Abstract A study of the most common polytypes of silicon carbide, namely 3C, 2H, 4H, 6H and 15R is performed, by using the extended Hückel tight binding approximation. Special account is taken in describing optical properties of the material. New basis sets and empirical parameters are suggested which contain excited s* orbitals for 3C, 4H, 6H and 15R, and p* orbitals for 2H. The new basis sets reproduce most important features of the topology of valence and conduction bands given in the literature from ab initio, pseudopotential and local density approximation methods, in special the appearance of an indirect gap of the correct order in each polytype. It is argued that the present results indicate that one-electron methods are suitable for describing optical properties in more complex polar semiconductors, such as the polytypes of SiC.