Business & Real Estate

State tax-filing season opens

California’s Franchise Tax Board is now accepting 2017 state tax returns for a filing season that extends through April 17, two days beyond the traditional deadline because of a federal holiday.

Tax board officials advise taxpayers to use the agency’s online services and take the necessary steps to protect themselves and their refunds.

Free filing help is available for many taxpayers with limited incomes, and is often available on military bases for service members.

For a list of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program locations throughout California, visit ftb.ca.gov and click “free filing assistance.”

Earned Income Tax Credit

This year, California’s expanded, cash-back Earned Income Tax Credit will be available to as many as 1.1 million more families.

People who work for an employer or are self-employed are now eligible for the credit. In addition, for the first time, a family making the state minimum wage may now qualify for the credit, meaning those earning $22,300 or less could be eligible.

The Earned Income Tax Credit is refundable, so taxpayers will receive money if the credit is greater than taxes owed. A family could receive hundreds or even thousands of dollars back between the state and federal tax credits.

For more information, visit caleitc4me.org.

Identity theft and refund fraud

The Franchise Tax Board continues to focus on preventing identity theft and refund fraud. To combat the growing crime, the board joined an IRS-led partnership of public agencies and software companies collaborating to identify and stop false returns at the time of filing.

Tax professionals and taxpayers should stay alert by:

• Avoiding email when discussing confidential tax matters. Instead, use secure online services such as MyFTB.

• Watching for phishing schemes, such as any caller threatening jail for nonpayment. Report any potential scams to the Franchise Tax Board.

• Filing early if possible. The sooner the tax board receives a tax return, the sooner staff can verify it and process a refund.

For safety tips and information on data breaches, visit the California Attorney General’s website at oag.ca.gov/idtheft.

Standard deductions, exemption credits

For the 2017 tax year, the standard deduction for single or filing separately tax statuses increased to $4,236. For joint, surviving spouse or head-of-household filers, the deduction grew to $8,472.

The dependent exemption credit increased to $353 per dependent. The personal exemption amount for single, filing separately and head-of-household filers increased to $114. For joint or surviving spouses, the exemption jumped to $228.

Tax board services

The Franchise Tax Board’s MyFTB service enables users to view their tax documents, check balances due, access tax calculators, send secure messages to staff and more.

The tax board offers free electronic filing for state tax returns through CalFile, an easy-to-use tool available to more than 6.4 million taxpayers. CalFile allows taxpayers to file directly with the Franchise Tax Board and provides instant confirmation.

For a list of additional filing options, visit ftb.ca.gov.

State tax-filing season opens

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