The Internal Revenue Service was recognized for its community-based partnerships linking low-income taxpayers with organizations that prepare tax returns for free, ensure they properly receive tax credits and assist them with ways to build financial savings.

The IRS' Stakeholder Partnership, Education and Communications organization received the Connect America Partner of the Year Award. The honor is presented each year at the National Conference on Community Volunteering and National Service and the IRS is the first federal agency to receive the award.

Connect America is a network of organizations working together to leverage volunteering and other resources to positively impact communities. There are 150 Connect America National Partners, representing 221,000 local members in 7,700 communities nationwide.

"I'm pleased that the IRS has been recognized with this prestigious award. It's an honor for us to receive the same recognition as past winners such as the Salvation Army, the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation and Mothers Against Drunk Drivers," said IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson, in a statement.

Since its creation in 2000, IRS' SPEC operation has worked to develop a community-based partnership model. The outreach programs are geared toward low-income, elderly, disabled and limited-English proficient individuals and families. SPEC, which worked with 290 local coalitions in 2005, develops free tax preparation services for these groups under the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs. Together, VITA and TCE operate 14,000 tax preparation sites nationwide.

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