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Last Minute Tax Tips for California Taxpayers

Preparing a tax return under the pressure of a looming filing deadline might lead to overlooked tax credits, filing or payment options. But for millions of taxpayers, it doesn’t have to take much time. State Controller and chair of the Franchise Tax Board Kathleen Connell reminds eligible taxpayers to use the simple Form 540 2EZ.

“For taxpayers taking the standard deduction, the 540 2EZ can be completed in minutes,” says Connell. “Taxpayers claiming the renter’s credit and up to three dependents can use this form. For those using the Form 540A or Form 540, significant tax savings can be won through several lucrative tax credits,” Connell says.

Tax Credits - They Include:

Refundable Child and Dependent Care Expenses Credit - This credit provides up to $907 for taxpayers who pay for dependent care expenses for gainful employment purposes. The California credit is a percentage of the federal credit.
Long-Term Care Credit - This nonrefundable $500 credit is for taxpayers who are eligible caregivers of qualified individuals who need long-term care for 180 days or more.
Teacher Retention Credit - This credit, exclusively for teachers, provides a nonrefundable credit ranging up to $1,500 depending on the credentialed teacher’s years of service.
Solar Energy Credit - This credit is available to taxpayers who purchase and install a solar energy system. The credit is the lesser of 15 percent of the cost of the system or $4.50 per watt of generating capacity.

Other tax tips for last-minute filers include:

April 15 is Not the Last Day to File

Taxes are due on Monday, April 15. However, California has an automatic six-month extension until October 15 to file. The extension is for filing your return only. You must pay any tax due by April 15 to avoid penalties and interest.

Payment Options

Taxpayers can pay their current tax bill with their Discover/NOVUS, MasterCard or American Express cards. To charge it call (888) 2PAY TAX [(888) 272-9829] or access www.officialpayments.com. The vendor will charge you a convenience fee.

Another pay option, e-pay, is available to e-filers and TeleFilers. Akin to debit card transactions, e-filers can authorize the FTB to withdraw funds from their bank accounts on a specific date, on or before April 15. If you owe and cannot afford to pay on time, the FTB generally allows taxpayers to pay their bills on installments. Call the FTB to ask about installment agreements.

For Fast Refunds - You’ll Want to e-file

The road to a fast refund runs through your computer. All state personal income tax forms can be e-filed, which is the fastest way to get a return processed and a refund delivered. The benefits of e-file include fast, accurate return processing, speedy refunds (10 days or less, quicker if you use direct deposit), and electronic debit (e-pay). To e-file, taxpayers have three options:

  • Do it yourself using a personal computer and tax software to file on-line. Visit www.ftb.ca.gov for links to on-line service providers.
  • TeleFile, a touch-tone telephone method for people who received a special e-booklet.
  • Hire a professional tax preparer or electronic return originator authorized to e-file.

Whether you on-line e-file, e-file through a professional, or TeleFile, refunds are delivered fast compared to the four to six weeks if you file a paper return at crunch time. Last year, Californians e-filed more than 2.7 million tax returns.

Plenty of Tax Help Available

Visit the FTB’s Website at www.ftb.ca.gov for a quick overview of important information for this year’s taxes, to download current and prior year tax forms, and to check your refund status.

The FTB's automated phone service at (800) 338-0505 is available anytime to request both state and federal tax forms, get answers to questions, obtain a customer service number, and to check on payments, balances due, or refunds. To speak with a customer service representative, call the FTB at (800) 852-5711 from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Friday, and on Saturday, April 13 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

To meet face-to-face with the FTB, taxpayers can visit any one of 16 field offices located statewide, open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. To locate the nearest district office, visit the website or call one of our toll-free numbers.

For free help completing simple tax returns, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs staff more than 1,100 volunteer centers statewide. For the nearest location, call the FTB or visit the Website.