Sometimes, it seems you can't catch a break — for up to 1,500 Utahns your federal tax refund check may be in the mail, but it's not coming to you.

If you owe personal income back taxes to the Utah State Tax Commission, and have had a tax lien placed against you, you won't be getting your $600 check from the federal government. State government will take it instead.

Each qualifying American (some don't receive the rebate, like rich people) was to get $600 for an individual or $1,200 for a married couple under a congressionally approved economic stimulus program this year.

But up to now, the state has diverted $880,909 that would have gone to Utah taxpayers under the rebate program, said Tax Commission spokesman Charlie Roberts on Monday.

Even worse for you — if you were counting on that money and went out and borrowed against it, from a pay-day lender or some other entity — you are still stuck with paying that money back with interest or fees and won't be getting that federal tax refund.

Finally, the Tax Commission is not telling people now that their federal income tax rebates were confiscated by the state. But the federal government should let you know.

"We do participate in the federal (tax withholding) offset program," said Roberts.

Other entities in state government collect unpaid financial responsibilities, as well. For example, the state finance division operates the GOTCHA program that takes state tax refunds from people who owe back child support payments and such.

John Reidhead, head of state finance, says local deadbeat dads won't have their federal $600 rebate checks garnished or taken by the state for unpaid child support, since state finance only takes money out of state personal income tax refunds and no money is taken out of federal personal income tax refunds for unpaid child support.

Like 39 other states, Utah sends federal IRS officials the names of Utahns who owe the state back income taxes. And any federal tax refunds for those folks come to the state, not to the delinquent taxpayers, explained Roberts.

In September or October of each year, the Utah Tax Commission sends a letter to the unfortunate taxpayers saying it has intercepted and withheld any federal income tax refund.

But the $600 federal tax rebate is a special, one-time occurrence. And Roberts said there will be no special letter sent out this summer by the Tax Commission telling delinquent taxpayers they won't be getting that $600. However, the federal government should send out a letter to the delinquent taxpayers.

In the fall notice letter sent by the state Tax Commission, taxpayers are told what happened to their federal tax refund, and they are given 60 to 90 days to make up any tax liability left over before any additional action is taken against them, said Roberts.

If you owed less than $600 to the state in back taxes, the federal government should send you the difference (owe $400, get $200 back) in the same time period you would have received your $600 rebate, said Roberts.


E-mail: bbjr@desnews.com