As the April 15 deadline to file 2012 income taxes looms, American taxpayers may fear the idea of filing taxes themselves, or worry about the cost of hiring a professional to file their taxes for them.

For the fifth year in a row, Myfreetaxes.com is available for low-to-moderate income citizens across the country. Those who make less than $57,000 annually – not including foreign income – can file state and federal taxes free of charge with the service. According to Myfreetaxes.com, the website is sponsored by Walmart, and was developed in partnership with United Way Worldwide, the National Disability Institute and Goodwill Industries, with tax filing software provided by H&R Block.

According to Lisa Austin, United Way Worldwide’s director of operations, citizens can visit IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) “fusion sites” to have their taxes completed for them, or they can use on-site computers to file their own taxes via the Myfreetaxes.com website.

Austin said it can be somewhat challenging to get people to file their taxes themselves at the fusion sites, since often they go to the sites intending to have their taxes done for them. While representatives at the fusion sites are available to coach people in need of assistance, the idea is for citizens to complete their taxes on their own.

“The ultimate goal is to truly empower people to do their own taxes and feel confident that they can do it on their own next year without having to leave home,” Austin said.

So far, 45,000 citizens have filed their 2012 taxes through Myfreetaxes.com – an increase from prior years, Austin said.

United Way Worldwide partnered for the first time this year with InContact, a company that specializes in cloud-based contact center software, to provide five 211 customer service assistance centers for tax filers. Citizens can access the call centers using one toll-free number, 1-855-698-9435.

Austin said 211 call center representatives were trained to be at least intermediate-level VITA certified, in addition to being IRS certified, so that they can properly answer incoming questions. Call center staff are supplemented by volunteer IRS agents who also assist customers calling into the toll-free help line.

According to InContact, the company’s call center platform exists in a cloud-based computing environment, which allows the centers to efficiently handle spikes in incoming call traffic.

When people call the help line, representatives ask callers how they plan to spend their tax refund. The majority of callers, Austin said, plan to spend their refund money paying bills.

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Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.