“the obscure realm of state-level legal authority known as unclaimed property law, or “escheatment.” According to some state governments—Delaware is the most zealous about this, but other states have joined in—a gift card that never gets redeemed isn’t just a pleasant windfall for the merchant. It’s a form of “unclaimed property,” just like a bank account or stock share whose original owner loses or abandons it.
That means all of it—the whole sum—becomes the property of the state.
States like Delaware send in audit teams that calculate how much outstanding gift card obligation is on your books and apply complex formulas to guess what portion of it is likely to go unredeemed. They then demand that you pay that sum to them, not to any customer. Even if you negotiate them down, you’ll probably be writing checks to your accountant and your lawyer.”