Acorn, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, will provide free tax preparation services for low- and moderate-income families in 45 cities nationwide from now through the end of tax season.

The program, in partnership with the Internal Revenue Service's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, will help taxpayers who cannot afford to have their returns prepared through traditional paid preparers. The Acorn Free Tax Preparation Centers will electronically file current-year taxes and also provide fast refunds for taxpayers who would like their refunds direct-deposited into their bank account.

Although the program will generally follow the Earned Income Tax Credit guidelines in determining eligibility for the free tax filing, it may vary by locale, according to Acorn spokesman Jeff Karlson. "While the credit is phased out for those with over $35,458 in earned income, the centers won't be too particular," he said. "Taxpayers in the $40,000 to $50,000 range may be eligible in some areas."

Acorn national president Maude Hurd said that the group will particularly focus its efforts on insuring that more eligible families are claiming their Earned Income Tax Credit. "The EITC is the federal government's most successful antipoverty program," she said. "Unfortunately, almost a quarter of all EITC eligible families do not claim their credit every year, amounting to more than 7 million families who could be missing out on over $12 billion in tax benefits. We are out to change that."

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