Head of Household Filers to Get Audit Letters

The Franchise Tax Board (FTB) is preparing to mail more than 150,000 audit letters to individuals who filed their 2004 tax returns using the head of household filing status, according to the Franchise Tax Board.

The advantage to filing as head of household is lower tax rates and a higher standard deduction than the single filing status. It is intended to help unmarried people who provide a home for a qualifying person, typically their child.

Each year the FTB reviews head of household returns because the rules for it are often misunderstood. Many people who consider themselves the “head of their household” do not meet the law's requirements, and use in error. The FTB strives to do these audits soon after the returns are filed to correct taxpayers who have mistakenly used it before they are ready to file their 2005 returns in the spring.

Of the more than 14 million tax returns filed in California each year, nearly 2 million returns claim the head of household filing status. Last year, the FTB determined that more than 30,000 taxpayers did not meet the requirements for this filing status.

Taxpayers who do not qualify for the head of household filing status will have their tax reassessed at either the single or married filing separate filing status. Taxpayers who do not respond to the letter may get penalties. Last year, this audit program resulted in $32 million in tax assessments. Taxpayers who e-file their tax return can voluntarily complete a head of household questionnaire and include it with their e-filed return. Taxpayers who submit e-file questionnaires are less likely to be audited for this filing status.

For taxpayers who feel that their tax issues were handled unfairly, the FTB has a taxpayer advocate's office available to provide an independent review of your unresolved tax problems. The FTB strives to ensure that your concerns are handled promptly and fairly, and that you have the highest confidence in the integrity, efficiency, and fairness of our state tax system.

or more information about the head of household filing status, visit the FTB's Website at www.ftb.ca.gov. Under the link “Individuals” is a heading “Head of Household,” which has information including a self-test to help determine if you qualify or not for the Head of Household filing status.

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