California Tax Filing

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How to file your California taxes

California has some online services for its taxpayers: an electronic filing system (CalFile) and a program that lets taxpayers visualize a pre-filled tax return and afterwards file it electronically (Ready Return). Both of these programs are operated by the California Franchise Tax Board (otherwise known as FTB) and are free for people who fulfill certain requirements.

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California Tax Forms

Determine Your Residency Status

The way you pay taxes in California depends on your residency status, so check below to see which category you fall in.

You Are a California Resident

Are you a resident of California? If yes, and you earn taxable income above a certain limit (specified in the Instructions for Form 540/540A which you can download above), you have to file a tax return with California. To do that, use Form 540.

How do you know if you have to file with California and what income you have to declare and how high the taxes are? There are several criteria taken into account: age, marital status, plus some exceptions that you can claim. For more details, see the Instructions for Form 540/540A which you can download above.

Form 540 has two simpler versions, Form 540 2EZ and Form 540A. To file one of these returns, you need to meet certain requirements (check the Instructions for Form 540/540A and Form 520 2EZ, available for download above, for more information on which you may use).

You Are a Part-Year California Resident

If you lived part of the year in California, there are two situations in which you have to file a tax return: if you earned more than $11,698 from California sources, or if you made at least $14,622 from any source (including California, but not exclusively).

California taxes any income you earned while you were a resident, but also income from Californian sources whether you were a resident or not. If you are married and file jointly, remember that if either of you is a part-year resident, you, as a couple, have to file the California part-year tax return.

In order to file a part-year resident tax return in California, fill in Form 540NR.

You Are a California Resident Who Works in a Different State

If you are a California resident and work in a different state, you have to fill out Form 540 to file your taxes with California. However, if you work in a different state you might be taxed by that state as well. In order to avoid dual taxation, ask for a tax credit from the state of California by filing California Schedule S and attaching it to your Form 540.

You Are a Nonresident Who Worked or Sold Property in California

If you are not a resident of California, but worked there, you need to file a tax return for the income you earned there (for example salaries or wages). You have to file your tax return with California if you had any type of taxable income in this state, including income from the sale of property. If you get a salary or wage from a Californian job, use Form 540NR Short to submit your return. You can find out more information on how to file a nonresident return in California by looking at FTB Publication 1100 available for download above.