IRS linking to free e-filing

The Internal Revenue Service plans to develop a Web page by January 2003 to assist taxpayers in getting free e-filing services, but companies offering the services won't necessarily make their sites accessible to people with disabilities.

Terry Lutes, the director of the IRS' Electronic Tax Administration, told a gathering of tax executives Nov. 6 that the Web page would help facilitate the free Internet filing agreement signed Oct. 30 by the IRS and the Free File Alliance, which represents tax software companies.

The IRS must comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which requires federal agencies to make sure their sites and office technology are accessible by people with disabilities. The IRS page will offer links to companies that provide free tax services, and those companies will decide whether or not their sites comply with the disability law, he said.

The issue is cost, according to several tax industry officials who were at the meeting of the Council for Electronic Revenue Communication Advancement in Arlington, Va. Although the federal government is required to comply with the law, private companies are not.

Atilla Taluy, whose company, www.FileYourTaxes.com, has more than 50,000 customers, said his firm is looking into what it would take to make its Web site compliant with the law. But he said the cost of adding features for disabled users might be prohibitive.

Lutes said the goal of the IRS' Web page will be to help taxpayers understand and use free e-filing services. IRS officials aim to get 80 percent of all taxpayers filing online by 2007, and Lutes said e-filing exceeded its target last year, with 46.8 million e-filers. The free Internet filing agreement was reached after tax companies agreed to provide free tax filing services to millions of taxpayers and if the IRS promised to stay out of the online tax preparation business.

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