The Internal Revenue Service has opened its IRS Free File program to individuals who do not normally file tax returns so they can receive economic stimulus payments.

The IRS and several of its partners in the Free File Alliance can now accept returns submitted electronically by people who have no legal requirement to file tax returns. The IRS is requiring low-income people who want to receive economic stimulus payments to first submit tax returns, even if they aren't typically required to file a return. The IRS cautioned that people in this category should use only those companies listed on the Free File - Economic Stimulus Payment page. The page lists just three providers: Intuit's TurboTax Freedom Edition, and Tax$imple.

"If you are only filing a return to receive your economic stimulus payment, Free File is a great option for you," said Acting IRS Commissioner Linda E. Stiff (pictured) in a statement. "All you need to do is follow the simple instructions provided by the software. It's easy, and it's free."

Individuals and families must have at least $3,000 of income from any combination of earned income, Social Security retirement or disability benefits, certain railroad retirement benefits, or disability compensation, a disability pension, or survivor benefits paid by the Veterans Administration.

The minimum economic stimulus payment is $300 for individuals and $600 for married couples. Parents also may qualify for a $300 payment for each eligible child younger than 17. Valid Social Security numbers are required. The IRS will begin issuing the economic stimulus payments, also known as tax rebates, starting in May.

Free File is normally available to 97 million taxpayers who earn $54,000 or less. The regular Free File page lists 19 providers.

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