This post is specific to Americans.  If you’re not one, you’ll have to fix your own tax problems.

 Its very easy to forget, particularly if you’re doing your own taxes, but the IRS is offering a credit against your taxes (or a refund if you don’t owe taxes) if you paid for long distance service in the US after Feb. 28, 2003, and before Aug. 1, 2006.  This should include pretty much every American filing taxes this year (it even includes me, since I paid for SBC while I still lived in the US prior to coming to my current job, and I do manage to hit that window). 

The official name is the Telephone Excise Tax Refund, and you can get information on it directly from the IRS.  There are two ways to calculate it as an individual taxpayer: one is to take a standard refund, the other is to get all your phone bills from the last couple of years together and do some number-crunching.  Don’t have your phone bills?  Yeah, me neither.  So take the standard refund.  Its based on the number of exemptions you claimed on your 2006 return (i.e. the one you’re writing for April 2007):

  • One exemption, the standard refund amount is $30;
  • Two exemptions, the standard refund amount is $40;
  • Three exemptions, the standard refund amount is $50;
  • Four exemptions or more, the standard refund amount is $60. How exactly do you get it?  Pull out your copy of the 1040.  Enter the amount of your refund on line 71.  If you’re one of the lucky folks using the 1040EZ, enter it on line 9.  This will reduce, dollar for dollar, the amount of tax you owe.  If you owe nothing, it increases, dollar for dollar, your refund.

There, that was pretty painless.  Just don’t forget about claiming it!  It won’t be automatically added to your return if you or your tax adviser don’t put it there!