by Gene Barrett – In a recent article we brought to our members attention the serious concerns we have over the proposed IRS’ “Return Free” tax preparation program. As a result, we feel it is also important to shed some light on some of the successful free programs that are available to seniors across the country that offer expert tax filing support. As we discussed, the IRS has proposed that by spending billions of American tax dollars, we can bid adieu to independent and expert filing, and instead rely on their handiwork to calculate our bills and refunds. A major conflict of interest that is loaded with economic consequences stands in stark contrast to the variety of free programs already offered today, through the private sector and small businesses alike.
As we speak out against the IRS proposal, we also note that for the past 11 years, the Free File Alliance has been running a highly successful free tax preparation program. Free File is a joint program offered by the government and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA). Under CCIA, the Free File Alliance is responsible for the successful and free filing of millions of American tax returns, without the challenges or conflict of interest innate to the “Return Free” proposal.
The Free File Alliance is a rare cooperative offering something free and uncompromising in quality to millions of Americans. Through the programs offered by the Alliance, major corporations are demonstrating what it means to give back to the communities that have helped them develop into the businesses they are today. For example, CCIA partner Intuit has donated over 22 million tax returns to qualified participants since the programs inception in 2002. These services are offered across the country, working with senior, veteran, and community organizations to find space and computers, and offer free, expert filing to all that qualify. People with an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $58,000 or less can select from more than a dozen online tax preparation services. That means about 70 percent of all taxpayers, or 95 million people, are eligible to use these free services. Because of advanced software available through CCIA affiliates, tax filers are guaranteed the strictest standards in security and accuracy.
Additionally, through the IRS web site, CCIA and its partner companies like Intuit, H&R Block and Microsoft offer free state tax preparation to qualified taxpayers who file returns in 22 states and the District of Columbia that sponsor their own Free File: Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.
These programs are working, and they are being used by the folks that need free support to file their taxes. Corporate accountability is a positive element in American society and something for us to celebrate, appreciate, and utilize. As tax season comes around next year, we will profile the opportunities through Free File Alliance for our members and their communities to participate in and file their taxes free of charge.