STAMFORD, CONN. - Official Payments Corp., which helps people pay their taxes electronically by credit card, has begun a national advertising campaign targeting those who make quarterly tax payments.

This is the first year that the Internal Revenue Service has accepted quarterly payments by credit card, and Official Payments - which handles electronic tax payments on behalf of state and local governments, as well as the IRS - is publicizing its toll-free telephone payment line.

Ads for the service are to run in USA Today and The New York Times through Friday, the next IRS quarterly tax payment deadline.

Credit card companies affiliated with Official Payments are also trying to build consumer awareness of the service. American Express Co. is targeting a direct-mail campaign to cardmembers and will also include information on the service in its Membership Rewards publications.

Official Payments collected more than $32 million of quarterly tax payments by April 15, and $39 million before the June 15 deadline.

The company also collects balance-due and automatic extension tax payments. This year it has collected and processed more than $575 million of federal income tax payments by credit card. . The company will add an Internet IRS tax payment service in January.

Official Payments charges taxpayers a convenience fee for processing these transactions. For example, a taxpayer who owed a quarterly payment of $575 would be charged $16. The company accepts American Express, Discover, and MasterCard; Visa does not participate.

Taxpayers using credit cards with bonus rewards programs can, depending on their card's program, earn rewards, points, cash back, or airline frequent-flyer miles.

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