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Illinois woman says refund partly withheld because of state error 26 years ago

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An Illinois woman says the State of Illinois shorted her money on her current tax refund because, they say, they overpaid her 26 years ago.

In 1988, Julie Beck was a single mom, in college, and receiving state assistance. Twenty-six years later, she is employed and was expecting a tax refund of $290.

“I'm a single woman paying my bills like everybody else,” said Beck.

Instead, she says she received one for $136 less than she expected.  The state says she owed money to the Department of Human Services.

Beck says when she called the help number, she was told, “'Back in 1988, we overpaid you in a grant.'  I said, 1988? Are you kidding me?  And she says, 'Yeah, I know, but no, I'm not kidding you.'”

Beck thought that overpayment had been covered when money was withheld from a previous refund for a similar reason.  She says she was given no documentation detailing the money state officials said she owed.

Susan Hofer with the Illinois Department of Revenue wouldn’t talk about this specific situation, but she says their updated system is more comprehensive and allows access to more taxpayer records.

“It's both, to make sure that we get refunds out to people that have been owed the money, and to collect taxes that are owed to us,” said Hofer.

For Julie Beck, that meant going back as far as 1988.

“Why, after 26 years, are you taking money from me?” Beck wondered.

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