Washington (Jan. 23, 2004) -- The Internal Revenue Service, the Treasury Department and the Office of Management and Budget unveiled a series of measures aimed at making it easier for taxpayers to use the Free File program, an effort aimed at increasing the number of taxpayers who file electronically, which officially kicked off its second year this week.

Tax software companies participating in the Free File Alliance this year agreed to “fully and clearly disclose” their customer service options and to make it clear on forms and schedules that taxpayers aren’t obligated to purchase any fee-based services, such as individual retirement accounts or refund anticipation loans. Companies will also guarantee the accuracy of calculations made by their software and will pay any IRS penalties and interest incurred as a result of a miscalculation.

In addition, taxpayers who qualify and use one of the free services will be able to print their completed return for free on their personal computer, and companies won’t use promotion codes or rebates as the methodology for providing free services, the agencies said.

"While tax simplification remains our goal, Free File incorporates a variety of features that reduce errors arising from the vast complexity of the tax code," said Treasury secretary John W. Snow. "In our technologically advanced economy, electronic transactions are everywhere. With this effort, the federal government is finally catching up to the nation we strive to support."

At least 60 percent of the nation's 130 million taxpayers will now be eligible for free online tax preparation and free electronic filing through the alliance, the agencies said.

-- WebCPA staff

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