T’is The Season: Free E-Filing

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Taxes, IRS, Tax Return

(credit: Photo illustration by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

420x316-grad-lee Dee Lee
Dee Lee is a Certified Financial Planner who received a diploma in...
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BOSTON (CBS) – A majority of taxpayers are eligible to prepare and file the 2011 federal tax return online for free.

The IRS and their E-File partners, a consortium of tax prep software companies, are helping taxpayers prepare and file their federal tax returns online. There are 15 companies participating in the program down from almost twice that number when this program began.

Over 70% of the 145 million returns filed last year were filed via the internet. The IRS loves 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 $57,000 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. And most provide free services to active members of the military.

Your federal tax returns are free, but all of the companies will charge you for the state tax return. Turbo-Tax charges $27.95, which is a bargain! But for free file, Turbo-Tax has an income limit of an AGI (adjusted gross income) of $31,000 except for the military.

Only use the IRS’ website to access the Free File members. 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.

If you are looking for the personal touch, there are programs for the elderly that offer free assistance. Now elderly is defined as anyone over 60! The IRS’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Program offer help for taxpayers who qualify.


These Program offer free tax help to taxpayers who have incomes of $50,000 or less and need assistance in preparing their tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide basic income tax return preparation to qualified individuals in local communities. They can inform taxpayers about special tax credits for which they may qualify such as Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled.

The help sites are generally located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls, and other convenient locations. Most locations also offer free electronic filing. AARP is part of the TCE program and has the free Tax-Aide program for elders. I typed in WBZ’s zip code and got 97 places that offer this service including the Boston Public Library.

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