FTB Dishes out Penalties in Droves

If you’re familiar with the way the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) operates in the process of collecting delinquent taxes, then you know that they impose a bunch of different penalties.  There are some common sense penalties, like the penalty for filing late and the penalty for paying late. But there are some other more obscure FTB penalties that may surprise you:

1. Cost Recovery Fees

If the FTB has to do anything to collect the tax due (besides sending you a bill), then they are likely going to charge some sort of collection fee.  And when I say “anything,” I mean anything, such as filing a tax lien, seizing and selling property, intercepting a federal tax refund, filing enforcement, and even simply assigning your case to the collections department.  The fee is supposed to cover the theoretical costs of these revenue collection efforts and I’m sure are rarely commensurate with the actual collection costs.

2. Dishonored Payment Penalty

If your check bounces, or your FTB payment is otherwise rejected due to insufficient funds, then FTB will impose a $25 penalty.  If your payment is $1,250 or more, then the penalty is 2 percent of the payment amount.

3. Mandatory e-Pay Penalty

Certain large payments over $20,000, or payments made where the total tax liability exceeds $80,000, must be made electronically according to California law.  The California tax underpayment penalty imposed by the FTB is 1 percent penalty for failure to comply.

4. Demand to File Penalty

If you don’t file your tax return by the filing deadline, then FTB charges a 25 percent late filing penalty.  If you still do not file after FTB demands that you file, then they will impose a 25 percent penalty on top of the initial failure to file penalty.  This is particularly brutal because they can actually impose penalties and interest even if your tax return shows that a refund is due!

5. Estimated Tax Penalty

This is the penalty imposed  for failure to pay an estimated tax installment.  It also applies when you pay late or underpay.

6. Post-Amnesty Penalty

Taxpayers who have been granted amnesty for any particular tax year must not subsequently owe any new or additional tax, otherwise… you guessed it, another penalty.

More than half of Stanislaus’ FTB non-filers live in Modesto

The Franchise Tax Board is beginning its annual force filing season. Haven’t heard of force filing season? If you are one of the million plus people that the FTB is currently investigating, you will soon.

Force filing season is where a taxing government seeks to file an estimated tax return for you, when the government did not receive a tax return from you. The procedure is a profitable one. Last year the FTB collected more than $715 million through its force filing investigation and assessment efforts.

Since we’re now in tax season, the FTB knows that you should be thinking about your taxes. So, this is the time of year that the Franchise Tax Board notifies taxpayers that it didn’t receive a tax return from a particular tax payer and that it believes that a tax return should have been filed.

If you live in Stanislaus County, in Modesto particularly, you may need to contact a Modesto tax attorney in short time. Of the 6,696 Stanislaus taxpayers that the FTB is investigating, 3,570 of them live in Modesto. That’s more than half of the Stanislaus taxpayers that will likely need a Modesto tax attorney.

The first step in the force filing investigation is for the Franchise Tax Board to identify social security numbers where a tax return was not received by the tax return deadline. The FTB then compares those social security numbers to information provided by banks, employers, local governments, the IRS, and other third parties. If the Franchise Tax Board believes that you were required to file a California tax return, but did not do so, you will receive a tax return demand letter.

So if you are one of the 3,570 Modesto residents that recently received one of these tax demand letters, or one of the remaining 3,126 who live elsewhere in Stanislaus County, you have a potential tax debt looming. Our Modesto tax law firm may be able to help you. Speak directly to one of our Modesto tax attorneys by calling us at (209) 248-7157.

California FTB frustrated the poop out of someone this week

Are you frustrated with California’s Franchise Tax Board? The Sacramento tax collectors at the Franchise Tax Board must have frustrated, or possibly scared the poop out of someone recently with their collection efforts. For obvious reasons, in a story not widely publicized this week, someone recently took FTB tax relief to a lower level.

Earlier this week a package sent to the Sacramento FTB office containing a brown liquid with a strong odor required the Sacramento Metro Fire Department to be summoned. Franchise Tax Board personnel, possibly working to assess and collect taxes against the sender of the anonymous package, had to emerge from the bowels of their Sacramento taxing office as a level two hazmat emergency caused an evacuation. The cause … dog poop!

