Avoid Common Mistakes During Tax Season
March 16, 2011
A Message from Betty T. Yee, First District Member, State Board of
April 15th --- a day taxpayers dread each year because that
is when their income tax returns are due to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
and Franchise Tax Board (FTB). Taxpayers fear they will make errors, causing
them to lose deductions to which they may be entitled or find out in an audit
they owe more tax plus interest and possibly penalties.
Here is how you can
avoid common mistakes made in filing income tax returns.
- File electronically. If
you choose to e-file, many common errors are avoided or corrected by the
computer software. For information about the Free File program for your federal
return, visit the IRS website at www.irs.gov. For information about the CalFile
or the ReadyReturn programs for your state return, visit www.ftb.ca.gov.
- Include Social
Security numbers for yourself and any dependents. Make certain your Social
Security number(s) appears correctly and legibly on each page or schedule of
your return, so if any pages or schedules are separated from your return, they
can be re-attached.
For any dependents you claim, include their Social Security
numbers on your federal and California
returns. If your dependent does not have a Social Security number, you can
obtain one by following the instructions at www.socialsecurity.gov.
- Earned Income Tax
Credit. The Earned Income Tax Credit or the EITC is a refundable federal
income tax credit for low to moderate-income working individuals and families.
To see if you qualify for this credit, use the EITC Assistant at www.irs.gov.
- Estimate tax payments. Make sure your claimed estimated tax payments match the IRS and FTB
records. FTB's "My FTB Account" service allows taxpayers to view their
estimated tax payments, California
wage and withholding information, and other useful information online. This
service is available at www.ftb.ca.gov.
- Check your 2009
returns. If you claimed state income taxes as an itemized deduction in
2009, you may have to report some or all of your state income tax refund
received in 2010. Otherwise, do not include the refund in your 2010 taxable
- Check you math and
itemized deductions. Make certain there are no addition and subtraction
errors and all numbers have been accurately transferred from one schedule to
another. Confirm the accuracy of your itemized deductions, including state and
local income or sale taxes, paid real estate taxes, mortgage interest and
points paid, and tax paid on new motor vehicles.
- Use the correct tax
rate schedule or column in the tax tables to figure your tax. Reporting the
amount of tax incorrectly could delay your refund or result in penalties and
interest if you underpay your taxes.
- Use tax. You may
owe use tax on purchases you made from out-of-state or Internet sellers. Use
tax is similar to the sales tax paid on purchases you make in California.
You may report use tax on your income tax return instead of filing a use tax
return with the State Board of Equalization.
- Tax refund. Make
sure the financial institution routing and account numbers you have entered on
the return for direct deposit of your refund are accurate. Incorrect numbers
can cause your refund to be delayed or deposited into the wrong account.
- Tax payment. Both
the IRS and FTB have a number of e-payment options. For information on the IRS'
e services go to www.irs.gov and select e-file. For information on the FTB's
services and www.ftb.ca.gov and select payment options. If sending a check or
money order make the check payable to "United States Treasury" for the federal
income tax payment and to the Franchise Tax Board for your California income
- Attach all W-2 forms
to your return. Attach the copy marked "to be filed with federal tax
return" to your federal Form 1040 and the copy marked "to be filed with state
tax return" to 540 California
return. If you received a form 1099-R showing tax withheld, be sure to attach
that one as well. If you believe the W-2s or 1099s contain mistakes, be sure to
contact the sender to have the mistakes corrected.
- Sign and date your
returns. Be sure to sign and date your returns and include your occupation.
File Your Return on Time. File your federal and California
returns by April 18, 2011.
If you need an extension, you should file IRS Form 4868 at this time, and you
will automatically have until October 15th to file both your federal and California
If you file for an extension, any income tax you owe must
still be paid on or before April 18th. For more information refer to the IRS's
website www.irs.gov or FTB's website www.ftb.ca.gov.
Help for People Who Owe Taxes. With many people facing financial
difficulties, the IRS and FTB may be able to help people who owe back taxes.
If you are behind on your federal tax payments and need
assistance, go the IRS's website www.irs.gov and type in payment plans at the
search key. You may also call the number listed on any recently received IRS
If you owe California
back income taxes and cannot pay, you may request to make monthly installment
payments. Go the FTB's website www.ftb.ca.gov and select payment options for
Records You Should
Keep After Filing Your Returns
You should keep copies of your tax returns for at least four
years, along with substantiation of any credits and deductions claimed and
copies of W-2 and similar forms.
Help Is Available
There are many free resources on the IRS and FTB websites
that can assist you with your filing requirements. In addition, the IRS and the
FTB have Taxpayer Assistance programs where you can obtain in-person help:
- Visit www.irs.gov or look in the phone book under "United
States Government, Internal Revenue Service" for a listing of Taxpayer
- Visit www.ftb.ca.gov for a listing of approximately 1,800 California
locations where trained volunteers provide free help during tax filing season.
You can also contact the FTB toll-free at 1-800-852-5711 to find a location
Betty T. Yee represents
the First Equalization District which is comprised of 21 counties in northern
and central California. The Board hears and decides income,
business, and special tax appeals matters.
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