January 23, 2004

Millions Qualify for Free Online Tax Filing

Web Services Make Tax Filing Easier and Refunds Faster

More than 6 million of the state’s 14 tax filers qualify to use NetFile, California’s free e-file service, or other free tax filing services provided by private companies, according to the Franchise Tax Board (FTB).

“Our NetFile service allows more than 40 percent of the state’s taxpayers to file their state tax return online,” State Controller and FTB Chair Steve Westly said. “In addition, many private sector companies are also piloting free online tax filing services that can cover both your state and federal tax returns.”

Westly added, “Online tax filing provides fast, accurate return processing and refunds can be processed within seven days.”

The state’s NetFile and other private sector services can all be accessed through the FTB Website at www.ftb.ca.gov.

Who Qualifies for NetFile?

Taxpayers who file the 540 2EZ, 540A, and to a limited degree the 540 long form, can use NetFile. NetFile accepts income of up to $270,000, itemized deductions, and some tax credits. If you meet these requirements, visit the FTB’s Website.

Get Faster Refunds with E-File and Direct Deposit

To get your tax refund quickly, ask for Direct Deposit. The state controller will deposit your refund directly into your bank account. If you e-file, you will get your money within seven days—and it is secure. Each year the FTB gets reports of lost or stolen refund checks. Don’t risk it!!!

Go Online to Pay Paperless

Taxpayers can pay their taxes through the FTB’s Website. WebPay works much like a debit card transaction. Taxpayers can authorize the FTB to withdraw funds from their bank account on a specific date, on or before April 15, to satisfy their return balance due or extension payment. Taxpayers can also pay estimated tax or bill payment online.

Taxpayers also have the option to pay their taxes with their Discover/NOVUS, Master-Card, American Express, or Visa cards. To charge it, call (800) 2PAY TAX [(800) 272-9829] or access www.official payments.com. The vendor charges a convenience fee.

Can’t pay your taxes? Taxpayers can now request a payment plan through the FTB’s Website and get an answer within a couple of days. If you owe less than $10,000 and can repay it within three years, you will generally qualify.

Get More Help Online

Taxpayers can visit the FTB’s Website to get a quick overview of important information for this year’s taxes, get answers to frequently asked tax questions, take advantage of free e-file, check on payments, balances due, or refunds, and use our many other e-services.

Changes Impacting Taxpayers

Chances are if you use a paid tax preparer, your return will be e-filed this year. New law makes e-file mandatory for tax practitioners who annually prepare 100 or more returns using tax preparation software.

The California Missions Foundation Fund is new to this year’s list of voluntary contribution funds on the tax return.

The Teacher Retention Tax Credit is back for veteran teachers teaching K-12. The credit ranges up to $1,500 depending on the credentialed teacher’s years of service.

The tax form contains a line to report and pay any use tax owed. Many Californians purchase items out-of-state or from online businesses that do not charge California tax on those sales. Consumers owe California use tax on items purchased for consumption, use, or storage. The State Board of Equalization generally collects the use tax.

Have Questions—Where to Get Tax Help

Click before you call! Get help online at www.ftb.ca.gov.

Taxpayers can use the FTB’s automated toll-free phone service at (800) 338-0505 to obtain much of the same information as provided on our Website. The FTB prints the menu to navigate the automated phone system on the back of the tax booklets.

The FTB’s general toll-free phone line (800) 852-5711, will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Please avoid using cell phones as they sometimes have poor reception and lack the security of a landline when discussing your personal information.

Taxpayers are urged to use the web-based and telephone services. Call first as the FTB can resolve most tax matters over the phone.

Free Tax Preparation Provided by Volunteers

For those who want help completing their tax forms, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs staff more than 1,100 volunteer centers statewide. They offer free tax help to low-income, senior, and disabled individuals. Some sites offer bilingual service. For the nearest location, call the FTB or visit our Website.

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