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What if you can't pay your California income tax bill?

With the holidays over and the arrival of the new year, our attention turns to a topic much less festive and heartwarming.

Income taxes.

Those W-2 and 1099 forms will be arriving shortly, and it will be time to file your tax returns soon enough. We can hope to get a refund from both Uncle Sam and the State of California, but it doesn't always happen that way.

Let's focus just on the state taxes. What if you owe the state and just can't pay?

The California Franchise Tax Board might be willing to work with you.

The first thing the tax collectors advise is filing, even if you can't pay. If you don't file, the Franchise Tax Board won't have the facts and figures needed to work with you to settle the debt. On top of that, you could be charged interest and penalty fees.

If you have financial difficulties and can't pay the tax bill, the Franchise Tax Board will allow you to fill out its installment agreement request form to file for a chance to make payments.

You typically will get an answer to your request within 30 days. If you have bad credit, you might not qualify without presenting additional financial documentation.

If you are approved for an installment plan, the state will want the funds paid to them via an electronic transfer. And yes, interest will accrue.

An attorney who works with taxes can help you from start to finish with your income taxes. The attorney can be particularly helpful in helping you state your case to the California Franchise Tax Board if you need to apply for an installment agreement to pay your tax bill.

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