives its mail (notice the zip+4 95033 – 9438 in the standardized address section) through the Los Gatos post office. The municipality of this address is “un-incorporated which means The physical address for all government purposes is 21850 Bear Creek Rd, Santa Cruz County, CA 95033. Los Gatos is over four miles away in the county of Santa Clara!

If you click on the map legend, and then check the boxes for State Lower House 2017, you can see that the state house district is 29, not 28 which serves Los Gatos. The deep purple line is the border between Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties. If the resident needs police services, he will receive it from the Santa Cruz county sheriff, not Los Gatos police department. To write his state assemblyman or state senator, he needs his physical Santa Cruz County address.

Physical Address Vs. Mailing Address

Want to find out if the mailing address is the same as physical address for a particular address? Just enter the address and the 5 digit zip code in our live demo https://usgeocoder.com/api_live_demo to find out!

September 5, 2016

How to Correctly Calculate the California Sales Tax Rate Using Geo-Based Technology

Most online tools do not calculate California sales tax correctly

California sales tax is complicated. To correctly calculate the sales tax rate, let’s first understand its requirements.

According to California Board of Equalization Publication 44 “District Taxes” (Sales and Use Tax), most businesses in California are located – or do business in – special sales and use tax districts.

What is a district?

A “district” is a local jurisdiction that, under enabling statutes in various codes, may impose transactions (sales) and use taxes within its borders. Voter approved district taxes may be levied on a countywide basis and within incorporated city limits. A city district tax rate applies only to addresses within the incorporated city limits. Additionally, more than one district tax may be in effect in a given location.

What are district taxes?

District taxes are either transactions (sales) or use taxes. The Revenue and Taxation Code provides that transactions (sales) taxes are due from retailers on their sales of tangible personal property, and use taxes are due from purchasers for their use of tangible personal property in the district. “Use” is defined as the use, storage, or other consumption of tangible personal property.

So, in order to correctly calculate California sales tax, you need to know:

  1. County and city district sales tax rates
  2. If the address is within the incorporated city limits

The information for county and city district sales tax rates are easy to find. California Board of Equalization publishes the county and city tax sales and use tax rates on http://www.boe.ca.gov/app/rates.aspx. You can locate the rates by county and/or by city.

The challenge is to figure out if the address is within the incorporated city limits. Some people think they can identify the incorporated city by the name of the city included in the address. Unfortunately most addresses are mailing address by US Postal Office.

The name of the city in the mailing address can be the mailing city,  in other words, the city in which the postal office delivering to the address is located. This mailing city may be different from the physical city that the address is located in. So we can’t use it to correctly determine its physical city, let alone if it’s within the incorporated city limits.

The complexities of zip codes

Some people wonder if zip codes can determine the incorporated city limit. In fact, a lot of shopping cart service providers and softwares use zip codes to match the sales tax rates. Unfortunately many zip codes breach city boundaries, making them an unsuitable method as well.

How can you correctly calculate California sales tax?

The only solution to accurately calculate California sales tax is through a geo-based technology to find out its municipality. Municipality is a city or town that has corporate status and local government. If the address has a municipality, it means it’s within an incorporated city. It the address does not have a municipality, it’s outside of an incorporated city and it is only part of a county.

Let’s look at the city of Campbell in Santa Clara county, California.

Here is the breakdown of the county and city district sales and use taxes as of 9/5/2016. On top of the state tax of 7.5%, the total county district tax is 1.25%, and the total city district tax is 0.25%.

County district tax:

  • Santa Clara County Transit District (SCCT): 0.500%
  • Santa Clara County Valley Transportation Authority (SCVT): 0.500%
  • Santa Clara VTA BART Operating and Maintenance Transactions and Use Tax (SVTB): 0.125%
  • Santa Clara County Retail Transactions and Use Tax (SCCR): 0.125%
  • Total county district tax: 1.250%

City district tax:

  • City of Campbell Vital City Services, Maintenance and Protection Transactions and Use Tax (CMPL): 0.250%
  • Total city district tax: 0.250%

Now let’s look at the following 2 addresses:

Address 1: 1 W Campbell Ave, Campbell, CA 95008.

Address 2: 1130 Normandy Dr, Campbell, CA 95008

The map below shows the locations of these 2 addresses produced by USgeocoder. The areas highlighted in light gray are incorporated areas that are within the incorporated city of Campbell. Their municipality is Campbell. The areas highlighted in yellow are un-incorporated areas that are surrounded by the incorporated city of Campbell.

California_sales_tax

The address “1 W Campbell Ave” is located within the city limit of the incorporated city of Campbell. Its total California sales tax rate is 9% (7.5%+ 1.25% + 0.25%).

However, the address “1130 Normandy Dr.” is located in an un-incorporated area surrounded by the city of Campbell. So the city district tax does not apply. Its total California sales tax rate is 8.75% (7.5%+ 1.25%).

Harness the power of our GIS technology to determine municipality and sales tax rate

To find municipality for any U.S. address, you can use the free lookup at USgecoder.com. Just enter an address and its zip code, press the “Free Lookup” button and you will find the municipality for the input address. If it’s within an incorporated city limit, it will show the name of the city. If it’s not within an incorporated city limit, it will say “Un-incorporated Area”.

To find the sales tax rate for a specific address in California, you can do the same with our free address-based location lookup tool. It will show the total tax rate with the breakdown and details information of county and city district tax rate. If the address is in an unincorporated area, it will say “N/A – Unincorporated Area 0%” for the city district tax.

