The IRS is urging taxpayers to determine if they qualify for the telephone excise tax refund after preliminary data revealed that more than 10 million early filers did not request the one-time refund. That’s about 30 percent of all taxpayers. The government stopped collecting the long-distance excise tax last August after several federal court decisions held that the tax does not apply to long-distance service as it is billed today. Federal officials also authorized a one-time refund of the federal excise tax collected on service billed during the previous 41 months, stretching from the beginning of March 2003 to the end of July 2006. The tax continues to apply to local-only phone service.
To make the refund easier to figure, the government established a standard refund amount, based on personal exemptions, ranging from $30 to $60. If taxpayers have phone bills and other records, they can request the actual amount of excise tax paid. Though using the standard amount is optional, it is easy to figure and approximates the eligible amount for most individual taxpayers. Taxpayers only have to fill out one line on their return, and they don’t need to present proof to the IRS. IR-2007-040.
This article first appeared in Church Treasurer Alert, April 2007.