Extensions, credits, free filing: Here’s what Sonoma County residents need to know for doing taxes this year
The April 18 deadline to file taxes is just around the corner for most Americans, but the impact of strong winter storms across California has pushed the deadline to October for those affected.
But when it comes to the annual filing, some Sonoma County residents aren’t taking advantage of credits available to them.
Data from the California Policy Lab shows that 56% of Sonoma County residents were eligible but didn’t claim the California Earned Income Tax Credit in 2021, leaving $573,788 of these credits for low- to moderate-income residents unclaimed.
The data also found that 92% of eligible Californians who filed taxes and claimed the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit, but not the California Earned Income Tax Credit, used an in-person, paid tax preparer.
“People are really hurting financially ... and things are getting more expensive,” said Mandy Nand, economic mobility program manager of United Ways of California.
“A tax credit is going to help reduce what you owe back and then it’s going to put more money in your pocket.”
Here’s what else Sonoma County residents need to know about filing taxes this year.
Tax deadline extensions
After the winter storms in December and January, the Franchise Tax Board extended the filing and payment deadline for the state’s 2022 tax year to Oct. 16 for impacted Californians, including those in Sonoma, Marin, Mendocino and Lake counties.
A news release from the state said this move aligns California with the Biden administration, which announced that the IRS also extended tax deadlines for Californians’ federal tax submissions to Oct. 16.
“As communities across the state continue recovering from the damage caused by the winter storms, California is working swiftly to help recovering Californians get back on their feet,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in the release.
Claiming storm loss
Sonoma County taxpayers can also get a deduction for disaster loss when filing either an original or amended 2022 state tax return, according to the state’s website.
Those filing a physical return should write the name of the disaster — in this case it would be “Disaster: Severe Winter Storms” — in black or blue ink at the top of their tax return to inform the Franchise Tax Board.
Taxpayers filing electronically should follow program instructions to enter disaster information on their return.
The prices of basic essentials increased throughout 2022, with the price hikes making it more difficult for some Sonoma County residents to buy groceries or pay rent and bills.
Many qualified Sonoma County taxpayers are unaware of tax credits and free file programs that can help ease the stress of tax season, Nand said.
A tax credit is a dollar amount that qualifying taxpayers can directly subtract from the taxes they owe, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the child tax credit.
There are a wide range of tax credits, including for earned income, the number of children in a household and for being a full-time student.
The Foster Youth Tax Credit is one of the newer tax credits, created for current or former foster youth who were between the ages of 18 and 25 at the end of the 2022 tax year.
A full guide to available tax credits can be found on United Ways’ website.
Nand said taxpayers miss out on hundreds of dollars simply because they don’t know how to access them.
“We don't want people to forfeit a portion of that refund ... which is why we focus so heavily across the state and helping people file their taxes for free,“ Nand said.
“They (volunteer income tax assistance and free tax prep programs) are fully aware of all of the tax credits that are available to us and they're going to make sure they get every single tax credit that belongs to you.“
Nand said the self-filing option for taxpayers will have instructions on how to double-check for tax credits taxpayers are eligible for. In-person and virtual help preparers through United Ways will also know whether tax credits can be applied.