* FREE FILE AND IRS EXTEND PARTNERSHIP: The Internal Revenue Service and the Free File Alliance have extended their partnership, a pact that provides free tax services and electronic filing to an eligible pool of 93 million taxpayers, and agreed to provide important new consumer protections.Free File debuted during the 2003 filing season as a strategy of providing free services to moderate- and low-income taxpayers. The alliance is a consortium of tax software vendors that set their own criteria for taxpayer eligibility for free use of their software. The agreement calls for services to be provided to 70 percent of the nation's taxpayers. The extended agreement includes the following consumer protections:

* Alliance members that offer refund anticipation loans will provide the highest standards of consumer protection, upholding greater disclosure and consent requirements related to ancillary financial products - fees and interest rates, information on other options for refunds, and full disclosure of RALs as loans rather than refunds.

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