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RISMEDIA, Jan. 22, 2007-(MCT)-Taxpayers can start preparing their 2006 tax return via the Internal Revenue Service's Free File system starting this week.

The system, available at www.irs.gov, is available to taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes of less than $52,000.

That works out to an estimated seven out of 10 U.S. taxpayers who can prepare and file their returns electronically for free, said Bert DuMars, director of IRS' Electronic Tax Administration.

IRS spokesman Bill Brunson said that ratio holds true in Utah, as well.

Although such a large proportion of taxpayers is eligible for the program, "many people don't know it's available," DuMars said.

To increase the number of those using Free File-as well as using other methods to file electronically-the IRS has taken a number of steps, including creating a Spanish-language version of www.irs.gov, available by logging on to www.irs.gov/espanol.

Overall, only slightly more than half of Utah's nearly 1.2 million taxpayers are expected to file their tax returns electronically this year, the IRS said.

That number would increase if more filers used Free File or those using tax-preparation software filed their returns electronically instead of submitting a paper copy, Brunson said.

"We're trying to convince those people that they should file electronically, too," Brunson said.

He said that in addition to cutting costs for the IRS, filing electronically benefits taxpayers because it reduces errors made when an IRS employee manually inputs the return once it gets to the IRS.

Errors can slow down the processing of a return. "Plus, if you are expecting a refund, you'll get it quicker . . . and you'll get a confirmation from the IRS that we received your return," Brunson said. "It's fast, it's accurate and it's secure."

This year taxpayers can elect for the first time to distribute their refund among three separate accounts.

Last year, the IRS would direct deposit the entire refund into only one account.

Copyright © 2007, The Salt Lake Tribune.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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