Taxpayers can file their 2005 tax returns electronically beginning Jan. 13 as the Internal Revenue Service's E-file program opens for its 20th tax season.

The IRS will also launch the Electronic IRS, a centralized source for all IRS electronic options, at www.irs.gov. Taxpayers and tax preparers can click on the Electronic IRS logo and be taken to a page that contains an overview of all the electronic tasks that can be accomplished online.

For tax preparers, the Electronic IRS provides access to register for IRS e-services, to become an authorized e-file provider, to submit electronic inquiries on tax issues, or to obtain a preparer tax identification number, among a host of other tasks.

IRS E-file passed a benchmark last year when more than 68.4 million tax returns (52 percent of all returns) were filed electronically. E-file also allows taxpayers to file both their federal and most state returns at the same time.

The E-file program began in 1986 as a pilot project in three cities -- Cincinnati, Phoenix and Raleigh-Durham, N.C. That year, there were 25,000 tax returns filed electronically. The program expanded nationwide in 1990, when 4.2 million tax returns were e-filed.

Taxpayers may use IRS E-file through their tax preparer, over-the-counter software or Internet programs. While the IRS doesn't charge for E-file, some preparers and software manufactures may charge a fee. IRS Free File, available later this month, is a partnership between the IRS and some software manufacturers that offers free tax preparation and e-filing for taxpayers earning $50,000 or less.

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