Free tax prep help available

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There’s no reason to pay for tax help this year, if you can file using the 1040EZ form, as more and more companies are adding free filing assistance for those forms.

Walmart is teaming with H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt tax preparation services to provide free filing help for customers’ 1040EZ forms. Walmart will also cash refund checks up to $1,000 for a $3 charge and checks up to $7,500 for a $6 charge.

According to the Federal Deposit Insur­ance Corp., more than 60 million Americans did not have access to traditional banking services such as credit cards and checking accounts in 2011, and Walmart thinks its low check-cashing fees are one way to help people in this situation.

“We believe Americans shouldn’t have to pay exorbitant prices on their everyday financial needs,” said Daniel Eckert, the vice president of Walmart Financial Services. “It’s their money, and we want to make sure they can cash checks, pay bills and transfer money at a low price.”

Mark Green, a spokesman for the Internal Revenue Service, said it’s important for taxpayers to remember that no matter who fills out the form, they are ultimately responsible for their tax returns.

“If you choose to use a paid tax preparer, it is important that you find a qualified tax professional,” he said.

The best way for customers to know whether a tax preparer is reputable is by asking for a Preparer Tax Identification Number, an identification number given to licensed tax professionals. Tax professionals must renew their identification numbers each year.

“We strongly recommend you select someone who is creditable, knowledgeable, accountable, and has a PTIN,” Green said.

Action Ministries of Augusta offers free tax filing help every Saturday in February and March at its 303 Hale St. location. Call (706) 722-8195 before attending to find out what documents to bring. TaxSlayer.com offers free 1040EZ filing and has tutorial videos on its Web site providing tax guidance and explanations.

 
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