Last-Minute Tips for Tax Day

Tax Day is Monday, May 17. If you still haven't filed yet, the State Franchise Tax Board has some last-minute tips

Video Transcript

- Tax day is Monday. And today, we have some last minute tips for those who haven't filed just yet. Victoria Ramirez is with the State Franchise Tax Board. Thank you so much for being here with us. What is the best tip you can give someone who hasn't started their income tax returns just yet?

VICTORIA RAMIREZ: First of all, don't panic. You're not alone. There's about 4 million tax returns that still need to be filed this year.

Our best tip is to e-file. There's a lot of software products that offer a simple, step by step process to complete your return. Right on FTB's website, FTB.ca.gov, we have a Cal file program.

This program, you can file your return really quickly in about 20 or 30 minutes. It's easy. And in most cases, it's free.

- And what if someone isn't able to make the May 17 tax deadline? Can they get an extension?

VICTORIA RAMIREZ: Absolutely, California individual taxpayers have an automatic extension until October 15, 2021, to file their taxes. There's nothing you need to do. It's automatic. There's about 1.5 million California taxpayers that take advantage of this extension. So again, you're not alone.

Keep in mind that you must pay by May 17. So this is not an extension to pay your taxes. This is only an extension to file. So if you do owe taxes, pay by May 17 to avoid further interest and penalties.

- All right, so once again, just to drive that point home, if you owe taxes, you need to pay by May 17. But if you haven't completed your return, how would someone know if they even owe taxes?

VICTORIA RAMIREZ: Typically, if you owed taxes last year, you'll owe again this year. FTB's website has a free calculator to use. It estimates how much liability you may owe or how much refund you might get back.

It's fast and easy. You just put in your filing status and your income. It does the calculation for you. Just search it on our website. Search for "tax calculator."

- And we're throwing all the scenarios out there. What if you need to pay your taxes, but you can't make it to the post office before they close on the 17? Is there something someone can do about that?

VICTORIA RAMIREZ: Yep, right on our website, there is a list of payment options. Just search for "payment options" on our website. You can easily pay using your bank account directly with FTB, by using our web page feature online. You can also pay with your credit card for a small fee.

- And let's say you complete your return and see you owe money, but you don't have enough to pay by May 17. Is there something the Franchise Tax Board can do to help out with this?

VICTORIA RAMIREZ: Yes, we understand that unexpected events sometimes makes it hard for taxpayers to pay on time, especially with everything going on this last year. So if you owe but you can't pay, it's important to contact us immediately for assistance. You should also pay what you can by May 17, again, to avoid further interest and penalties. If you contact us for assistance, we can help you with a payment plan or grant temporary tax relief, in some cases, delay collection actions.

- And what is the process for setting up that payment plan?

VICTORIA RAMIREZ: If you owe less than $25,000 and can pay off the balance due within five years, you typically qualify for a payment plan. It's easy to set up online. Just search for "installment agreement."

- And how can someone be aware of other tax credits they may qualify for?

VICTORIA RAMIREZ: Right on our website, search for "tax credits." It has a list of all the credits California taxpayers are eligible for. The three biggest tax credits to be aware of and tax programs this year are the California earned income tax credit or CalEITC, the young child tax credit, and the Golden State stimulus payment. These three tax programs provide a huge financial boost for low-income working families.

- And where can people go for information about state income taxes?

VICTORIA RAMIREZ: Right on our website, FTB.ca.gov, we have all the resources there for you for tax season and beyond. You can also call us at 1-800-852-5711. And we'll help you get your tax returns filed.

- All right, thank you so much for that information. I like your first piece of advice. Don't panic. I think that's very important to remember. Victoria Ramirez with the Franchise Tax Board, thank you.

VICTORIA RAMIREZ: Thank you.