Check's in the Mail -- State Tax Officials Refute Worries of Refund Delays

Reports that income tax refunds will be delayed are overblown, some states say.

ByABC News
March 12, 2010, 2:03 PM

March 12, 2010— -- There's no denying the multibillion-dollar budget gaps roiling state governments from Albany to Sacramento. But are reports of possible state income tax refund delays exaggerated?

At least a half dozen coffer-barren states, including New York, were reportedly considering freezing refunds as a way to offset cash flow problems, according to a story published Friday in USA Today, and which was picked up and displayed prominently by the Drudge Report, as well as by A similar state tax refund delay story ran earlier in the week on

But officials in New York insist that while there is currently a halt in the issuing of state refund checks, it is only for two more weeks, and only because the state cannot issue any more refunds until the new fiscal year starts on April 1.

By law, the state can only pay out a maximum of $1.25 billion in individual refunds in the current, 2009-2010, fiscal year, and that the cap, lowered by $500 million earlier this year, was reached.

"On April 1, we'll release that $500 million to around 700,000 individuals, with no other delays after that," Brad Maione, a spokesman for the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance told ABC News.

A spokesman for New York Gov. David Paterson's budget office explained that the idea of further delaying the payment of that $500 million had been considered as a way to free up cash to close a $9 billion budget shortfall, but the governor withdrew the idea. Paterson's spokesman deferred to Maione who stressed the refund money will be released April 1, as planned.

Meanwhile, in California, which currently faces around a $6 billion budget gap, the state controller, John Chiang, said earlier in the week that state tax refunds would not be delayed this year. California was forced to delay refunds last year.

Only four states, Alabama, Hawaii, Kansas and North Carolina have expressly indicated that tax refunds will or could possibly be delayed, according to Sujit CanagaRetna, senior fiscal analyst at The Council of State Governments.

Nine states have no state income tax: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.

Interviews with spokespeople and officials at many of the largest state taxation departments – including in states facing the most significant budget gaps – revealed a much less gloomier picture.