California State Income Tax Overview

California is one of the many states that has a state income tax.  State income tax is of course a tax paid to the state that is calculated separately from federal income tax.

Below is basic information about filing state income tax for California.

taxes

Who Has to File?

There are three situations where people have to pay state income tax in California:

Residents

If you are a resident of California, then you must pay state income tax if either your gross income or adjusted gross income (AGI) is more than the lower limit for the tax year.  For the tax year ended December 31, 2011, the lower limit is as follows:

Filing Status Age as of January 1, 2012 California Gross Income California Adjusted Gross Income
Dependents Dependents
0 1 2 or more 0 1 2 or more
Single or head of household Under 65 $15,152 $25,652 $33,527 $12,122 $22,622 $30,497
65 or older $20,252 $28,127 $34,427 $17,222 $25,097 $31,397
Married filing jointly or separately Under 65 (both spouses) $30,305 $40,805 $48,680 $24,244 $34,744 $42,619
65 or older (one spouse) $35,405 $43,280 $49,580 $29,344 $37,219 $43,519
65 or older (both spouses) $40,505 $48,380 $54,680 $34,444 $42,319 $48,619
Qualifying widow(er) Under 65 N/A $25,652 $33,527 N/A $22,622 $30,497
65 or older N/A $28,127 $34,427 N/A $25,097 $31,397
Dependent of another person(any filing status) Under 65 More than your standard deduction
65 or older More than your standard deduction

Your gross income should include any income earned worldwide.

Partial-Year Residents

If you are a resident of California for only part of the year, you must file a state income tax return if you have California-taxable income (which includes your income while a resident of California plus your income from California sources while you are not a resident) and your total income from all sources exceeds the amounts outlined above for California residents.

Non-Residents

If you are not a resident of California for any part of the year but you have any income from a California source, you must file a state income tax if your total income from all sources exceeds the amounts outlined above for California residents.

When Do You Have to File?

For the tax year ended December 31, 2011, the filing date for California state income tax is April 17, 2012.  You can automatically obtain a six-month extension when you cannot file by April 17 if you request the extension and pay an estimate of the state income tax you owe, if any, before April 17.

How Do You File?

There are three ways to file and pay California state income tax:

  • File online and submitting a payment for any state income tax due using California’s Web Pay system
  • File online and pay using a credit card through California’s web site
  • File your return by mail and submit payment by check along with form FTB 35319g

Tax Assistance

Keep in mind the information above is general in nature and should not be considered legal advice for your specific situation.  You should always speak with a tax attorney if you have questions or need help filing your state income tax return, one who is familiar with California state income tax laws and can provide guidance based on your specific tax situation.

by Mark Johnston

Mark has been a contributor to legal web sites related to bankruptcy, tax, and criminal law since 2011. He has an Accounting degree from Texas A&M University.