Ask the Advocate February 2020 Tax News

2020 filing season begins

Susan Maples, Taxpayers' Rights Advocate.

Susan Maples, CPA
Taxpayers' Rights Advocate
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@FTBAdvocate

The 2020 filing season in now officially underway. FTB began accepting returns at the beginning of the year, with the IRS having a start date closer to the end of January. There is a lot to be done in the next few months and I hope your experience this filing season is positive, with everything going smoothly between now and the initial filing deadlines.

I am frequently asked if my staff and I are busier during filing season, the assumption being that we too are dealing with the processing of tax returns, payments and refunds.  While this is true for most of FTB and one of our agency’s most important core functions, the Advocate’s Office is busy this time of year for different reasons.  We are currently planning for our many education and outreach events, updating our speaking materials and scheduling visits across the state, to meet with you at events, conferences, and sponsored seminars.  We continuously update the information we provide at these events, whether it’s to reflect changes in existing California law or to let you know about new laws such as the California Minimum Essential Coverage Individual Healthcare Mandate.

As I like to mention at the start of every filing seasons, one of the things you can do to help us and your clients is to confirm with them that we have their current and correct contact information when their return is filed. Having a correct address for your client makes it much easier to resolve any filing or return processing issues which require our sending a notice. Having an incorrect address may mean that someone first learns of a problem with their return after the standard billing cycle has ended and the collection process is underway.  A bad address doesn’t just affect those balances due. We receive calls each year checking on the status of a mailed refund only to learn that due to an incorrect address, a refund check must be reissued due to it being “returned mail” to the State Controller multiple times.

One last tip for the start of filing season and this one deals with payments. On rare occasions, checks we receive are overlooked in processing. This may happen if a check is attached to a paper-filed return under W-2s, schedules, or in an unnoticeable way.  When we are expecting a payment for a balance due with a return and we are unaware that we have received it, this will result in a notice that needs to be mailed.  An easy way to avoid this is to use FTB’s WebPay Portal, which is covered in a separate article this month.

Finally, the Department continues to look for ways to improve your experience with MyFTB. Many tax professionals still do not have online access to their clients’ information and we continue to encourage those without MyFTB accounts to sign up, add their clients, and hopefully make life a little bit easier this filing season.