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Call Kurtis Investigates: "The state stole my tax refund."

Carmichael man says state stole his tax refund
Carmichael man says state stole his tax refund 02:59

CARMICHAEL – Eric Stevens planned to buy his 90-year-old mom a wheelchair with his tax refund.

"She's been bedbound ever since she broke her foot," Stevens said.

Instead, he got a lousy piece of paper from the Franchise Tax Board saying they intercepted $1,483 — his entire tax refund.

"I'm sitting there literally trying to take care of mom, and then I'm wound up being stolen from," he said.

The state swiped his entire tax refund over someone else's debt to the DMV. 

"It does feel like they stole your money. No reason, no rationale. You can't find out why in any timely manner, which makes you even that much more frustrated," Stevens said.

Sound familiar?

"You just can't reach into somebody's pocket and take their money," Pedro Dominguez told is in a prior story.

Another viewer who had his money taken in 2017 told us, "I feel as if you're putting a gun to me and robbing me".

The Franchise Tax Board serves as a collection agency for more than 600 local government agencies.

We've been telling you since 2017 that they sometimes raid the wrong people's money.

"It borders on criminal activity in my opinion," said Randy Settlemire of Paso Robles.

In Eric Stevens' most recent case, the Franchise Tax Board took his refund because he shared a name with a guy who owed the DMV money.

The DMV says it submitted accurate info to the Franchise Tax Board for the person who really did owe it.

"You can't just go by names," Stevens said who worked for decades as an IT employee with the California Department of Justice.

"Being the chief technology officer, I would have been thrown up against the wall. If I'd put up an interface like this," Stevens said. "They would tell me that you failed."

We've uncovered, since 2017, that the state has taken money in error 721 times. The state points out that is an error rate of less than .01 percent.

Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has told us in our prior investigations that it's the job of the Franchise Tax Board (FTB) to protect taxpayer's money.

"Maybe the FTB should not be involved in this process of being a collection agency for local governments."

The FTB told us, "Regrettably, a manual processing error occurred on this account, which caused the wrong taxpayer to be associated to the liability. To prevent future errors, FTB is providing additional training to ensure employees follow established procedures."

Since we started investigating, the FTB does say it's made improvements and enhancements to the programs including clearer language in the language on what to do if you disagree with the intercept and improved the "data match process", to make sure the right person is getting targeted.

Yet, those improvements didn't help Eric Stevens. Although, much like the other viewers we told you about, he too now has his refund, and his mom has her wheelchair.

"There's got to be a better way that you can make this system work. There has to be, and if you don't have it, then don't. Then stand down," Stevens said.

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