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Minn. Recalls Mistake Tax Rebates

October 5, 2000

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ The state is asking nearly 17,000 children to return $95 they were erroneously sent when the state mailed this year’s tax rebate checks.

About 11,000 of the checks already have been cashed, said Peter Aschenbrener, who is directing the state’s sales tax rebate operation. The error is worth about $1.6 million.

The state has given out rebates for the last two years because it has a budget surplus. The rebate for each person is based on income.

This week, the Department of Revenue mailed letters asking 16,851 children to return the checks sent to them.

``Please accept our apology,″ the letter says. ``The law does not allow people to receive a check if they are ineligible _ even when one is sent by mistake.″

The mixup happened because the department used outside sources to get information on people who received a minimum Social Security check, Aschenbrener said.

``It’s a big deal,″ he said. ``They received it, and they were ineligible and they aren’t entitled to it. It’s not a win-win situation for me or the department.″

The department included postage-paid envelopes with the letter. If a recipient doesn’t respond, the department would take the $95 out of a future tax refund, Aschenbrener said.

The minors who erroneously received $95 checks were those who receive Social Security due to the death or disablement of a parent. The plan approved by the Legislature and governor earlier this year excluded them from getting the checks.

Aschenbrener pointed out that the problem was relatively minor considering 2.3 million checks were sent out totaling $635 million.

State lawmaker Philip Krinkie, who heads the legislative committee that oversees the revenue department’s budget, never cashed the check his 4-year-old daughter received but said he’s not returning it either.

``I’m going to use that for show-and-tell during the committee hearing,″ Krinkie said. ``Some people may be more forgiving. I run a business and when I make a mistake, believe you me, my customers hold me accountable.″

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