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State of California Franchise Tax Board

Franchise Tax Board Auditing ‘Head of Household’ Returns

Released: August 6, 2009

Sacramento –The Franchise Tax Board (FTB) today announced sending more than 140,000 audit letters to pre-selected individuals who used the “Head of Household” (HOH) filing status on their 2008 state tax returns.

Filing status mistakes are some of the more common errors on tax returns. Last year more than 32,000 taxpayers who filed under the HOH status did not meet its requirements and were ultimately issued more than $28 million in tax assessments.

The HOH filing status generally provides a lower tax assessment for unmarried taxpayers who cared for a dependent for over half the year and paid more than half the cost of maintaining their home. Taxpayers who do not qualify will have their tax reassessed at either a single or married-filing-separate filing status. More than 2 million California taxpayers use the HOH filing status each year.

Filing status errors are less common on electronically-filed returns, as the State’s e-file programs and many other software-based tax-preparation programs include a Head of Household questionnaire that guides taxpayers to the correct filing status.

FTB advises taxpayers who received an audit letter to promptly submit a completed questionnaire by using any of these methods:

  • Go to FTB’s website and use the HOH Audit Letter Web Response page. Taxpayers will need their Social Security number and the “FTB ID number” listed at the top of the questionnaire letter.
  • Fax pages 3 and 4, and any supporting information to 866.223.8195.
  • Mail the questionnaire using the pre-addressed envelope provided with the audit letter.

Failure to respond could result in a penalty. FTB provides an HOH “self-test,” answers to many frequently asked questions, and Publication 1540, “CA Head of Household Filing Status,” in English and Spanish on its Website at

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