ATLANTA -- Kroger's KMA here is teaming up with the Internal Revenue Service to expand its free tax return preparation services during the first quarter.
This is the second year that the 104-operator will sponsor tax clinics in selected stores in Atlanta, Alabama and South Carolina during tax season.
Kroger plans to have Internal Revenue representatives in 24 Kroger stores starting in January to assist consumers with their returns, field questions and offer free electronic filing. Assistance will be available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., said a Kroger spokesperson.
"This is the first time that IRS representatives will be at Kroger stores full-time," added the spokesperson. Previously, tax representatives were on duty from 8 a.m. to noon on the six Saturdays prior to April 15.
This year Kroger will promote the tax clinics in ads and flyers, and list the individual store locations where tax filers can go for the personalized service from the IRS staffers.
Under this expanded "Tax Payer" program, Kroger's free tax services will be offered at six stores daily beginning Jan. 18, and one day a week at 18 store locations starting Jan. 31.
The chain also plans to expand the free tax aid to additional locations during the weekend leading up the April 17 filing deadline. This is the fourth year that all of the KMA's stores will stock assorted federal and state tax forms.
"We are thrilled that the IRS has enabled us to offer this unique service to the community on an annual basis," said Paul Smith, the Atlanta KMA president.
The IRS has presented Kroger with the Certificate for Meritorious Community Service in recognition for what it said was developing an innovative community program.
Last year the program attracted long lines of taxpayers at the KMA's stores, especially as the filing deadline approached. Stores issued tickets to those in line. The chain had satellite post offices at some stores, where postal employees were stationed at dedicated checkouts for taxpayers to come in and hand over their returns at the last minute. The retailer provided free photocopies of the returns and refreshments to the harried taxpayers.
To make the free tax assistance accessible to a wide range of consumers, Kroger and the IRS selected stores in both urban and rural areas.