Air Travel Tax Refund: Worth Some Hassle?

AS if airline perks aren't already complex enough, now there's a new option out there for penny-watching flyers. Travelers can apply for a refund of the 10 percent airline ticket excise tax if they bought tickets in 1995 but are using them in 1996. (The tax expired on Dec. 31, because Congress and the White House failed to reach a budget deal.)

Taxpayers should attempt to get the refund from the airline that issued the ticket before applying to the Internal Revenue Service, suggests CCH Inc., a tax information provider in Riverwoods, Ill. Some major carriers have agreed to issue refunds.

If that doesn't work, try the IRS. Flyers should send their original passenger receipt (not a copy) to the IRS along with form 8849 (''claim for refund of excise taxes''). Pay special attention, CCH says, to line 9: Include date of purchase, date of travel, cost of ticket, and amount of refund.

But there's a final complication: The tax may be reinstated when a budget deal is reached and could be made retroactive to take back the refunds.

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