With the April 17 tax-filing deadline less than a week away, we look at several California tax questions posted by readers. The answers are from state Franchise Tax Board expert Daniel Tahara.
To see more answers on state taxes, as well as IRS tax matters, go to "Ask the Experts" at: sacbee.com/ask. You can also seek advice from our other local experts on personal finances, investing and wills/trusts.
I paid child support in 2011. Is any part of my child support payment deductible?
Child support payments are not deductible under California tax law.
However, if you made alimony payments pursuant to a court order or written agreement, those payments would be deductible.
For more information on alimony and child support, please visit the state Franchise Tax Board's website, www.ftb.ca.gov, and search for FTB Publication 2429, "Alimony Frequently Asked Questions."
If you work for the state of California and owe money on a student loan, can your monthly retirement check be garnished?
According to CalPERS, retirement allowances cannot be attached or garnished for the purpose of defaulting on a student loan.
The CalPERS retirement allowance can only be attached for the following reasons: spousal support, child support, family support, and federal or state tax levies.
For more information, contact CalPERS at (888) 225-7377.
I have two sons attending college. Is there a California deduction for tuition/education costs? If so, which form do I use on my tax return?
California does not have comparable credits to the federal American Opportunity, Lifetime Learning and Hope Scholarship tax credits. Also, we do not conform to federal law allowing taxpayers to deduct (subject to limits) qualified education expenses paid for the taxpayer, spouse and/or qualified dependents.
Taxpayers who claim the tuition and fees deduction on their federal income tax return must adjust this nonconformity item by making an entry on FTB Tax Form Schedule CA (540).
California does offer a work-related deduction for tuition/education expenses related to a taxpayer's current job. For instance, if you took classes to upgrade your technical skills at work, some of those expenses could be reported as an itemized deduction. Certain income restrictions apply.
For more details on federal tax benefits for education, visit www.irs.gov and look up Publication 970, "Tax Benefits for Education." For instructions on the state's FTB Form 540, go to: www.ftb.ca.gov.
Compiled by Claudia Buck