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.
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.
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.
Once contents are removed, each envelope is passed over a light table and double-checked to make sure nothing is left behind.
Checks are separated from returns. At peak tax time, this massive department runs two shifts of 350 employees who collate returns.
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.
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.
Bad arithmetic keeps these people busy. Employees check taxpayer math and call to verify other information.
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.
Tax records are stored on these shelves for up to four years before being shredded and recycled.
Any document with identifying information is fed through a shredder before being recycled to protect privacy and prevent fraud.
Document security at the FTB is high, but once shredded, your documents are no longer considered a privacy risk.
A bale of shredded returns can weigh up to 1,500 pounds.
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.