Based on the stress and sleepless nights caused by FTB tax audits and Franchise Tax Board tax collections, I’m surprised it was only dog poop that was sent. Apparently, you can order a variety of crap through the internet. Literally, ranging from elephant crap to cow dung.

Obviously, these types of tax relief tactics are not tax relief at all. They’re a useless waste of time and dangerous. The sender will also likely be in more trouble now than they would have been had they used actual tax law strategy to resolve a tax problem and build a collection defense. Using legitimate legal means to resolve a tax debt will often relieve the stress caused by the taxing agency whether it’s the FTB or the Internal Revenue Service.

IA Eligibility Requirements

Who is eligible to pay back taxes to the California Franchise Tax Board via an installment agreement?  It can be a little complicated.

It’s difficult not to compare FTB and IRS collection tactics.  Both almost always first demand/request payment in full.  The collection notices are worded in a way that if you don’t read beyond the first sentence, it will appear that full payment is your only option.  And when you call them up, that’s the first thing out of their mouth.  IRS will usually say “Do you have the ability to pay your tax bill in full?” If you cannot write them a check, then the discussion typically shifts to what is required for an installment agreement.  However, the FTB will often (at least at first) demand full payment without regard for your ability to pay and then very reluctantly tiptoe around the option of paying back your taxes in installments.

The eligibility requirements for an FTB installment agreement are more stringent than the IRS requirements.  First and foremost, it is very difficult to obtain an installment agreement with FTB if you have an active earnings withholding order (EWO).  An EWO is just another word for “wage garnishment” or “wage levy.”  Once the FTB has brandished this collection tool, and they have a steady stream of payments coming in, it is very difficult to convince them that they should trade these “guaranteed” payments for a promise to pay from the taxpayer.

Like the IRS, the FTB does require that all back tax returns have been filed so there is no question as to how much is owed.  Also, like the IRS, FTB requires that the entire tax debt be paid off within a specified time frame.  They give as much as 60 months for some tax debts, but only 36 months for others.  The IRS will allow a full 72 months for tax debts under $50,000.

Both FTB and IRS recognize certain events that will cause an installment agreement to default.  Some of these events include (a) failure to make timely payments, (b) failure to timely file a future tax return, and (c) incurring a new tax debt.

Whether you owe FTB or IRS (or both) it would be a mistake to think that you can always just request an installment agreement to avoid enforced collection action.  It’s not always that simple.

Tax Gap Widening in California

I’m posting this video partly for the rare glimpse inside the California Franchise Tax Board.  Can somebody who works at FTB help me to understand what all those aqua colored contraptions are for?  It looks like they may be used to sort mail, but for all I know, they are the machines that actually assist in processing our state returns.

The actual story reported in this video clip is that more and more Californians are not paying their taxes and that this impacts all residents of the state either directly or indirectly.  The tax gap in California has nearly doubled in the past few years, according to the report.  Jerome Horton, spokesperson for FTB, is quoted saying that the state sees people who fail to pay their taxes as criminals.  The report naively lumps honest taxpayers with unpaid tax debt into the same category as tax evaders.  I would like to say that this the reporter’s error, but it definitely appears that Horton shares this view.

California Tax News

Today the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) announced that it is now accepting 2011 state tax returns.

California is falling in line with the federal government as far as the 2012 filing deadline. You must have your tax return postmarked no later than Tuesday, April 17th for it to be considered timely.  The standard filing deadline is April 15th, but that falls on a Sunday this year. And Monday, April 16th is Emancipation Day, A District of Columbia holiday, which has the same effect as a national holiday when it comes to tax deadlines.  But even though the April filing deadline is the 17th, the extension deadline will still be October 15th for federal tax returns.

  • The top individual tax rate in California decreased from 9.55 percent to 9.3 percent.
  • The standard deduction increased from $3,670 to 3,769 (increase from $7,340 to $7,538 for joint filers)
  • The dependent exemption credit increased from $99 to $315 per dependent (personal exemption increased from $99 to $102 and from $198 to $204 for joint or surviving spouses)
  • Child and dependent care expense credit is worth up to $1,125 for those who qualify