The Internal Revenue Service plans to open its electronic filing season on Friday, Jan. 16, and debut a new service that allows taxpayers to simply fill out forms on-screen and file their taxes for free.

The new service will be available to taxpayers of any income level. It will augment the Free File program, which provides free tax-processing software from 20 different companies to taxpayers whose adjusted gross incomes are $56,000 or less.

The new Free Fillable Tax Forms service is aimed at taxpayers who don't need to go through the interview process included in most tax software packages. They should be familiar with recent tax laws, however, and know which forms to fill out. The on-screen forms let them enter their tax data, perform basic math calculations, sign the returns electronically, print their returns for recordkeeping purposes and electronically file their returns.

The IRS also noted that several tax software vendors are offering free electronic filing options this year. They include Intuit's TurboTax, H&R Block's TaxCut and 2nd Story Software's TaxAct.

"These are tough times, and e-file is the best way for people to get cash in their pocket quickly," said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman (pictured) in a statement. "Filing electronically with direct deposit can get refunds to taxpayers in as few as 10 days. Combined with important changes in the Free File program, we believe e-file is a better option than ever before for the nation's taxpayers." Last year, the average tax refund was $2,429.

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