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IRS Opens Improved Free File Program

by Leroy Baker,, New York

22 January 2007

The US Internal Revenue Service and its private-sector partners have announced the opening of this year's Free File program with a series of improvements and changes to help taxpayers.

The free tax preparation and free electronic filing initiative begins its fifth year with more consumer-friendly features and expanded services for Spanish-speaking taxpayers.

Seventy percent of the nation’s taxpayers — 95 million Americans — qualify for Free File. This year, up to 20 Free File Alliance companies will participate in the program run by the IRS and the Free File Alliance, a consortium of tax preparation software companies.

“The Free File program has significant changes this year that make it an even better deal for taxpayers,” said IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson. “A huge part of the taxpayer public can use these free services. Taxpayers should review the Free File offerings and see which one works best for them.”

Free File Alliance Executive Director Tim Hugo added: "This year, 95 million Americans will be eligible to participate in a Free File program that has made dramatic improvements for the taxpaying public. The Free File program is a public-private partnership at its best."

A new agreement reached last month between the IRS and the Free File Alliance means enhanced services for taxpayers this year. Among the changes and features of this year’s program:

  • Taxpayers will be able to use Free File to request the Telephone Excise Tax Refund. Taxpayers can either request the standard amount, which ranges from $30-$60, or the actual amount. Some alliance members will provide free access to Form 1040EZ-T for those people who have no legal obligation to file a tax return, but who can request the one-time telephone excise tax refund. Some alliance members also will offer free access to Form 8913 to request the actual amount.
  • Two companies will offer Free File in Spanish.
  • Participants will no longer offer refund anticipation loans (RALs) and other ancillary products.
  • Some Alliance members are offering the state return for free. All Alliance members’ Web sites display whether state online tax preparation and filing services are available and the associated fees, if any.
  • Taxpayers can use Free File to file a Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File.

More than 3.9 million taxpayers used Free File last year. Free File debuted in 2003 with nearly 2.8 million users.

According to Russell Research, a market research firm contracted by the IRS, 94% said they intend to use Free File again this year, 96% said they found Free File very easy or somewhat easy to use and 97% said they would recommend Free File to others. Convenience, not the free cost, was the most appealing factor of Free File.

“This level of public satisfaction with Free File is just astounding,” Everson concluded. “This innovative program provides real value to the taxpayers. Taxpayers will find we’ve made a great program even better this year.

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