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Two state refund checks are too good to be true

February 20, 2001

Two state refund checks are too good to be true



By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer

Double refundsBOONSBORO - Donna Burcker thought filing her Maryland taxes this year would be a breeze.

As she had in previous years, Burcker prepared her taxes herself and then mailed them on Feb. 2.

"I thought being single it would be simple," she said.

Burcker, of Boosboro, said she was looking forward to receiving her check this year because the refund due her was $99 instead of the typical $5 to $25 refund she has received in past years.

On Feb. 14 she opened her mailbox to find not one, but two Maryland State tax refund checks, each for $99.

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She knew the extra check was a mistake, and said she feared she would have to cut through a tangle of red tape to resolve the matter.

"I expected it to be like dealing with the MVA - a nightmare," she said.

The next day Burcker said she called the office of the State Comptroller of the Treasury and was told the duplicate check was one of several mailed out across the state.

She was told to mail one of the checks back to the state. A postage-paid envelope arrived in the mail a few days later, she said.

Burcker said she felt the mistake was made because "they rushed them out." She hadn't expected to receive her refund check so soon after sending in her return, she said.

About 14,000 refund checks were printed on Feb. 13, including Burcker's, said Mike Golden, spokesman for the Comptroller's Office.

In all, 600 checks were duplicated that day and the problem was not noticed before they went into the mail, he said.

How often are duplicate checks sent out? "It never happens," Golden said.

Except on Feb. 13.

Golden said that as refund checks are being printed the machine sometimes stops and when it is restarted it occasionally reprints a few checks.

Typically, those extra checks are caught and destroyed, he said.

"We have a system in place (to prevent duplicates from being mailed) and it broke down," he said.

Golden said phone calls about the extra checks started coming in within two days after they were sent out.

The state responded by mailing envelopes to each of the 600 people who were thought to have received the extra checks.

Golden said the state expects to mail out more than 1 million refund checks this year.

Anyone who receives a duplicate check shouldn't consider cashing both, Golden cautioned.

"They'll get caught," he said.

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