RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Millions of taxpayers have already filed their 2006 returns, and many are leaving money on the table. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY: Just about every taxpayer in the country is entitled to a one-time refund this year of a telephone tax, after federal courts ruled the government shouldn't be collecting the tax on long-distance service. The standard refund ranges from $30 to $60. And IRS spokesman Terry Lemon says it's just about the easiest part of doing this year's taxes.

Mr. TERRY LEMON (Spokesman, Internal Revenue Service): Literally, it is a keystroke on your computer or an extra mark with your pencil as you're doing your tax returns.

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

Mr. LEMON: That one has us scratching our head a little bit. And whether you're doing your own return or going through a tax preparer, makes sure you know what's on your return. You know, in this case, a little extra time could end up being more money in your pocket.

HORSLEY: Lemon says most reputable tax preparers know about the refund, and tax software is programmed to remind users. He warns the promises of much bigger refunds from the telephone tax could be a red flag of a possible scam. Taxpayers who save their old phone bills may qualify for somewhat more money, but the vast majority will do well to collect the standard refund of $30 to $60.

Scott Horsley, NPR News.

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