California Tax Refund – Claim Deadline, Eligibility, Status, Processing Time 

California tax E-filed returns typically take up to three weeks for processing, while paper returns may take up to six weeks to process refunds. The deadline to claim unclaimed tax refunds for tax year 2020 is May 17, 2024

California Tax Refund

You can expect your refund within two weeks if you filed electronically and opted for direct deposit. Processing paper returns takes longer. You can expect to wait four weeks or even up to three months in some cases.

You have four years from the original due date (usually April 15th) to claim a California tax refund or one year from the overpayment date, whichever is later. 

Due to COVID-19, the deadline for unclaimed 2020 tax refunds is extended to May 17, 2024, giving taxpayers more time. This is an extension of the usual three-year window due to COVID-19.

California Tax Refund Eligibility 

The eligibility factors that determine the california tax refund are:

  • Filing a Tax Return: You must file a California tax return to be eligible for a refund, even if you didn’t owe any taxes.
  • Overpayment: To receive a refund, you need to have overpaid your California income taxes. This can happen due to:
    • Withholding too much tax from your paycheck throughout the year
    • Claiming tax credits or deductions that reduce your tax liability
  • Tax Brackets: California has a progressive tax system with nine tax brackets. The higher your income, the higher the tax rate you pay. 
  • So, people in lower tax brackets are more likely to have overpaid taxes and thus be eligible for a refund.
  • Tax Credits: Certain tax credits are geared towards low- and middle-income earners. Claiming these credits can significantly reduce your tax liability and potentially lead to a refund. Some examples include:
    • California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC)
    • Young Child Tax Credit
    • renter’s credit

California Tax Refund Status 

The Franchise Tax Board (FTB) offers a convenient online portal to check the status of your California tax refund, you may go through the step-by-step instructions to do so.

  • Visit the FTB’s “Where’s My Refund?” Website at
  • On the webpage, locate the section labelled “Check Your Refund” and enter the following details:
    • Your Social Security number (SSN) or ITIN.
    • Your zip code.
    • The exact amount of your expected refund.
  • Once you’ve entered all the required information, click the button labelled “Check Refund”.
  • The website will display the current status of your California tax refund. 
  • The “Where’s My Refund?” tool is typically available 24/7. 
  • It’s best to wait at least two weeks after electronically filing your return or four weeks after mailing a paper return before checking your refund status.

Processing Time for California Tax Refunds

The waiting time for your California tax refund depends on two key factors:

  • Filing Method: Whether you filed your return electronically (e-filed) or by mail (paper return).
  • Errors or Additional Verification: If your return is error-free and doesn’t require further verification by the FTB.

E-filed Returns:

  • Generally: Expect your refund within two weeks if you filed electronically and opted for direct deposit. This is the fastest method.

Paper Returns:

  • Processing Time: Processing paper returns takes significantly longer. You can expect to wait for four weeks or even up to three months in some cases.

Factors Affecting Your California Tax Refund

Several factors can influence how quickly you receive your California tax refund. These include:

  • Filing Method: Electronically filed returns are processed significantly faster than paper returns. 
  • E-filing reduces errors and allows for quicker verification, leading to a typical turnaround time of two weeks with direct deposit. Paper returns can take four weeks to three months due to manual processing.
  • Return Accuracy and Completeness: Ensure your return is error-free and includes all necessary information. Mistakes or missing details can delay processing while the FTB seeks clarification or makes corrections. 
  • Verification of Information: Income or Filing Status Verification: In some cases, the FTB might require additional verification of your income or filing status. 
  • Claimed Tax Credits or Deductions: If you claim specific tax credits or deductions, particularly complex ones, the FTB might take longer to process your return. 
  • FTB Workload: Overall Processing Volume: The FTB experiences peak filing seasons, and your refund processing time might be slightly affected by the overall workload at the time you file.
  • Other Potential Delays: If the FTB flags your return for potential identity theft, it can significantly delay processing while they investigate further.

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