IRS Free File Program Reopens with Changes to Address Previous Critiques

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Jan 13, 2020

The IRS launched its new, revamped Free File program with changes meant to address critiques that the program wasn't being promoted in earnest, according to Accounting Today

The IRS Free File program, which ostensibly offers no-cost tax filing options, was developed in partnership with several private-sector vendors after the agency agreed it would not develop an independent service of its own if the firms offered them instead. Reporting by Pro Publica last year, however, found that the free services offered by these private firms were deliberately underpromoted, as evidenced by the fact that only 3 percent of eligible filers used them. These findings were echoed in an IRS-commissioned study, finding that not enough members of the public know about the program, in part because five of the 12 private-sector partners used coding that, in effect, hid the option from consumer searches.

Under the new program, according to Accounting Today, firms are not allowed to actively hide free file options from consumer searches, and generally have to make information about the program more public and available. 

"Free File online products offer free federal tax return preparation, free electronic filing and free direct deposit of refunds to help get your money faster," said Chuck Rettig, IRS Commissioner. "The IRS has worked to improve the program for this year, and we encourage taxpayers to visit, and consider using the Free File option to get a head start on tax season."

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