Here is the screenshot of the search result for 1130 Normandy Dr, Campbell, CA 90058, an address that is not within a city limit.

California_sales_tax


Interested in learning more about the district matching and location lookup service entrusted by organizations including FedEx, Coca-Cola Bottling Company, the Smithsonian and the National Multifamily Housing Council? Discover better accuracy and complete data privacy protection today!

August 20, 2016

How to Determine PACE Program Eligibility through GIS Technology

As a PACE program provider, you must know a property’s municipality

The PACE program (or Property Assessed Clean Energy) is a simple and effective way to finance energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water conservation upgrades to buildings.

PACE programs allow local and state governments, as well as other inter-jurisdictional authorities, to fund all up-front costs of energy improvements on both commercial and residential properties, which are then paid back over time by the property owner.

PACE programs can pay for new heating and cooling systems, lighting improvements, solar panels, water pumps, insulation, and more.

Challenges for PACE Program Providers

PACE program providers work closely with local governments to offer their programs. Municipalities and county governments can opt-in or opt-out of the program. In order to find out if a particular house qualifies for the PACE program, the provider needs to know if the home owner lives within the boundary that offers a PACE program.

If the address is within the incorporated city, its municipality is the incorporated city. If not, the municipality of the address is in an unincorporated area surrounded by the incorporated city.

The problem is, most home owners provide standardized mailing addresses, which may not reflect the municipality of the address. To find the true municipality of an address, programs such as PACE rely on a service that’s far more accurate and precise.

 

Learn more about how to find the proper municipality by address

 

Determining the municipality of an address

Assuming the city of San Jose in Santa Clara County, CA opts in to the PACE program, and Santa Clara County does not opt in to the program, let’s see how it affects the following 2 addresses:

Mailing Address 1:
1591 Williamsport Drive, San Jose, CA 95131

The municipality of this address is San Jose. It’s eligible for the PACE program.


Mailing Address 2:
2221 Enborg lane, San Jose, CA 95128

Although the mailing city for this address is San Jose, the physical address is actually not within the incorporated city of San Jose.  The municipality of the address is in an unincorporated area within the county. Because Santa Clara county does not opt in, it is NOT eligible for the PACE program.


How to Find the Municipality by Address?

As the repository of municipality information, the US Census provides boundaries for each municipality in the US.

The only way to determine the municipality is to use a geolocation service. Such a service maps the physical location of the home and then queries the municipality database provided by US Census.

As one of the few OEM geo-coders in the US, USgeocoder provides geolocation-based municipality lookup by address. We geocode each address, identify its latitude and longitude, match it to the US Census database and then produce municipality information for the input address.

This level of accuracy and pinpoint precision has proven to be an invaluable asset to program providers such as PACE, that rely on proper data.

Interested to see our address-based location lookup service at work?

 

We encourage you to try our live demo

Simply enter any address in the U.S., click on the “Free Lookup” button and nearly instantly you’ll be provided with vital, and accurate, information, including:

  • Standardized address
  • Geolocation codes
  • Zip codes & mail delivery
  • Political jurisdictions/elected officials
  • Census statistics
  • California sales tax (if applicable)

 


Interested in learning more about the district matching and location lookup service entrusted by organizations including FedEx, Coca-Cola Bottling Company, the Smithsonian and the National Multifamily Housing Council? Discover better accuracy and complete data privacy protection today!

July 22, 2016

How to Find the Municipality by Address

A municipality is a city or town that has corporate status and its own local government. Most people think they can find the municipality of a location by merely looking at the address. That’s not always true.

Mailing city vs. a municipality

Normally, the city we see in a standard address is a mailing city, the city in which the postal office delivering to the address is located. Sometimes, this mailing city is the same as the physical city that the address belongs to.

But that’s not always the case.

When the municipality differs from the mailing city

If an address is located within an incorporated city, the incorporate city is its municipality. However, if the address is not part of the incorporated city, that means this address does not have a municipality.

Let’s find the municipality for the following 2 examples:

  • Address 1: 620 Pole Line Road, Davis, CA 95618
  • Address 2: 1 SHIELDS AVE, Davis, CA 95616

Here is the map that shows the location of these 2 addresses.

The city for the above 2 addresses is Davis. The area highlighted in yellow is the un-incorporated area. The area highlighted in light gray is the incorporated area.

You can see the address “1 Shields Ave” falls in that yellow box. That means this address is not part of the incorporated city of Davis.

In other words, Davis is just its mailing city. It does not have a municipality. It’s physical address should be “1 Shields Ave, Yolo County, CA 95616”.

On the other hand, the address “620 Pole Line Road, Davis, CA 95618” is in the light gray box. It’s in the incorporated area, and its municipality is Davis.

How can you find the municipality by address?

Municipality is a very important determining factor for programs that involve local jurisdictions such as PACE funding programs and California sales and use tax.

The only way to find the municipality for an address is to use a geolocation service. It maps the address and finds its relationship with the municipality database to determine if it’s in an incorporated city. You can lookup municipality for any address in the US using the live demo on USgeocoder.com. Just enter the address and zip code, press the “Free Lookup” button and you will find the municipality for the input address.


Interested in learning more about the district matching and location lookup service entrusted by organizations including FedEx, Coca-Cola Bottling Company, the Smithsonian and the National Multifamily Housing Council? Discover better accuracy and complete data privacy protection today!