Cell Phones Eligible for Excise Refund

The Internal Revenue Service reports that a large number of cell-phone users are overlooking the telephone tax refund mistakenly believing that the one-time refund only applies to land-line customers.

According to the IRS, most cell-phone users qualify for the federal telephone excise tax refund. In most cases, the refund is also available to land-line, fax and Internet phone customers as well. The method of phone signal transmission does not affect the refund. The telephone-tax refund can add $30 to $60 -- or even more -- onto a taxpayer's refund.

"Many taxpayers are overlooking this special refund and the chance to get a bigger refund," said IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson. "We encourage taxpayers to spend a few extra minutes reviewing their tax return to make sure they are making an accurate request. A little extra time can mean a bigger refund check."

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. The tax continues to apply to local-only phone service.

Federal officials also authorized a one-time refund of the three-percent tax collected on long-distance or bundled service billed after Feb. 28, 2003, and before Aug. 1, 2006. Bundled service is local and long-distance service provided under a plan that does not separately list the charge for local service. Bundled service includes, for example, phone plans that provide both local and long-distance service for either a flat monthly fee or a charge that varies with the time for which the service is used. It is the type of service provided by many cell-phone companies.

"We want all taxpayers entitled to this refund to get it, whether they are using a tax preparer or doing the return themselves," Everson said.

So far this year, about three in 10 tax returns received by the IRS are not requesting the telephone-tax refund.

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