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Dozens Get Free Tax Help At IRS

Courier-Post — Sunday, March 22, 2009

By LAVINIA DeCASTRO
Courier-Post Staff

When Valderia Webster learned the Internal Revenue Service was offering free tax preparation, she jumped at the opportunity.

"It's close and convenient," said the Pennsauken resident, who was among the dozens of people who flocked to the IRS office in Cherry Hill on Saturday, where federal workers were at hand to help them with the paperwork. "It's very helpful to have somebody to do it for you."

More than 250 IRS offices nationwide were open on "Super Saturday" to offer free tax preparation to those who earn $42,000 or less.

In New Jersey, IRS offices in Cherry Hill, Jersey City, Newark, Paterson and Trenton were open.

Community Groups also joined in, offering free tax preparation at more than 1,000 sites nationwide, including New Jersey Citizen Action in Camden.

"We make sure we maximize their deductions and tax credits," IRS spokesman Gregg Semanick said.

By 8:30 a.m., a half hour before the Cherry Hill office opened its doors, a dozen people were already waiting outside, Semanick said. By 10 a.m., the office had already helped about two dozen people file their tax return, Semanick said.

This is Webster's second year having federal workers prepare her tax return.

"I had an accountant do it before," Webster said. "This saves you a lot."

Those with an adjusted gross income of $56,000 or less who couldn't make it to Super Saturday can still file for free through the IRS Web site.

About 70 percent of all taxpayers qualify for the free electronic filing, Semanick said.

"The good thing about electronic filing is that you get your refund in as little as 10 days," Semanick said.

Traditional filers have to wait up to six weeks to get a refund check, Semanick said.

New Jerseyans are taking advantage of the service.

By March 19 of last year, 1.4 million New Jersey residents had filed electronically. Almost 60 percent of all New Jersey tax returns were filed electronically last year. By Thursday, the number of electronic filings had increased to 1.6 million, Semanick said.

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