April 15th is just around the corner, and in the United States, that means tax day. The Internal Revenue Service has long offered the option of receiving a tax refund via direct deposit, but this year, taxpayers can choose to receive a refund in the form of a credit for the iTunes Store, which means it can be spent on any digital media from Apple (music, TV shows, movies, books, and Mac and iOS apps).
This change comes as part of the U.S. government’s increased financial involvement with Apple, which started when Apple announced in February that Apple Pay will soon be supported for transactions such as admission to national parks, distributing Social Security benefits, and more.
With this new tax refund option, filers can specify an Apple ID directly on their tax forms (in place of a bank account and routing number), and the full amount of the refund will be made available to any device signed in to an Apple store (using iTunes, the App Store app, iBooks, etc.) with that Apple ID. (An IRS spokesperson said that the agency considered sending gift cards in the mail, but decided against it due to the risk of theft.)
Because the deal was struck after the physical 2014 tax forms were printed and distributed, iTunes tax refunds are currently available only to people e-filing their taxes with select e-file providers, who must update their software to see the revised forms. Ask your tax preparer to look for the 2015-04 revision of the appropriate tax form. The iTunes option appears on Form 1040 Line 76e, Form 1040A Line 48e, and Form 1040EZ Line 13e.
The IRS imposes a limit of $1,000 on iTunes credits; if your refund amount is higher than that, you must take it in the form of a check or direct deposit. Apple is reportedly in talks to offer a second option for tax year 2015: Apple Store credits, which would be usable for larger amounts of money, and which could be redeemed for Apple hardware and accessories.
Meanwhile, in an effort to avoid the appearance of partiality, the IRS is negotiating with other digital retailers, including Amazon and Google Play, to offer similar deals next year.