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California has $28 million in unclaimed state tax refunds

Attention Golden State shoppers, your state tax collector might have some cash that could make your holiday gift buying easier.

Pile of Benjamins

The California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) says this past year it got back more than 49,000 personal income tax refunds that the U.S. Postal Service couldn't deliver.

Those tens of thousands of tax checks total $28 million. The money is just waiting for its rightful owners to claim their portion of it.

Most of the returned refunds, says the FTB, went to taxpayers who moved but didn't let the state tax office know their new addresses.

The FTB suggests Californians who think they might be due the money use the online refund status check tool. If you find you do have a refund waiting, all you have to do is enter your correct mailing address. The FTB then will resend the money.

You also can call FTB toll-free at (800) 852-5711.

And for future filings, FTB says consider using direct deposit of your tax refund.

More than just tax money: It's not just tax money that goes unclaimed every year. Almost every state ends up with cash, real property and other assets that they would like to return to the owners.

Here is how the Comptroller of Public Accounts in my home state of Texas answers some frequently asked questions about unclaimed property and how it is handled:

What is unclaimed property? Unclaimed property is any financial asset that has been abandoned by the owner for one or more years. Some examples of property that can become abandoned are:

  • Dividend, payroll or cashier's checks
  • Stocks, mutual fund accounts, bonds
  • Utility deposits and other refunds
  • Bank accounts and safe deposit box contents
  • Insurance proceeds
  • Mineral interest or royalty payments
  • Court deposits, trust funds, escrow accounts

Why does it come to the State? The unclaimed property law requires financial institutions, businesses, and government entities to report to the state, personal property they are holding that is considered abandoned or unclaimed.

Is there a time limit for claiming my property? No, the Comptroller's office acts only as custodian for the missing owners, holding the property in trust until it is claimed. Texas never takes legal ownership of the property, so there is no time limit for filing a claim.

You can check directly with your state's revenue office. If it's not in charge of the unclaimed property, it can direct you to the proper department.

Online clearinghouse: Or you can go to MissingMoney.com. This website has deals with most states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Alberta, Canada, to help connect owners with the missing assets.

Once there, you can check your state's unclaimed property database by clicking on your state.

MissingMoney database Map

The map above won't take you directly to your state, but clicking on it will take you to MissingMoney's searchable map.

Check it out. You might just be able to add to your holiday spending budget.

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