RS Free File tax program opens

The Internal Revenue Service hopes its improved Free File program will make it easier for taxpayers to file electronic returns.

The IRS opened this year's Free File program Tuesday. The program is available at no charge to taxpayers with an adjusted gross income of $52,000 or less.

In Alabama, more than 74 percent of all tax filers qualify to file online at no cost.

"The Free File program is better than ever this year,'' said IRS spokesman Dan Boone. "You have many choices of participating companies and some are offering state returns at no extra cost.'' The IRS said the free program is clearly identified at its Web site, www.irs.gov. The free site will no longer promote refund anticipation loans or other paid products.

"For the good of the program, we felt we needed to make it as clean and easy as possible to use,'' said Bert Dumars, director, IRS Electronic Tax Administration.

"There were those who felt that the ancillary products and refund anticipation loans changed the Free File program. No products will be sold through the free program.''

Dumars said that some of the tax preparation software companies participating in the program might offer additional products from additional links, but not from the free site.

"We wanted to make it where all taxpayers have to worry about is preparing their return and e-filing it,'' said Dumars. "That was the goal.''

The IRS said up to 20 tax preparation software companies in the Free File Alliance will participate in the program this year. Some 70 percent of the nation's taxpayers, 95 million Americans, qualify for the program, which is available only through the IRS Web site.

Dumars warned that www.irs.com is not a federal Web site. "Just be aware of what you're typing - look for irs.gov, not .com. Taxpayers get confused by it every year.''

The agency said 3.9 million taxpayers used Free File last year, compared with 2.8 million users when the service debuted in 2003.

This year, taxpayers will be able to use Free File to request the telephone excise tax refund. The government stopped collecting the federal excise tax on long-distance service last August. Taxpayers can either request the standard amount of refund, ranging from $30 to $60, or file for the actual amount.

The IRS said two companies will offer Free File in Spanish, and said some Free File Alliance members are also offering state returns for free.

For educators wanting to take advantage of some late tax breaks, Dumars said the IRS won't start processing returns that claim those deductions until Feb. 3.

sourceL www.al.com

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