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Wal-Mart, Sears Expand Services

As consumers are more engaged with their laptops and smartphones than associates in brick-and-mortar stores, retailers are using services to connect with them.

At a time when consumers are more engaged with their laptops and smartphones than associates in brick-and-mortar stores, retailers are using services to connect with them.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on Tuesday through its foundation said it had donated $4.16 million to Goodwill Industries International, National Disability Institute and United Way Worldwide to support MyFreeTaxes Partnership, which offers free federal and state tax preparation and filing services both online and in person to eligible Americans, along with Earned Income Tax Credit eligibility education. MyFreeTaxes has helped 4.5 million families claim nearly $6 billion in tax credits and refunds online and in-person since 2009.

MyFreeTaxes, discussed by Wal-Mart today, is expected to help return an estimated $1.95 billion this year in total tax refunds, credits and tax preparation fee savings to qualified taxpayers, according to the retailer.

“In this difficult economic environment every dollar counts,” said Michelle Gilliard, senior director of the Wal-Mart Foundation. “To help ease the financial burden of the tax preparation process and make sure individuals and families receive their full tax refund, the Wal-Mart Foundation is pleased to partner with leading nonprofits to offer MyFreeTaxes, a completely free tax-filing service.”

Also on Tuesday, Sears said it had expanded its relationship with ECOtality, a leader in clean electric transportation, and unveiled the first Blink Direct Current Fast Charger stations at multiple Sears stores in Tennessee and Arizona. The stations allow Sears customers to charge an electric vehicle battery up to 80 percent capacity in less than 30 minutes, the fastest charge rate available.

“Our relationship with Sears will benefit businesses and communities alike,” said Ravi Brar, chief executive officer of ECOtality. “By continuing to install Blink charging stations at new locations, Sears is showing its commitment to clean energy with the added benefit of attracting an upscale and loyal consumer that research shows spends more time in-store than the average customer. We are delighted to work with such an iconic brand.”

“Sears Holdings is proud to do our part in driving clean energy,” said Rajan Penkar, senior vice president and president of supply chain for Sears Holdings. “The EV charging stations are offering a valuable service.”