Telephone Excise Tax Refund

The Internal Revenue Service says millions of taxpayers in Texas and across the country, are missing out on a chance to reduce their income tax bill by a few dollars, and maybe even get a few more dollars back. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell explains.

It's the Telephone Excise Tax Refund. The government stopped collecting the excise tax on long distance calls last August, and agreed to make a one time refund on phone bills going back 41 months. IRS official David Williams says if you have a telephone you qualify for the refund, but millions of people who've already filed their tax returns didn't ask for it.

"For example in Texas about 34 percent of the returns that have been filed so far don't include a refund for the excise tax, and that's about 24 million dollars that's on the table. We think a lot of that has to do with people not being aware of it."

To make things easy on the Form 1040, the IRS set up a standard refund amount based on personal exemptions, ranging from 30 dollars to 60 dollars, but people who can prove they paid more than 60 dollars can claim the full amount they paid. Williams says it's a tax credit, which is subtracted from taxes due, or added to a refund you have coming. He says it's not too late, even for people who've already filed.

"We're hopeful that people who have yet to file their returns will take the time to request the refund, and if your listeners have already filed their returns, and some of them have, you can still get the refund by filing an amended return and just focusing on the telephone excise tax refund."

Nationwide, since January 1st, more than 30 million tax returns have been filed, and one third of them do not ask for the Telephone Excise Tax Refund. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.