BOSTON (CBS) – If you have access to a computer and the Internet, you may be eligible to prepare and file your 2010 federal tax return online for free.

The IRS and their E-File partners, a consortium of tax prep software companies, have agreed to help taxpayers prepare and file their federal tax returns online. The IRS does not want to get into the tax software business and the software companies don’t want the IRS messing with their business.

Last year over 95 million returns of the 144 million filed were filed via the internet. That’s 80% of the tax returns filed. The IRS is loving it. It’s cheaper for they don’t need IRS employees handling each and every return.

Any taxpayer with access to a computer and the Internet with an adjusted gross income under $58,000 will probably qualify for Free File. Each company sets its own criteria for free usage though.

The criteria set by the companies varies but often is based on income, state residency and age. So you could be too young or too old in some cases. And some companies have no restrictions for participation.

Beware that some of the Alliance members offer immediate refunds. These are really refund anticipation loans and there are fees as well as interest costs associated with them. Better to wait for the IRS to send you a check or better still have Uncle Sam direct deposit that refund into your checking account.

Use the IRS’ website to access the Free File Alliance members. You will need to give them some preliminary information and the IRS will match you with a list of companies and their services.
Filing online is fast, accurate and secure and the bonus is that you get your refund quicker than those who file paper returns. The software eliminates most common errors, such as math mistakes, that can hold up a refund.

AARP has a free Tax-Aide program for elders. Click on their website and type in your zip code to find help near you. The volunteers help seniors prepare their tax returns and many will now e-file as well. I typed in WBZ’s zip code and got 91 places that offer this service including the Boston Public Library.


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