DENVER — Colorado taxpayers should start seeing Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) return checks in the mail this month. The checks are part of the Colorado Cash Back program that state lawmakers passed this legislative session.
“Beginning today, checks are going to be printed and mailed out to people in a rolling way. We're not going to do them all on one day, but they're going to go over the next several weeks,” Colorado State Treasurer Dave Young said Monday.
The sped-up checks are a result of a law passed by state legislators earlier this year. Otherwise, the money would have been returned around February or March of next year.
Here’s what you need to know about those checks.
Where is the money coming from?
The TABOR refunds are not unique to this year. They happen whenever the state collects above the constitutional cap.
“The state's constitution holds that if revenue grows by an amount greater than last year's amount plus population and inflation, that the state has an obligation to return the excess to the taxpayers,” said Young. “It's about the relative growth in our economy, and it means that compared to last year, our economy did quite well this year.”
The constitution does not, however, specify how the refunds are to be given out, so the legislature has wide discretion over it. This year, lawmakers decided to issue the refunds in one-size-fits-all checks.
How much are the checks for?
Individual filers who filled out their taxes by June 30 will see $750 checks. Joint filers, meanwhile, will see $1,500 checks.
“What's unique about the cashback program is the fact that we're doing it earlier, and it's a little different value. Those people that are in most need, I believe, are getting the best benefit out of this,” Young said.
Normally, higher income earners would see a higher return than lower income earners since they pay more in taxes.
“In the past, when the refunds have been given to individuals, they've been on a percentage basis. And so if you earn more, you got a higher share,” said Christine Martell, a professor at the University of Colorado Denver School of Public Affairs who focuses on public finance and policy. “The legislature has wide discretion in how they apply these refunds.”
However, because of the state law, everyone will receive the same amount. A fiscal note from nonpartisan legislative council staff found that the highest earners in the state, those earning $265,000 or more, are losing out on about $1,000 per person.
“I think the politics aside, we know that people in their kitchen table economics are really struggling at this point. And so, you know, they really are looking for some relief, and if we can provide that earlier, I think that helps,” Young said.
On the other end of the spectrum, the lowest earners are earning about $211 more per person than they would have without the new law. This does not account for any savings from property tax relief or income tax cuts.
Along with the checks, there will also be some property tax reductions for seniors and veterans this year, as well as a temporary income tax reduction to account for all of the TABOR refunds.
Who qualifies for the checks?
Anyone who is 18-years-old or older, who lived in the state all of last year and who filed a tax return for the 2021 tax year by June 30 is eligible to receive a check.
Those who were granted a tax extension until Oct. 17 and who filed their taxes by that time will also receive a check, but it will come later in the year.
When can I expect my check?
The checks are starting to go into the mail Monday and will continue to be sent out over the next several weeks.
“There's going to be about 250,000 checks printed and mailed out a day," Young said. "That's a lot of checks.”
The state is asking Coloradans to be patient as staff prints and sends out the checks. If you haven’t received your check by the end of Sept., and you filed your return by June 30, Young says to reach out to the Department of Revenue.
Regardless of whether you’ve received tax refund checks in the mail or via direct deposit, all checks this time around will come via mail.