NewsTeam 10 Investigates


Audit approved for Middle-Class Tax Refund program

Middle-class tax refund
Posted at 6:21 PM, Mar 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-23 16:02:40-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — An audit will be performed on the Middle-Class Tax Refund program. That decision was made Wednesday morning during a meeting of the Joint Legislative Committee in Sacramento.

Team 10 has been following the issues with this one-time payment, speaking to Californians who either have not received the funds or who had the funds stolen from them. The money was given to millions of Californians to help with the tough economy.

 El Cajon resident Candy Brooks found out she did not get the money when she brought her documents to her tax preparer. He saw a 1099 form for the $700 she supposedly received.

 "We never got that in our bank account,” Brooks said.

Brooks said there was nothing deposited in her account. She never received a debit card either, like so many others received. She said getting in touch with the Franchise Tax Board was challenging.

“I would be waiting for a representative, and it would go, ‘goodbye.’” Brooks said. “I did it probably eight times.”

One FTB representative she eventually reached told her there were issues with direct deposits, and Brooks may have fallen into this category. She still has no answers as to what happened with her cash.

“They should be more accountable. Have a better system for helping us,” Brooks said.

Over the last few months, Team10 has heard from people like Brooks who are wondering what happened to their money.

Budd and Callie received a debit card, but they discovered someone else had used the funds before they could. They found six purchases made at stores in Long Beach at a Ross store and Game Stop. “They cleaned it out,” Callie said.

Wednesday, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee approved an audit of the program. The state auditor will move forward with examining the program’s problems.

Assemblymember David Alvarez, who chairs the committee, sent a letter in January requesting it. The request included identifying any computer or technological issues in delivering the refunds and assessing the prevalence of fraud. Alvarez’s request also included reviewing the contract between FTB and its vendor that produced debit cards. 

Team10 requested an updated statement from the FTB, including how much money was lost in the program and the number of complaints. Team10 also asked about the steps people should take if they cannot track down their funds. An FTB spokesperson said the agency is still working on a response.

The agency previously told Team10 under the terms of their “contract with Money Network, the vendor handling the MCTR debit cards, the debit card program is expected to run with less than a 1% fraud rate.”

“I want to know where the money is. If the government is saying they gave us the money and we haven’t received it, where is it?” Brooks said.

The IRS confirmed it will not tax this one-time payment.

Budd and Callie recently updated Team 10 and said roughly 70 days after they reported the theft, they finally got their money back.

An audit could take six months to perform approved audits, but the time frame is on a case-by-case basis, according to Alvarez’s spokesperson.