About $840 million in a state tax rebate program has gone unclaimed by Californians who were mailed debit cards last year containing their share of the Middle Class Tax Refund.
As of April 1, 17% of the 9.6 million cards have yet to be activated, the Franchise Tax Board told GV Wire.
The state’s vendor, Money Network, has started sending out reminder letters to taxpayers who have not yet activated their cards, the tax board said. As of the end of March, Money Network had sent out about 766,000 reminder letters, with more to go out in April and May, the board said.
The debit cards must be activated before April 2026.
The goal of the Middle Class Tax Refund was to help Californians who were struggling last year with higher costs due to inflation, including higher gasoline prices.
About 7.2 million California taxpayers who had filed their 2020 tax returns electronically or received a direct deposit refund on their 2020 taxes got the tax rebate deposited directly into their bank accounts. The Franchise Tax Board said that amount totaled about $4 billion.
For 9.6 million other California taxpayers, refunds totaling $5.2 billion went out on debit cards mailed last year.
Scam? Confusion? Not All Cards Activated
Even though the state trumpeted the program when it was approved, postings on social media sites indicated that there was a fair amount of confusion over the program. Some people called it a “scam,” and others reported that their cards arrived with the funds already withdrawn
Some people thought it was an unwanted credit card offer and tossed the debit card into the trash, even though the cards were mailed in an envelope that prominently displayed the following: “Not a bill or advertisement. Important information about your Middle Class Tax Refund.”
The refund program is open to taxpayers whose annual income in 2020 was less than $500,000, and the rebate was on a sliding scale. Lower-income taxpayers with dependents could receive a rebate of up to $1,050, while higher-income, single people might receive only $200.
For those people who have procrastinated on filing their income tax returns for 2022, there’s good news: The Middle Class Tax Refund does not need to be declared as taxable income, the IRS has determined.
And, in more good news for late tax filers, residents in California counties hit hard by the weather or flooding won’t have to file with the IRS or state until Oct. 16, 2023.
If you think you are eligible for a tax refund but haven’t received a debit card or a reminder letter, you can call Money Network at this number: (800) 240-0223.
For frequently asked questions about the rebate program, call (800) 542-9332 or go to the Franchise Tax Board refund program website.