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Tennesseans file taxes for free . January 23, 2009

More Tennesseans are filing their taxes for free, thanks to the work of volunteer organizations.

Nashville resident Natalie Denney filed her taxes at no charge on Friday morning at a tax preparation site run by VITA, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.

"There was a flier in the mail and that's how I found out about this place," Denney told News 2.

The IRS trains and tests volunteers to help households earning less than $49,000 annually squeeze the most out of their federal tax refunds.

According to VITA, the average cost for a typical tax preparation is $150.  Tax filers who receive a "refund anticipation loan" pay even more money in additional fees and interest.

"In this current economic crisis, every dollar is going to matter, so we want to keep those extra dollars in someone's pocket if we can," Jessica LeVeen Farr of the Nashville Alliance for Financial Independence told News 2.

More and more households earning less than $49,000 per year are taking advantage of the program.

In 2004 the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program filed 2,500 free returns. More than 8,000 returns were filed at no charge in 2008.

Group organizer Phil Orr anticipates that growth will continue.

"We have a trend each year of growing this program," Orr told News 2. "We hope that more people will hear about and get connected to their closest [tax] site, and we do believe it will grow year to year."

The IRS says that many Tennessee households earning more than $49,000 can also file for free.

"If you made $56,000 or less last year, then you don't have to pay anybody to do your tax return," says Dan Boone, IRS spokesman. "You can do it yourself at the IRS Web site using the free e-file program."

Boone said that more 90% of Tennesseans meet the criteria to file for free on their own.

Most electronically-filed tax refunds are received within 10 days of filing.

The IRS said there's another benefit to filing online.

"Paper returns have an error rate of 20%", according to Boone "but with e-file returns it drops to about 1%."

To locate the nearest VITA site, call 1-800-829-1040 .


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Nashville Alliance for Financial Independence
250 Venture Circle, Nashville, Tenn. 77228
phone: 615.780.2444   Fax: 615.780.2426   e-mail:
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