How to File Income Taxes in California

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Filing California state taxes doesn't have to be stressful.
Filing California state taxes doesn't have to be stressful. (Image: Calculator image by Alhazm Salemi from Fotolia.com)

California residents use Form 540, 540A or 540 2EZ to file their state taxes. Form 540 2EZ is the shortest and simplest of the three and has the most stringent requirements for use; there are restrictions on filing status, number of dependents, income sources and deductions allowed. Form 540, with no restrictions and open to all taxpayers, is the longest and most involved of the three options. Form 540A has a few restrictions, including some on income sources, deductions and credits allowed, and is simpler than Form 540.

Things You'll Need

  • Tax form
  • Postage supplies
  • Computer with Internet connection

File by Mail

Complete the appropriate California tax form. Forms can be filled in and printed from California Franchise Tax Board’s website and printed, or a paper form can be completed by hand.

Attach your federal tax form if required. Taxpayers who complete Form 540A do not attach their federal form. Form 540 filers only attach the federal form if they are itemizing on the state return but not the federal form, or if they filed any federal schedule other than A, B, L or M.

Mail form to the following address if you owe additional taxes. Include a check or money order in amount owed, or pay online.

Franchise Tax Board PO Box 942867 Sacramento CA 94267-0001

Mail form to the following address if you have no additional taxes or are due a refund.

Franchise Tax Board PO Box 942840 Sacramento CA 94240-0002

e-File

Determine the service for which you are eligible. California Franchise Tax Board’s (FTB) website offers two free options. ReadyReturn is restricted to only taxpayers who have one employer, no credits, fewer than five dependents and are single or head of household. CalFile offers more expanded eligibility requirements, allowing 6.4 million taxpayers to qualify, according to the FTB.

Log on to the California FTB website. Navigate to appropriate ReadyReturn of CalFile page and sign in.

Complete necessary tax forms. Submit them with information to pay additional taxes due or receive refund.

Tips & Warnings

  • Taxpayers who complete forms to be mailed in must use blue or black ink. Third-party tax preparation software or websites may offer the capability of e-filing for those that don't qualify for either FTB program.
  • Revisions to Forms 540 and 540A have resulted in renumbering with sequence gaps. For example, the line after 19 is number 31.

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