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FTB Launches Tax Season With New Taxpayer Services

ReadyReturn Among Services Offered to Ease Tax Filing Burden

Released: January 2, 2008

SACRAMENTO - State Controller and Franchise Tax Board (FTB) Chair John Chiang today kicked off the tax season by announcing new tax filing services to help taxpayers file their 2007 state tax returns.

“The FTB has expanded customer service and created options to make tax filing easier on California taxpayers,” Chiang said. “The FTB can help taxpayers complete and file their tax returns, manage their tax information, and get the assistance they need for available credits and quick refunds.”

Technology Changes

Nearly 1 million individuals will be able to use ReadyReturn, a program that provides the taxpayer a completed tax return and requires no additional information or paperwork.

ReadyReturn makes filing taxes as easy as it gets. The state does the work for taxpayers by using information it already has to simply generate the tax return.” Chiang said. “Taxpayers have complete control to file the return, change it, or use any other filing method.”

With ReadyReturn, single taxpayers that earn wages from only one employer, take the standard deduction, and have no dependents can opt-in to the program to have the FTB provide a completed tax return to file. Taxpayers can visit our Website or call (800) 338-0505 to determine if they are eligible.

CalFile, the state's electronic filing program, is being offered in both English and Spanish this year. CalFile is available to more than 6 million taxpayers who file forms 540 2EZ, 540A, and, to a limited degree, the 540. CalFile accepts income of up to $310,837, itemized deductions, and some tax credits. Many commercial e-file companies offer free services to certain customers, and more information is available on our Website.

Those who used the service last year will notice the View Payments and Balance Due application was renamed to My FTB Account. This application now allows taxpayers the ability not only to view their payments and balance due, but also view FTB-issued 1099-Gs, 1099-INTs, and California wage and withholding information. My FTB Account should be used to verify estimated tax payments since the top taxpayer error is claiming the wrong amount of estimated tax payments. Errors may delay refunds or cause taxpayers to get tax bills after they file.

FTB no longer requires the Customer Service Number (CSN) for the following Web applications: CalFile, Web Pay, and Individual Electronic Installment Agreement. Taxpayers can now access these applications by matching their Social Security Number and name. CSNs are required for ReadyReturn and My FTB Account.

FTB's online Form 5402EZ now does the math! Taxpayers can fill in their information on this calculating tax form to print and mail to FTB.

Law Changes

For the 2007 tax year, new state law requires registered domestic partners to file their state tax returns using either the married filing jointly or married filing separately status. Under prior state law, they used the single or head of household filing status. The new state law will not impact the filing status of federal tax returns. See FTB Publication 737, Tax Information for Registered Domestic Partners for more details.

The standard deduction for single or married filing separately increases from $3,410 to $3,516. For joint, surviving spouse, or head of household filers, it increases from $6,820 to $7,032.

The personal exemption amount for single, married filing separately, and head of household filers jumps from $91 to $94. For joint or surviving spouse, the personal exemption credit will increase from $182 to $188. The dependent exemption credit will increase from $285 to $294 per dependent claimed.

Assistance

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs have trained hundreds of volunteers to help California taxpayers complete their tax returns. They also help residents take advantage of money saving tax credits like the federal Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child and Dependent Care Expenses Credit, which can reduce taxes and provide savings for working families.

Tax Tips

Who should file: Individuals do not have to file if they are single or head of household and their total income was less than $14,138, or if they are married and their total income was less than $28,276. Filing requirements for those being claimed as a dependent are tied to the standard deduction. See our Website for more information.

Pay taxes online: Web Pay allows taxpayers to make payments from their bank account to satisfy their return balance due or extension payment. Taxpayers can also pay estimated tax or make any bill payments online. For a small fee, taxpayers can pay with their Discover/NOVUS, MasterCard, American Express, or Visa cards. FTB also accepts payments sent through Western Union.

Almost 10 million taxpayers - nearly two-thirds of those who filed taxes last year - received a state tax refund averaging more than $800. Taxpayers can request to have their refunds electronically deposited between two accounts. The account choices include: checking, savings, IRA, or money market accounts.

Franchise Tax Board Tax Season Tips

  • Looking for free tax help? The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs staff more than 1,000 centers statewide. They help low-income, senior, non-English speaking, and disabled individuals complete their tax forms for free. For the nearest location, call FTB or go to our Website.
  • Federal EITC: The Earned Income Tax Credit reduces your federal tax obligation, or allows a refund if no federal tax is due. You qualify if a child lived with you and you earned less than $37,783 ($39,783 if married filing jointly), or you have no qualifying children and you earned less than $12,590 ($14,590 if married filing jointly). For more details, go to www.irs.gov and search for EITC Assistant. California has no comparable state credit.
  • Voluntary contributions: The State tax forms list 11 charitable funds taxpayers can contribute directly to from their return. Contributions made to these funds will reduce your refund or increase taxes owed. Taxpayers who contribute to any of these funds can take a charitable contribution deduction on next year's return if they itemize their deductions.
  • Paying taxes online: FTB's Web Pay allows taxpayers to authorize a payment from their bank account on a specific date to satisfy their return balance due or extension payment. Pay on or before April 15 to avoid penalties and interest. Taxpayers can also pay estimated tax or make any bill payments online. For a small fee, taxpayers can also pay their taxes with their Discover/NOVUS, MasterCard, American Express, and Visa cards. FTB also accepts Western Union.
  • If you can't pay your taxes: Taxpayers can request a payment plan online. You will generally qualify if you owe less than $25,000 and can repay it within five years.
  • Don't want to owe taxes? Go to the California taxes Website and use the DE 4 Calculator, Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate, to compute your suggested payroll withholding to closely approximate your tax liability.
  • Do you owe use tax? California residents are required to pay state use tax on certain purchases made from out-of-state sellers, such as by telephone, over the Internet, by mail, or in person, if the seller does not collect sales or use tax, and if you use, give away, store, or consume the item in California. Go to the Board of Equalization's Website for more details.
  • Information in other languages: FTB continues to provide more state tax information in Spanish, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese. FTB also has a Speakers' Bureau, where technical subject matter experts are available to speak at a variety of public forums statewide to educate the public on topical tax subjects.
  • Phone service: FTB provides 24-hour toll-free automated phone service at (800) 338-0505. To speak with a customer service representative, FTB staffs its general toll-free phone line, (800) 852-5711, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., weekdays except State holidays.
  • Walk in service: FTB has six regional field offices that provide walk-in service in Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, and Santa Ana. For directions, visit our Website.