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Get ahead of Tax Day: IRS introduces free tax-filing program


Florida residents can now file their simple income-tax forms for free and save time through the Internal Revenue Service's Direct File pilot program. The simplified filing process could eventually save Florida taxpayers more than $530 million in filing fees every year.

With the April 15 income-tax filing deadline right around the corner, Adam Ruben, vice president for campaigns and political strategy at the Economic Security Project, said you can easily use the program by visiting the website Directfile.IRS.gov.

"It's an interview-based questionnaire," Ruben said. "So it's something that people can use on their phones or computers, available in English and Spanish, that asks people questions in pretty much plain language, and you fill in the answers. And it fills in the tax form for you."

Florida is one of a dozen states where the IRS Direct File is a pilot project. If it were to expand nationwide and be available to more taxpayers, Ruben estimated that within five years, it could save Americans $8 billion in tax preparation fees and another $3 billion worth of time annually.

However, opponents have argued that the government is wasting resources and will snag business from professional tax preparers and programs that have lobbied against Direct File.

Chris Moreno, director of financial capability for Catalyst Miami, a nonprofit that works with communities through a variety of free services, said a stress-free filing process that can be done from the comfort of your home or the convenience of your phone is worth taking advantage of.

"If you are an average worker who gets a W-2 - you're employed for a company, you don't own any companies or businesses - you'd probably be the ideal candidate for someone to be able to use Direct File this year," Moreno said.

While a free-file program has been available, many taxpayers were unaware they had access to it. An investigation by ProPublica revealed tactics by Intuit, maker of TurboTax, to cloud the free-file program.

State auditors, comptrollers, and treasurers in 18 states - including Florida - sent a letter in March to the federal government urging the termination of Direct File. They claimed it might lead to confusion about state tax filings, potentially resulting in penalties and loss of state refunds.

IRS, Florida News Connection, Catalyst Miami, Pro Publica, Economic Security Project, Direct File, Can I file directly with the IRS?


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