New state tax on wood products confusing To the surprise of many, since Jan. 1, California retailers have been required to collect an extra 1 percent tax on sales of certain lumber products including plywood, 2-by-4s and unfinished decking, fencing and railings. The state Senate and Assembly approved the tax with a slim two-thirds majority and Gov. Jerry Brown signed it in September, so there was no need to put it to voters. Out of thousands of lumber items, retailers must figure out which are taxable (there is no comprehensive list), individually tag those products in their software systems and answer questions from customers about the charge, which must be shown separately on receipts. Because of technical problems, some retailers, including Home Depot, have not even started charging it in all of their California stores. The West Coast Lumber and Building Material Association, which represents independent retailers, has asked the board to provide up to $4,500 per location in reimbursement the first year and $1,500 annually thereafter to handle updates and product changes. The board is holding an "interested parties" meeting from 10 a.m. until noon Thursday to get input on whether the reimbursement should be increased. A list provided by the Board of Equalization "was quite vague," but after a call to the board, the store learned that dowels of less than 1.25 inches in diameter (the type used in crafts) are exempt, but ones that size and larger are taxable. The Department of Forestry has provided more comprehensive guidance at http://tinyurl.com/a6nk82e and is working on a separate document that will provide more clarification and detail. Lowe's has been charging it, but it's not showing up on customer receipts because of a "technical issue" the company is working to resolve, Lowe's spokeswoman Jaclyn Pardini says. The lumber tax was part of a larger package crafted to raise more money for forestry regulation and to help California lumber producers by speeding approval of their timber harvest plans, giving them more time to complete them and limiting their liability for fires started on their property. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association opposed the tax but thought the timber industry "did need help on the liability issue and the ridiculous regulatory burden that timber harvesting in California goes through," says Jon Coupal, the association's president. Where the tax goesMoney raised by the tax will go mainly to pay for timber regulation by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Water Resources Control Board. [...] budget cutbacks had left these agencies unable to fulfill their legal responsibilities around timber harvesting, says Richard Stapler, spokesman for the California Natural Resource Agency.