Frequently asked questions
What is a refund?
A refund is a distribution of your total accumulated contributions and interest on account with CalSTRS. When you take a refund, you terminate your CalSTRS membership and forfeit your rights to all CalSTRS benefits.
To learn more, watch Refund: Consider the Consequences.
Who can take a refund?
A refund is available to any CalSTRS member upon terminating all CalSTRS-covered employment.
Can I take a partial refund or borrow from my account?
No. California law does not allow you to take a partial refund or borrow against your accumulated contributions and interest on account with CalSTRS. The funds in your CalSTRS account are paid out in full upon refunding.
What are my refund payment options?
You can choose to receive your refund as a direct payment to you or as a rollover to a financial institution.
How do I request a refund?
To request a refund, complete the Refund Application. The application includes detailed instructions.
Will any state or federal taxes be withheld from my refund?
If your refund is paid directly to you, the direct payment is subject to taxes. CalSTRS is required to withhold 20 percent for federal income tax. State tax withholding is optional. If you choose to have California state income tax withheld, CalSTRS will withhold at 2 percent. Remember, there are penalties for not paying enough tax during the year, either through withholding or quarterly estimated tax payments.
If you receive your refund payment before age 59½, you may have to pay an additional 10 percent federal income tax and an additional 2.5 percent state income tax for early distribution.
Can I have my refund payment deposited directly into my bank account?
No, CalSTRS does not currently provide this service, but there are plans to offer direct deposit in the future. If you choose a direct payment, your refund check will be mailed directly to you. If you choose a rollover, your refund check will be mailed directly to your financial institution.
When will I get my refund payment?
Defined Benefit account: CalSTRS receives many applications which are processed in the order when received. You can typically expect to receive your refund payment within 30 to 45 days from the date CalSTRS receives your complete Refund Application. However, payment timeframes can vary according to volume. Contact CalSTRS for the most current timeframes.
Your initial refund check represents the contributions and interest posted to your account as of the date of the refund. If additional contributions and interest are posted to your account after your initial refund check is issued, a second check will be mailed approximately four months later.
Defined Benefit Supplement account: After you terminate employment, CalSTRS is required by California law to wait six months before we can issue a check for the balance of your Defined Benefit Supplement account. Your Defined Benefit Supplement funds will continue to earn interest during this waiting period. If you return to CalSTRS-covered employment within the six-month waiting period, you will not be eligible for a Defined Benefit Supplement termination benefit.
Additionally, under California law, CalSTRS can distribute only one Defined Benefit Supplement termination benefit within any five-year period. If you later return to CalSTRS-covered employment and apply for a refund before five years have passed since payment of your last Defined Benefit Supplement termination benefit, CalSTRS cannot process your Defined Benefit Supplement payment until the five years have passed.
Do I have a Defined Benefit Supplement account?
You may have a Defined Benefit Supplement account that provides additional income in retirement.
If you made member contributions to CalSTRS starting January 1, 2001, you have a Defined Benefit Supplement account. From January 1, 2001, to December 31, 2010, one-fourth of your 8 percent monthly contribution went into your Defined Benefit Supplement account.
In addition, contributions on earnings in excess of one year of service credit in a school year, special compensation and limited-term salary enhancements go into this account.
What is “employer certification of employment termination”?
Employer certification of employment termination is required under California law if you were employed within the last 12 months. Termination of employment means an action by you, such as employment resignation, or an action by your employer, such as dismissal or layoff. Termination does not automatically occur at the end of the school year. Your employer must sign your Refund Application if you were employed within the last 12 months.
Do I need to terminate employment from all my employers?
If you were employed within the last 12 months, you must terminate all CalSTRS-covered employment in the California public school system and your date of termination must have passed to be eligible to apply for a refund.
Substitute teaching, including part-time substituting, qualifies as employment and must be terminated.
What happens if I’m moving?
When you complete the Refund Application, you provide the address you would like your check mailed to. If you move, notify CalSTRS immediately of your new address. You can change your address online using your myCalSTRS account or by completing and submitting the Address Change Request form.
Where do I submit my Refund Application?
If you terminated employment within the last 12 months, send your application to your county superintendent’s office for certification before submitting it to CalSTRS. For the following employers, send your application as instructed:
Los Angeles Community College District: Send to the Retirement Division of the individual college.
Los Angeles County Office of Education: Send to:
Los Angeles County Office of Education
9300 East Imperial Highway, Room 132
Downey, CA 90242
Los Angeles Unified School District: Send to:
Accounting and Disbursements Division
Payroll Services Branch (ATTN: Refund Application)
P.O. Box 513307, Terminal Annex
Los Angeles, CA 90051-1307
San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools: Send to:
San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools
760 E. Brier Drive
San Bernardino, CA 92408
San Diego County Office of Education: Send to:
San Diego County Office of Education
Retirement Reporting, Room 605
6401 Linda Vista Road
San Diego, CA 92111-7319
San Francisco Community College District: Send to the Retirement Division of the individual college.
Stanislaus County Office of Education: Send to:
Stanislaus County Office of Education
1100 H Street
Modesto, CA 95354
If you terminated employment more than 12 months ago, send your application directly to CalSTRS:
P.O. Box 15275, MS 65
Sacramento, CA 95851-0275
Or fax it to 916-414-5964
Can I complete and submit my Refund Application online using myCalSTRS?
To be eligible to complete and submit your Refund Application online using myCalSTRS, you must:
- Elect a direct payment or a rollover to CalSTRS Pension2, and
- Not have worked in a CalSTRS-covered position within the past 12 months.
Completing and submitting your Refund Application online can mean faster processing of your refund payment.
Even if you are not eligible to submit your Refund Application online, you can still complete your application electronically. However, you will need to print out your application, obtain any necessary signatures, and then send your application to CalSTRS.
Can I cancel my refund?
Yes, you may cancel your refund if you return the funds in full (gross amount) to CalSTRS within 30 days of the payment issue date. You must also send CalSTRS a written request to cancel your refund.