is directing qualifying individuals who need free tax return preparation assistance to a network of nonprofit community-based organizations that receive grants from the IRS.
The IRS announced in January 2014 that it would no longer offer free tax preparation services to low and moderate-income taxpayers.
Conservatives have criticized the decision to contract out the service — worth millions of dollars in matching grants — on the grounds that many of the community-based grant recipient organizations share the Obama administration's liberal agenda and because the use of trained volunteers may be professionally unreliable, The Daily Caller
"The thing is that this is an administration that pledges itself as trying to help out ordinary Americans, to help out the little guy," said Ryan Ellis of Americans for Tax Reform.
Most of the sites geared to the elderly are operated by the AARP Foundation's Tax Aide program.
The elderly, those who earn under $53,000, disabled individuals, and people with limited English-language proficiency generally qualify for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.
Critics said the IRS face-to-face preparation service was terminated with little opportunity for lawmakers or the public to voice their opposition.
According to the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel
— a federal advisory committee — the volunteer-based service falls short of meeting the full range of taxpayer-filing needs. The panel said Congress did not intend for VITA and a similar program aimed at the elderly to replace face-to-face IRS assistance.
The National Community Tax Coalition, a liberal group, had pushed for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, the Caller reported.
A 2013 Treasury Department audit
of tax preparation services performed by volunteers found a 49 percent error rate. "We have continually reported that Volunteer Program sites are inaccurately preparing tax returns," Treasury IG Russell George wrote in the September 2013 report, the Caller reported.
Organizations that want to apply for a VITA grant
can do so through the IRS.
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