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FTB Offers Free e-File for Income Taxes

Other News for This Tax Filing Season

More than 4 million taxpayers qualify to use the state's new free e-file service, the 2EZ Direct, now available on the Franchise Tax Board's (FTB) Website, according to the FTB.

“For the first time ever in California, nearly one-third of all taxpayers can use the FTB's 2EZ Direct free e-file service to quickly, safely, and conveniently file this year's state tax return,” stated State Controller and FTB Chair Steve Westly. “The benefits of e-file include fast, accurate return processing, speedy refunds (within seven days), and acknowledgment that your return was filed.”

2EZ Direct e-file Service

Taxpayers qualified to use the 2EZ Direct are single or head of household earning $50,000 or less, or married filing jointly or qualifying widower earning $100,000 or less. Taxpayers can claim up to three dependents, take the standard deduction, and claim the renter's credit if qualified. 2EZ filers must be under 65 and not blind. If you meet these requirements, please visit the FTB's Website at www.ftb.ca.gov, and look for the free FTB e-file option. Have your W-2 and 1099 forms handy, and follow the step by step instructions to enter your information. Be sure to use Direct Deposit so the FTB can deposit your refund directly into your bank account within seven days. Then, just click to send your California tax return to the FTB directly and you're done: no third parties to intercept your confidential tax information, and no delays in processing your refunds.

Free Tax Help Available Through VITA/TCE Centers

For those who want help completing their tax forms, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs staff more than 1,100 volunteer centers statewide. They offer free tax help to low-income, senior, and disabled individuals. Bilingual tax assistance is available in some locations for non-English speaking individuals. For the nearest location, call the FTB or visit our Website.

What's New on the Tax Forms

The Asthma and Lung Disease Research Fund was an addition this year to the list of voluntary contributions on tax returns.

The FTB included a new use tax return insert in the 2002 Personal Income Tax Instruction Booklets that asks the question: Do You Owe Use Tax? Many Californians purchase items from out-of-state businesses that do not charge California tax on those sales. As a result, consumers owe California use tax on those items purchased for consumption, use, or storage. The use tax return goes to the State Board of Equalization. The FTB provided it as a reminder and a convenience for individuals to self-report and pay their use tax obligations to the State of California.

Payment Options

New this year, taxpayers can pay their taxes through the FTB's Website. Web Pay works much like a debit card transaction. Taxpayers can authorize the FTB to withdraw funds from their bank account on a specific date, on or before April 15, to satisfy their return balance due or extension payment. Taxpayers can also pay estimated tax or bill payments.

Taxpayers also have the option to pay their taxes with their Discover/NOVUS, MasterCard, American Express, or Visa cards. To charge it, call (800) 2PAY TAX [(800) 272-9829] or access www.officialpayments.com. The vendor will charge a convenience fee.

Can't pay your taxes? Taxpayers can now submit a payment plan request through the FTB's Website and hear back with an answer within a couple of days. If you owe less than $10,000 and can repay it within three years, you will generally qualify.

Where to Get Tax Assistance

Taxpayers can visit the FTB's Website at www.ftb.ca.gov to get a quick overview of important information for this year's taxes, get answers to frequently asked tax questions, take advantage of free e-file, and use one of the many e-services available.

The FTB's automated toll-free phone service at (800) 338-0505 is available anytime to request both state and federal tax forms, get answers to frequently asked questions, and to check on payments, balances due, or refunds. The FTB prints the menu to navigate the automated phone system on the back of the tax booklets.

Reminders When Calling for Help

When calling the general toll-free phone line, (800) 852-5711, the best time to call is after 10:00 a.m. and between 6:00-8:00 p.m. To protect your privacy, avoid using cell phones when calling. Cell phones sometimes have poor reception and lack the security of a land line when discussing your personal information.

Editor's Note: For a listing of VITA sites in your area, please visit our Website after January 15 or call us.