California State Controller John Chiang offers this daily tax tracker to follow personal income taxes, sales and use taxes and corporate taxes -- the three major sources of revenue for the State.

The site will be updated regularly throughout each business day. Preliminary posts use dollar figures from tax administration agencies, while the following day the Controller will post reconciled (actual cash) figures. The latest figures are always available via direct download. Preliminary sales tax figures, along with personal income tax withholdings will be available by 10:30 a.m., followed by total personal income and corporate tax receipts, along with final sales tax numbers between 1:30 and 4:00 p.m. the same business day.

The chart on the right of this screen tracks the cumulative total of income, sales and corporate tax and compares it against estimated benchmarks for the month.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Slow crawl, or slither

While tax returns continue to trickle in, last year the FTB reported income tax collections of $5.5 billion in just two days, April 16 and 17.  For tax returns which come in the mail, the board must open the return, verify the tax calculations and deposit the checks.  Talk about a pig in a python!   How can FTB accurately and efficiently move so much tax information and tax dollars through its processing systems?   To give a perspective, if Franchise Tax Board were to process $1,000 of this total in each second starting at midnight on April 15, it would not complete the processing until June 18 at 4:00 PM.  

But, the state does not have the luxury of waiting until mid-summer to deposit its tax checks.  Thankfully, many taxpayers file tax returns electronically, so the electronic filing facilitates verification of returns and payment processing.  FTB also hires many seasonal workers to assist during the peak processing days for those returns filed through the mail.  Without the careful planning and professionalism of FTB staff, the python of tax processing would take much, much longer.

Each month, residents from around the West—from Hawaii, Alaska, Montana, Utah, Oregon, Washington and California--mail their quarterly income tax payments to a post office box in San Francisco.  Typically, these payments come from high-income taxpayers, including payments from software moguls, oil-rig engineers, Hollywood starlets and prairie rustlers.  From the San Francisco PO box, the IRS trucks the letters to Hayward for envelope opening, tax verifying and payment depositing.  What if, during the processing of those checks something really, really bad happened?  Something did on September 11, 2005:  The truck carrying these payments across the San Mateo bridge had a particularly nasty accident.  All 30,000 letters fell into the bay. The IRS recovered about half the letters.   What happened to the other letters?  Like Luca Brasi, 15,000 tax payments sleep with the fishes.  The IRS waived interest and penalties for the taxpayers whose returns remain in the bay.

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