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Many Happy Returns? Peak Tax Season At The Franchise Tax Board

Friday, April 15, 2016 | Permalink

An army of over 5,000 workers processed a total of nearly 18 million returns last tax season. With its own light rail stop, the massive 82-acre campus operates 16 hours a day. And in the last week before taxes are due, six million returns are expected, a million will be requests for extensions.

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Cordell Daniel empties a truck full of mail for sorting at the Franchise Tax Board on April 13, 2016. Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

 

Starting at 4:30 a.m., Franchise Tax Board trucks haul in carts of returns from the West Sacramento branch of the U.S. Post Office. Last year, 3.5 million returns passed through this loading dock.

 

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Jaquari Thomas moves unopened mail to be processed at the Franchise Tax Board on April 13, 2016. Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

 

In order to handle all the returns, the receiving department has two shifts, the first starts before 5:00 a.m. Workers deliver carts of returns to a machine that can open 30,000 small envelopes per hour. Another machine opens 12,000 large envelopes per hour. 

 

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Beck Untalasco inspects envelopes to make sure they have been completely emptied at the Franchise Tax Board on April 13, 2016. Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio
 

Once contents are removed, each envelope is passed over a light table and double-checked to make sure nothing is left behind.

 
FTB04_2859Myeisha Cummings separates checks from returns at the Franchise Tax Board on April 11, 2016. Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

 

Checks are separated from returns. At peak tax time, this massive department runs two shifts of 350 employees who collate returns.

 

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Rosa Ochoa scans tax returns at the Franchise Tax Board on April 11, 2016. Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

 

Once collated, each page of the return is scanned by machines that can process 8,000 pages an hour. Your return is now ready for human eyes.

 

FTB06_2950Jeff Utter checks documents for scanning errors at the Franchise Tax Board on April 11, 2016. Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

 

The FTB works from the scanned copy of your return, but before your arithmetic can be checked, employees look for and correct any errors in scanning.

 

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Returns are validated at the Franchise Tax Board on April 11, 2016. Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

 

Bad arithmetic keeps these people busy. Employees check taxpayer math and call to verify other information.

FTB08_2976Casey Alexander talks with taxpayers on the phone at the Franchise Tax Board on April 11, 2016. Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

 

Your phone calls end up here: the FTB call center. But don’t call them about your federal return, the FTB only handles questions about state taxes. If you’re too busy to wait on the line, they ‘ll call you back.

 

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Hong Ta sorts through boxes in a storage room at the Franchise Tax Board on April 13, 2016. Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

 

Tax records are stored on these shelves for up to four years before being shredded and recycled.

 

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Taylor Tye sifts through paper as it is loaded into a shredder at the Franchise Tax Board on April 13, 2016. Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

 

Any document with identifying information is fed through a shredder before being recycled to protect privacy and prevent fraud.

 FTB11_3587A conveyor belt moves shredded paper to a compactor at the Franchise Tax Board on April 13, 2016. Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

 

Document security at the FTB is high, but once shredded, your documents are no longer considered a privacy risk.

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Mark Rodriguez moves a bail of shredded paper at the Franchise Tax Board on April 13, 2016. Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

 

A bale of shredded returns can weigh up to 1,500 pounds.

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Mark Rodriguez readies a bail of shredded paper to be recycled from the Franchise Tax Board on April 13, 2016. Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

 

During peak times, the FTB compresses 20 bales of shredded documents per week. The bales are recycled off-site. Despite the popularity of electronic filing, which is handled by a data center, the FTB bustles each year processing paper returns. This year, you have three extra days to file. The deadline for California returns is April 18.

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Andrew Nixon

Multimedia Producer

Multimedia Producer Andrew Nixon illustrates CapRadio’s Web content with visual journalism including still photos and videos. He works in the news and information department, and on CapRadio’s documentary program, “The View From Here.”  Read Full Bio