It’s that time of year again. The time when the Franchise Tax Board sends out its 4600 Notices, “Request for Tax Return,” the bane of snowbirds and other part-time residents of California, especially those with vacation homes. And a potential trap for the unwary.
What is a 4600 Notice?
A 4600 Notice is sent by the FTB because it believes the recipient, usually a nonresident, was required to file a California tax return, but didn’t. The notice usually goes out a month or two after the April 15 tax filing deadline, but it can show up any time after that, even years later. There is no statute of limitations. As a practical matter, however, the FTB generally sends the notice within a short period after the tax filing deadline or not at all. That’s because, as explained below, the notice is usually triggered by information provided by third parties (such as banks, mortgage lenders, employers) in the same tax year at issue.
The notice requires you to file a return, or explain why you are exempt. It’s usually directed at nonresidents, who for various reasons discussed below, have the misfortune of popping up on the FTB’s radar scope.
Why did you get a 4600 Notice?
When I say the FTB believes a nonresident was supposed to file a California tax return, I’m speaking metaphorically. 4600 Notices are mostly sent out through an automated system. No thinking is involved. The typical scenario goes like this. You’re a nonresident who doesn’t file a California tax return because you don’t live in California and didn’t have any California source income. But you do have a mortgage on your vacation home, or a small local bank account that bears interest, or you work remotely for a California firm which for convenience sake uses your local address for correspondence. As a result, the bank, lender or employer sends a Form 1099 INT (bank interest) or Form 1098 (mortgage interest) or a Form W-2 (wage income) to Sacramento with your name and local address on it. Come April 15th, FTB computers cross-reference these “information returns” with filed tax returns. When nothing comes up, a 4600 Notice issues.