IRS offers tax help, amnesty

Posted: Thursday, February 20, 2003

The Internal Revenue Service is offering new services to facilitate filing income tax forms. The deadline to file is April 15.

The federal government launched a Web site in January with a consortium of tax software companies, the Free File Alliance, that will allow most taxpayers to prepare and file their taxes online for free.

Most citizens will be eligible to use this service at or through, the IRS said.

Free File allows Americans to get refunds in half the time of a traditional paper filing, the IRS said.

Each Free File Alliance member company sets taxpayer eligibility requirements for its own program. Those requirements differ from company to company.

Generally, eligibility will be based on factors such as age, adjusted gross income, state residency, military status, or eligibility to file a Form 1040EZ or for the Earned Income Tax Credit.

The agreement requires the Alliance, as a whole, to provide free services for at least 60 percent, or 78 million, of the nation's taxpayers during each filing season. The industry has exceeded that requirement this year.

After filing taxes, individuals can check the status of their refund on the IRS Web site or by telephone. The service, called "Where's My Refund?" is available on or on the IRS refund hotline, 1-800-829-1954.

IRS officials also have launched an effort to bring taxpayers who used offshore payment cards or other offshore financial arrangements to hide their income into compliance with tax law.

Under the Offshore Voluntary Compliance Initiative, eligible taxpayers who step forward will not face civil fraud and information return penalties. Taxpayers will have to pay back taxes, interest and certain accuracy or delinquency penalties.

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