Your Money

Millions of Taxpayers Miss Claiming Tax Credit

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Just about every taxpayer in the country is entitled to a one-time refund this year of a telephone tax, after several federal courts ruled the government shouldn't be collecting the tax on long-distance service. The standard refund ranges from $30 to $60.

IRS spokesman Terry Lemons says it's just about the easiest part of doing this year's taxes.

"It's very simple. ... You don't have to fill out any additional schedules," he said. "Literally, it's a keystroke on your computer or an extra mark with your pencil as you're doing your tax return."

So it's somewhat surprising that more than 10 million people — about 30 percent of those who have filed their tax returns this year — failed to claim the automatic refund. Odder still, about half those people had their taxes professionally prepared.

"That one has us scratching our heads a little bit. ... Whether you're doing your own return or going through a tax preparer, make sure you know what's on your return," he said. "You know in this case, a little extra time could end up being more money in your pocket."

Lemons says most reputable tax preparers know about the refund, and tax software is programmed to remind users.

He warns that promises of much bigger refunds from the telephone tax of hundreds or even thousands of dollars could be a red flag of a possible scam. Taxpayers who've saved their old phone bills could document that they're owed a higher reimbursement, but not that large.

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