California Opens 2015 Tax Season

On January 5, 2016, the Franchise Tax Board announced it is now accepting 2015 state tax returns. All California state income tax returns will be due no later than April 18 (three days beyond the traditional April 15 deadline due to a federal holiday).

New for 2015 calendar year returns is the California version of the Earned Income Tax Credit (Cal EITC), which is in addition to the federal credit. California tax payers will receive a refund if the credit is greater than the taxes owed, otherwise it will offset the amount of tax due. The credit is available to California households with an adjusted gross incomes of less than $6,580 if there are not qualifying children, less than $9,880 with one qualifying child, or less than $13,870 with two or more qualifying children. The California credit is based only on income reported on a W-2 form, such as wages, salaries and/or tips. For more information on California's Earned Income Tax Credit and FAQs, please click here.

Also new for 2015 returns...the standard deduction for single or filing separately tax statuses for the 2015 tax year increased to $4,044. For joint, surviving spouse, or head of household filers, the deduction grew to $8,088. The dependent exemption credit increased to $337 per dependent. The personal exemption amount for single, filing separately, and head of household filers increased to $109. For joint or surviving spouses, the exemption grew to $218.

With a new focus on Electronic Services, the Franchise Tax Board has enhanced the MyFTB website to provide greater access to online tax services. Once registered for the program, taxpayers can use the site to:

•· -- Send a secure message to FTB staff or chat online with an FTB representative.

•· -- Skip an installment agreement payment.

•· -- Protest an income tax audit.

•· -- Access helpful tax calculators.

•· -- File a Power of Attorney (POA) declaration.

Walk-in service is still available at six regional field offices weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. The field offices are in Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, and Santa Ana. While cash payments are no longer accepted at field offices, taxpayers may pay using MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover, debit card, check, cashier's check or money order. A service fee of 2.5 percent is charged for credit card transactions.

Finally, free tax preparation is provided through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly Programs (VITA/TCE). Many military bases also provide this service for members of the U.S. Armed Forces. For information on locations throughout California, click here.

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