'Free File' Makes It Easier to Do Your Taxes On the Cheap

If you need help with your taxes, you don't have to pay a tax preparer or spend big bucks on tax prep software. The IRS is once again offering its Free File program, which partners the IRS with 20 tax software companies to allow taxpayers with an adjusted gross income of $52,000 or less in 2006 to electronically file their federal tax returns for free.

To use the program, visit the Free File link at http://www.irs.gov where you are then directed to the list of companies participating in the Free File program. You must click on the link for the company you want to use, after determining whether you meet its criteria.

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According to the IRS, 70 percent of all taxpayers (about 95 million) are eligible to take advantage of Free File. More than 15.4 million tax returns have been prepared and e-filed through Free File since its debut in 2003. Read more.

But this year, the IRS has made some changes to Free File. There is a Spanish-language version available for the first time, and users won't encounter advertising that touts commercial products such as mortgages, insurance and refund-anticipation loans, due to new restrictions from the IRS. Consumer advocates have railed against the Free File program's susceptibility to such advertising, particularly for costly refund-anticipation loans that come with interest rates as high as 500 percent. Beware refund-anticipation loans.

Just watch out — if you use Free File, you may still be susceptible to fees for state returns. According to the IRS, some, but not all, companies offer free state tax return preparation and e-filing.

Click here to visit FOXBusiness.com's Tax Planning page.

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