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Government offers free tax preparation software

Tax time is just around the corner and the expensive tax preparation software is appearing now on a store shelf near you. But you don’t need to buy the program if your income is less than $56,000.

You can likely get the same program online at from the Free File center. It has about 20 different tax preparation software programs available for free again this year. The center has also added fillable forms for those who make more than $56,000.

The forms make it possible for more tax payers to file electronically without an extra charge. Refunds are available much more quickly this way, within seven to 10 days versus six weeks for a mailed returned.

“These are tough times, and e-file is the best way for people to get cash in their pocket quickly,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. “Filing electronically with direct deposit can get refunds to taxpayers in as few as 10 days. Combined with important changes in the Free File program, we believe e-file is a better option than ever before for the nation’s taxpayers.”

Free File offers 20 different software options to assist tax payers with a 2008 AGI of $56,000 or less to e-file their federal tax returns. You choose the company you want, or you can let the Web site assist you in choosing.

Several of the programs allow you to e-file for free. Many also offer state tax preparation, though a fee may apply.

You must use the Web site to access the Free File program, otherwise the e-file provider may charge you a fee.

The software programs use an interview process to walk you through your tax return. They cover the most commonly filed Federal tax forms and schedules with simple questions. Your answers go on the right forms, and the math is all done for you. Free File will then check your return for common mistakes ensuring a more accurate return.

You will receive a confirmation within 48 hours that your return was received by the IRS if you e-file.

Renee Jean is assistant managing editor for the Daily Journal and may be reached at or at 573-431-2010, ext. 117.

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