S. E. Williams
This year millions of Californians are filing state and federal income tax returns—many for the very first time.
The process can appear complex and intimidating especially to those who have never filed a state or federal tax return. However, the tax filling process can be relatively simple and straightforward for a majority of tax filers. The key to a smooth filing experience is of course, preparation.
California has joined twenty-four other states and the federal government in offering an Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC). This is the first year Californians can file for this tax incentive, nationally recognized as one of the most successful federal programs to motivate and reward work while simultaneously helping to move families out of poverty.
CalEITC is a cash-back tax credit that puts money back into the pockets of the state’s working families and individuals. Depending on your number of qualifying children, you may qualify for the CalEITC if you earned less than $13,870 in 2015; you, your spouse and any qualifying children each have a Social Security Number that allows work in the United States; you do not use the “married/RDP (Registered Domestic Partner) filing separate” filing status; and, you lived in California for more than half of the 2015 tax year.
The most challenging aspect of filing to claim your cash-back tax credit is gathering the necessary documents. Here is what you need: Proof of income including W-2s (and 1099 for Federal EITC only); documentation of deductible expenses; an acceptable form of government identification (driver’s license, state issued Identification card, passport, etc.); Social Security Card for each family member; account and routing numbers for checking or savings accounts for direct deposit and a faster refund if available; Health Insurance Marketplace Statement (1095-A, B, and/or C); and, a copy of your 2014 tax return, if applicable.
Because both state and federal EITC credits are available this tax season, many Californians that qualify for CalEITC may likely also qualify for the Federal EITC. However, it is important to note those not eligible for the CalEITC may still be eligible for the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit. To check for CalEITC eligibility visit caleitc4me.org/know-it/. To determine if you are eligible for the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit visit caleitc4me.org/federal-earned-income-tax-credit/. If you think you may be eligible, you can use the CalEITC4Me Calculator at caleitc4me.org/earn-in to estimate your EITC amount.
CalEITC4Me is working to make the filing process as easy as possible for Californians to claim the state’s first ever Earned Income Tax Credit. Here is some additional great news—if you are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit or made $54,000 or less in 2015, you can get your tax returns filed for free. For more on how to file for free visit caleitc4me.org/get-it/.
The earlier you file, the sooner you will receive your return. Filing early is the best way to avoid the last minute rush. This year’s filing deadline is April 18, 2016.