Sacramento tax preparers say returns reveal economic pain

As the income tax-filing race heads for Wednesday's finish line, the economic realities of 2008 are making their mark.

Local tax preparers are seeing more client hardships, millions of taxpayers are taking advantage of free-filing opportunities, and the Internal Revenue Service is emphasizing that it's willing to work with households struggling to make tax payments.

"We think there's a situation where some people, for the first time ever, can't pay the taxes that they owe," said John Stout, an IRS spokesman in Portland, Ore. "We're reminding people to be sure to at least pay something on their return."

Stout said the IRS will work with financially stressed taxpayers who contact the IRS to get some type of payment plan.

"We realize that the economy is dealing a hard blow to many people," he said.

To date, Stout said, the IRS has seen about 81 million online filers nationwide, a 12 percent increase over last year.

Stout said it appears taxpayers "are getting more comfortable with filing online."

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