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Many California Tax Refund Debit Cards Have Still Not Been Activated

Despite more than 9.5 million debit cards being sent to eligible Californians, millions of dollars in benefits remain unspent.

By Kelley R. Taylor, Kiplinger Consumer News Service (TNS)

California’s Middle Class Tax Refund (MCTR) program provided eligible Californians with one-time inflation relief payments. The California “stimulus” payments began two years ago and continued until January last year. However, despite more than 9.5 million debit cards containing refund money being sent to eligible Californians, data show millions of dollars in benefits remain unspent.

As a result, the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) has urged residents to activate their MCTR debit cards to access this financial aid. 

Here’s more of what you need to know.

Unspent California inflation relief

The California MCTR was created to assist middle-class families with high housing costs, healthcare, and everyday necessities. 

  • Eligible California residents automatically received relief payments between October 2022 and January 2023. 
  • MCTR payments typically ranged from $200 to $1,050, with the exact amount based on income, filing status, and number of dependents.

California sent funds to residents through direct deposit or MCTR debit cards. FTB data indicates that 9.6 million debit cards were distributed, but millions in unspent benefits reportedly remain because many debit cards have yet to be activated. (According to a March 7 audit report, “more than one million debit cards, worth approximately $611 million in payments, had not yet been activated by their recipients as of January 2024.”)

To address this, the FTB reminds residents to activate their MCTR debit cards. The agency also encourages those who haven’t received their cards to contact the agency to ensure they get their MCTR benefits.

Some residents might not know the funds on the cards can be transferred to a bank account of their choice. The FTB also points out that the MCTR debit cards are valid for three years from the date of issuance.

Unused California Middle Class Tax Refund: What to Do

According to the FTB, if you received a MCTR debit card and have not activated it, you may have received or will receive an activation reminder letter with instructions on how to do so. 

If you need assistance with activation, replacement, or lost or stolen MCTR cards, call 1-800-240-0223.

If you have not received your debit card and believe you are eligible, ensure your address is updated with FTB. Visit the FTB’s Help with the Middle Class Tax Refund page for instructions on updating your address.

Is California MCTR taxable?

The FTB says the MCTR payment is not taxable for California state income tax purposes. Also, as Kiplinger reported, the IRS announced last year that it would not tax California Middle Class Tax Refunds at the federal level.


All contents copyright 2024 The Kiplinger Washington Editors Inc. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency LLC.