Thu10302014

Business & Real Estate

State Franchise Tax Board announces start of tax return season

The California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) is now accepting 2013 state tax returns.

Tax law and filing service changes highlighted by the FTB include:

• Standard deductions: The standard deduction for single or filing separately tax statuses increased to $3,906. For joint, surviving spouse or head-of-household filers, it increased to $7,812.

• Exemption credit increases: The dependent exemption credit increased to $326 per dependent. The personal exemption amount for single, filing separately and head-of-household filers increased to $106. For joint or surviving spouses, it increased to $212.

• 540A discontinued: For taxpayers who file paper returns, the FTB eliminated this form due to decreased use. Tax preparation software or e-filing will automatically select the appropriate tax form for the taxpayer. The FTB continues to offer two types of personal income tax forms: Form 540 (Long Form) that can be used by all tax filers, and Form 540 2EZ that can be used for tax filers with simple tax filing situations – those who typically report income wages, interest, dividends and pensions and take the standard deduction.

  • Voluntary Contribution Fund: Taxpayers can contribute to one or more charitable causes directly from the state tax form. New on the 2013 tax return are the American Red Cross Fund, the Protect Our Coast and Oceans Fund and the Keep Arts in School Fund. See the FTB’s tax forms for a complete listing of available charities. For more information, visit ftb.ca.gov and search “voluntary contributions.”

• State tax relief for 2013 short sellers: The IRS has determined that California taxpayers who sell their principal residences where the lender agrees to a short sale for less than what is owed on the home are relieved of incurring cancellation of indebtedness income, which may have been taxable. Instead, the amount of canceled debt is included in the amount realized in determining gain on the sale of that residence. The FTB’s website will post updated information and FAQs soon. For more information, visit ftb.ca.gov and search “mortgage forgiveness debt relief.”

• California Affordable Care Act: Although this is not a new law, the FTB receives questions about how the federal Affordable Care Act affects California taxes. California tax code conforms to the 2010 federal income tax rules, which excludes the value of the medical coverage provided to nondependent adult children from California gross income and allows a deduction to self-employed individuals for health insurance premiums for nondependent adult children under age 27. For more information, visit ftb.ca.gov and search “affordable care act.”

Self-service resources

The FTB encourages taxpayers and practitioners to explore many self-service applications available through its website, including:

• CalFile, a free, easy-to-use e-file option available to more than 6.4 million taxpayers. CalFile accepts taxpayers with income of up to $345,235, itemized deductions and some tax credits. CalFile guides taxpayers through a simple question-and-answer process that takes 15-30 minutes to complete. CalFile offers features such as email confirmation verifying that the return was filed and the ability to save information and return later to finish. Taxpayers can also file 2012 and 2013 tax returns. For more information, visit ftb.ca.gov.

• ReadyReturn, a free e-file program that allows taxpayers who file simple returns to do so in less time. The FTB uses information it already has to complete a ReadyReturn for selected taxpayers. Taxpayers who used the single or head-of-household filing status in the prior year, had one employer, claimed no more than five dependents and took the standard deduction qualify for ReadyReturn. Taxpayers can visit ftb.ca.gov to see if a ReadyReturn is completed and waiting for them.

• MyFTB Account, which allows users to change a mailing address and access information on wages, California withholding, estimated tax payments, balances due and FTB-issued 1099 forms. Taxpayers and tax professionals must complete a one-time registration process.

Taxpayers can also check the status of their 2013 filed tax returns online. Generally, e-filed returns with refunds and requests for direct deposit are issued within seven to 10 days, and mailed refund checks are sent within two weeks. Paper-filed returns take six to eight weeks, depending on the time of year the return is filed. This service is also available in Spanish.

Taxpayers who owe can use the FTB’s online Web Pay service to pay a tax return balance due or make an extension or estimate payment.

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