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Audits Launched for Head of Household Taxpayers

The Franchise Tax Board (FTB) is mailing nearly 125,000 audit letters for the 2003 tax year between now and December to Head of Household filers to verify their use of this advantageous tax filing status, according to the FTB.

The advantage to using the Head of Household filing status is that it has 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 returns claiming this filing status because the rules for it are often misread. Many people who consider themselves the “head of their household” do not meet the law’s requirements, and use it by mistake. 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 2004 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 25,000 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 $29 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 more information about the Head of Household filing status, visit the FTB’s Website at www.ftb.ca.gov. There is also an automated telephone number for help in completing the questionnaire at (800) 555-4005. This number also has answers to frequently asked questions. Also, FTB Publication 1540, California Head of Household Filing Status, has detailed information about this filing status.