Filing State Taxes in California

the california state flag

The state of California does collect personal income tax. If you live in California and/or earn income from a source in California, then you may need to file a California state income tax return.  

California’s standard deduction 

When you file a federal income tax return, you have the option to itemize or claim the federal standard deduction. When you file your California state income tax return, you can also choose between itemizing or taking the standard deduction. California’s standard deduction amounts are based on your filing status: 

Filing status Standard deduction amount (2019) 
Single, Married/Registered Domestic Partner filing separately $4,537 
Married filing jointly, head of household, qualified widow(er) $9,074 

Does someone claim you as a dependent? 

You can still take the CA standard deduction, but the amount you can claim may be smaller.  

California tax credits 

The state of California has several unique tax credits that can help taxpayers reduce their tax bill. Some of the credits are refundable and some are not. Here’s a look at the most important credits in your state and how to know if you qualify: 

California Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) 

The California EITC is a refundable credit that helps low-income residents reduce their state tax bill. If you don’t owe any taxes, the leftover credit amount can be added to your California state tax refund.  

The credit is worth up to $2,879. The amount you receive depends on your annual income and the number of dependents you claim. You can qualify for the California EITC even if you don’t have dependents.  

You can use the state of California’s EITC calculator to estimate how much credit you could receive.  

Young Child Tax Credit (YCTC) 

The YCTC was introduced in 2019. It is another refundable tax credit that helps low-income families with their tax bill. If you qualify for the EITC and you have at least one child under age six, you could claim up to $1,000 for the YCTC. 

Child adoption costs credit 

If you adopt a child, your state gives you a tax credit worth 50% of the related expenses. You can claim up to $2,500 per year. If this doesn’t cover the cost, you can carry forward the credit into the next year or years.  

Child and dependent care expenses credit 

This credit helps offset the costs of childcare or elder care if you are job-hunting, working, or in school full-time, and you have dependents who cannot care for themselves. There is a similar credit available on your federal taxes. If you claimed the federal child and dependent care tax credit, you can likely claim the credit on your California state return, too.  

The California child and dependent care expenses credit can be worth up to $3,000 if you have one dependent or $6,000 if you have two or more dependents. 

Dependent parent credit 

This credit is worth up to $484. To qualify, all of these things must be true:  

  • Your filing status must be married/registered domestic partner filing separately 
  • Your spouse or partner must not have lived with you the last 6 months of the year 
  • You must have paid for at least half of the household expenses for your parent 

If you claim the dependent parent credit on your California state tax return, you cannot also claim the joint custody head of household credit.  

Joint custody head of household credit 

If you have joint custody of a child, stepchild or grandchild, and you provide at least half of their financial support, you may qualify for this credit on your state return The maximum credit is worth $484. 

If you claim the joint custody credit on your California state tax return, you cannot also claim the dependent parent credit. 

Renter’s credit   

The California renter’s credit is a nonrefundable tax credit worth $60 – $120. The amount you receive depends on your filing status.   

To qualify for the California’s renter’s credit on this year’s CA state income tax return, all of the following must be true: 

  • You have paid rent in California for at least half of the year 
  • You file as single or separately, and you earned less than $42,932 in the state of California, OR you file as married, head of household, or qualified widow(er) and earned less than $85,864. 
  • You can’t be claimed as a dependent by anyone else living with you 

Other state tax credit   

If you earned income that was taxed by California and another state, you may be able to claim this credit for the amount paid to the other state. This way you aren’t taxed twice for the same income. 

California residents who work in Arizona 

California and Arizona have a reciprocity agreement. This means that residents are only required to file and pay income taxes to the state where they live – and not in the state where they work. As a California resident who works in Arizona, make sure your employer is not having Arizona income tax withheld from your paychecks. You will not need to file an Arizona state income tax return.  

If you were affected by a natural disaster 

Tax relief is available to those in need in the wake of devastating circumstances that are federally declared by the president and FEMA. If you live in one of these disaster areas, you may get additional time to file and pay certain taxes and do time-sensitive things like contributing to retirement accounts.  

You can find more information about tax relief in your area if you were affected by a disaster here.