California Inflation Relief Checks 101: What you need to know

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Millions of Californians are eagerly waiting for their “inflation relief” payments, aka Middle Class Tax Refund, as the October disbursement dates quickly approach.

Despite regular coverage about who will get payments, when they will go out and how much each person can expect to receive, many people are still looking to have those questions answered.

Fear not, we have you covered.

Here’s everything you need to know about upcoming inflation relief payments.

Who is eligible?

More than 20 million Californians can expect a new round of direct payments to hit their bank accounts this year.

In order to qualify for the new Middle Class Tax Refund, the California Tax Franchise Board says you must meet the following requirements:

You need to be a state resident at the time the payments go out. You also need to have been a resident of California for at least six months of the 2020 tax year.

Single filers making up to $250,000 and couples making up to $500,000 qualify for at least a partial payment.

In order to receive a payment, you must have filed your 2020 taxes by Oct. 15, 2021.

In order to qualify for the payment, you cannot have been eligible to be claimed as a dependent during the 2020 tax year.

Unlike the Golden State Stimulus program of 2021, which sent checks to millions of lower and middle-income Californians, this time around Californians who rely exclusively on social security, disability or other sources of public assistance as their source of income are eligible. For more details on that, click here.

Here’s how to confirm you qualify before payments are issued.

Who is ineligible?

Those whose adjusted gross income was $250,001 or higher as an individual, or $500,001 or higher as a joint filer, on their 2020 tax forms.

If you were late on your taxes and filed after Oct. 15, you generally do not qualify.

If you do not meet residency requirements, or if you are eligible to be claimed as a dependent during the 2020 tax year, you are disqualified from the refund.

This requirement could knock out young adults who may be on their own now, but were still dependents two years ago.

When will the payments go out?

The direct payments, which are part of an “inflation relief package” in California’s budget agreement, was finalized and signed by the governor in June.

The payments are set to start in late October, but you’ll want to keep an eye on your bank account. All payments should be issued by early next year.

How will the payments be disbursed?

California will issue the payments two ways: direct deposit and debit cards.

“Generally, if you filed electronically and received your 2020 tax refund by direct deposit, then you should get your payment the same way. Otherwise, you will receive your payment on a debit card,” the California Franchise Tax Board says.

Some examples of people who will receive their payments on a debit card and not via direct deposit, according to the FTB, are:

  • Taxpayers who filed a paper return
  • Taxpayers who received their 2020 tax refund by check
  • Taxpayers who had a balance due in 2020 
  • Taxpayers who received their Golden State Stimulus payment by check
  • Taxpayers who used their refund to pay their tax preparer fees
  • Taxpayers who received an advanced refund for the 2020 tax year

If any of those scenarios applies to you, a debit card with your refund will be sent to the address the FTB has on file. If you’ve moved since you filed your 2020 taxes, you can change your address on file on the FTB’s website, or by phone or mail. (See instructions from the FTB here.)

If you change your address, the FTB says that could slow down your return, so be patient.

How much can you expect to receive?

Payments will range from $200 to $1,050. The size of your check depends on your income, filing status and number of dependents.

To see how much you can expect in your inflation relief check, find your filing status below: individual, joint, head of household, or surviving spouse.

Individual tax filers

Gross income on 2020 taxes Without dependent With at least 1 dependent
$75,000 or less $350 $700
$75,001 to $125,000 $250 $500
$125,001 to $250,000 $200 $400

Joint tax filers

Gross income on 2020 taxes Without dependent With at least 1 dependent
$150,000 or less $700 $1,050
$150,001 to $250,000 $500 $750
$250,001 to $500,000 $400 $600

Head of household or surviving spouse

Gross income on 2020 taxes Without dependent With at least 1 dependent
$150,000 or less $350 $700
$150,001 to $250,000 $250 $500
$250,001 to $500,000 $200 $400

Individuals making more than $250,000 and joint filers or heads of households making more than $500,000 do not qualify for a tax refund.

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