Business & Real Estate

Tax season opens in California

For those eager to get a jump on filing their state income taxes, your time has arrived. California’s tax season officially opened Thursday.

The state Franchise Tax Board, which announced that it is now accepting 2014 income tax returns, said there are a number of notable changes for businesses and individual filers this year.

FTB spokesman Daniel Tahara said the new tools and rules are “going to reach a larger majority of people, not just smaller groups.”

For example, business taxpayers using tax-preparation software must file their return electronically, as of Jan. 1. The requirement applies to both original and amended returns.

Other changes announced this week by the FTB:

▪ Taxpayers with legal questions can get basic advice on state tax laws, using an email form at “Ask a Legal Expert.”

▪ Both individuals and businesses can now pay their state income taxes via credit card.

▪ Three more charitable funds have been added to the state’s check-off donation box on 2014 tax returns. They are: California Senior Legislature Fund, Habitat for Humanity Fund and the California Sexual Violence Victim Services Fund.

▪ For individual/household filers, the standard deduction for single or filing separately tax statuses increased to $3,992. For joint, surviving spouse or head of household filers, it increased to $7,984. The dependent exemption credit increased to $333 per dependent. The personal exemption for single, filing separately and head of household filers increased to $108. For joint or surviving spouses, it increased to $216.

Tax refunds can be automatically deposited into ScholarShare, the state’s college-savings 529 plan account.

Tahara said the FTB particularly wants to get the word out about the Jan. 1 requirement for business taxpayers using tax-preparation software to file electronically. He added, however, that penalties for noncompliance will not be enforced for the first three years – until 2017 – under the new law.

In recent years, California taxpayers have increasingly filed their returns online, either through their tax preparer or automatically on their own at www.ftb.ca.gov. This year, “We again expect that 80 percent or slightly higher of (all) filers” will file their return electronically, Tahara said.

He also noted that new federal tax requirements affecting consumers who bought new health care policies under the Affordable Care Act will be included on IRS forms or on the IRS website, irs.gov.

Call The Bee’s Mark Glover, (916) 321-1184.

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