K. W. “Hutch” Hutchinson, CPA, CFP®

Providing solutions to your taxing problems


California Tax Tips

Wondering if you’re being set up for a tax scam or how to get free help filing your state or federal income tax return? The Franchise Tax Board (FTB) has answers.

Beware of Tax Scams — FTB has received reports of scammers calling or emailing taxpayers claiming to represent the tax board. Typically, FTB contacts taxpayers by mail—several times, if necessary–so any unexpected call should raise suspicions. In addition, be wary of a caller who claims to represent FTB and:

● Asks for passwords for credit cards and bank accounts. FTB agents never ask for passwords and taxpayers should never disclose them.
● Threatens incarceration if a tax debt is not paid.
● Demands payment by third-party issued or prepaid debit cards. FTB does not accept these forms of payment.
● Claims that there is a problem with the taxpayer’s account. FTB urges taxpayers to use MyFTB to check their account or call FTB directly at 800.852.5711.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance — Free tax help is available through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly Programs (VITA/TCE). Volunteers trained and certified by the Internal Revenue Service help file simple federal and state tax returns at more than 1,000 sites throughout California. The programs are designed to help low-income, senior, disabled, and non-English speaking taxpayers. Many military bases provide this service for members of the U.S. Armed Forces. For information on locations throughout California, go to ftb.ca.gov and click on the Free Tax Help link.

New Head of Household (HOH) Schedule — Beginning this year, to qualify for HOH status, taxpayers must complete and attach to their tax returns FTB Schedule 3532, Head of Household Filing Status Schedule. The new schedule helps taxpayers determine if they qualify for HOH filing status.

Check the status of a refund – Taxpayers can check on the progress of their refunds in Spanish or English at ftb.ca.gov or download the FTB Refund Mobile App available for iPhone. Generally, taxpayers who file electronically and set up direct deposit can expect the refund to be issued in seven to 10 business days. For those who file paper returns, the refund can take two to three months, depending on the time of year.

Verify your tax preparer’s qualifications — California sets strict standards for paid tax preparers. State law requires anyone who prepares tax returns for a fee to be an attorney, certified public accountant, CTEC-registered tax preparer, or enrolled agent.

Tips for filing a paper return — Use paper clips, not staples, to attach documents. Double-check calculations, social security numbers, and the tax amount from tax tables. Use the Tax Calculator to determine 2016 tax by entering filing status and taxable income amount.

Subscriptions — Stay on top of tax trends, new tax laws, and the latest news by enrolling in FTB’s free subscription service or follow FTB’s social media sites on Facebook and Twitter.

FTB administers two of California’s major tax programs: the Personal Income Tax and the Corporation Tax. FTB also administers other non-tax programs and debt collection functions, including delinquent vehicle registration on behalf of the Department of Motor Vehicles, and court–ordered debt. Annually, FTB’s tax programs collect more than 70 percent of the state’s General Fund. For more information on other taxes and fees in California, visit taxes.ca.gov.