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Cents and sensibility: Lessen the stress of taxes

By Kelley Atherton

By Kelley Atherton

Triplicate staff writer

For all those early birds, January is the time to start thinking about tax season. Preparing taxes can be a daunting task, but the Franchise Tax Board has released tax tips for Californians.

Estimate taxes beforehand

By using the tax calculator available at the FTB's Web site www.ftb.ca.gov Calif-ornians can estimate taxes well in advance of the dreaded April 15 deadline. This can help project how much tax payers owe or will be receiving from the state. For those who are filing as "witheld," they will have extra time to make added tax payments sooner rather than later. To make tax payments online, FTB has a pay service on its Web site.

Check estimated payments

Claiming the wrong estimated tax payments is the most common error made on state tax returns. To avoid this, check estimated payments on FTB's Web site. My FTB Account will be made available Jan. 2.

Get organized

Another good tip is to get organized. Collect receipts and tax documents now to be ready when it comes time to file. Items to collect include last year's tax return, receipts for charitable contributions and car registration. Tax forms such as W-2s and 1099s usually come sometime in January.

E-mail reminders

FTB's Web site offers an e-mail reminder of when to file. This reminder also contains links to other information that makes filing easier, such as e-filing, tips to avoid making common mistakes and what to do if there's not enough money to pay off taxes.

Find a tax professional

In 2007, 68 percent of tax payers used a professional accountant to prepare their taxes.

•Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) and Public Accountants are licensed by the California Board of Accountancy. To locate a CPA, call the California Society of CPAs at (800) 922-5272 or visit www.calcpa.org.

•Enrolled agents are licensed by the federal government. Find one by contacting the California Society of Enrolled Agents at (800) 829-7765 or www.csea.org.

•Tax preparers are registered with the California Tax Education Council. To find one call (877) 850-2832 or www.ctec.org.

Some Del Norte residents might be receiving some tax relief for 2008. The U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 4351 to extend the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) relief and expand the Child Tax Credit on Dec. 13.

U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., voted for immediate tax relief for 23 million people under the AMT. This includes 42,000 residents in California's 1st Congressional District. The AMT Relief Act is completely paid for, it will not add to the national debt.

The bill extends one-year AMT relief for nonrefundable personal credits and increases the AMT exemption to $66,250 for joint-filers and $44,350 for single-filers. This bill also expands the child tax credit, lowering eligibility to $8,500.

Reach Kelley Atherton at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

 
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