updated 2/23/2007 12:15:06 PM ET 2007-02-23T17:15:06

Taxpayers have already received almost $87 billion in income tax refunds this year, but many are neglecting to ask for a modest refund from a now defunct telephone tax.

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So says the Internal Revenue Service, which reported Friday that as of Feb. 17 it had processed refunds worth $86.9 billion from about 31.8 million returns, up 5.8 percent in dollar amounts compared to the same time in the 2006 filing season. The average refund was $2,733, up 3.6 percent from the previous year.

The tax agency expects to process about 136 million individual income tax returns by April 17, the deadline this year. So far it has received almost 38 million returns, of which 30 million were filed electronically.

More than 9 million electronic returns were prepared on home computers, up 7 percent compared to last year.

The agency said more than 10 million early filers did not request the telephone tax refund, which is worth $30 to $60 if taxpayers apply for the standard refund amount set by the IRS. It noted that nearly half of those returns were completed by tax preparers.

“We are surprised how many tax preparers are overlooking the telephone tax refund,” IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson said. “We want all taxpayers entitled to this refund to get it.”

The government stopped collecting the long-distance excise tax last August, and has authorized a one-time refund of tax collected on service billed during the period from March 2003 to July 2006.

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