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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Tax Forms and the Library

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, February 20, 2011

It was 1977, I was a new librarian; and the notice from the IRS arrived on my desk.


“A Workshop will be held to train librarians in the distribution of IRS tax forms to the public, as part of the Library Tax Form Program.”


It was a lovely workshop complete with refreshments.


I was amazed that it was going to take 4 hours to train us in handing out forms, but in reality, it was more comprehensive and included the paperwork needed for each library to receive the tax forms.


The first year included a cardboard display, as well as the now famous “Reproducible Tax Forms” binder that allowed the library to photocopy forms that we had not received in mass.


As years went by, the display unit disappeared and most libraries used their own tables or display units, and I thought it was only time before computers and the Internet would remove libraries from the tax form service.


Seems like most things that I predict related to libraries have been wrong.


What caused my prediction to go astray was the closure of many federal, state, and local offices, and the decision of the Postal Service to drop out of the program; combined with the fact that lots of people are not on the Internet.


So, here comes the 2010 tax season, and public libraries are again part of the program.  We are pleased to provide the service, and feel a responsibility to the public, but this year has a lot of factors that has made the program difficult.


First, the IRS is no longer mailing everyone tax forms and instruction booklets, and even if you file online, lots of people feel uncomfortable with not having the information arrive in the mail right after Dec 26.


Next, the “Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010” was not approved until Dec. 17, so some of the basic tax forms could not be produced until that time meaning that the 1040 and 1040A forms and booklets were delayed.


As of this time, only the 1040 booklets are not available, and we expect them any day.


Libraries now have all of the tax forms that are available for free distribution from the IRS, which are the most common forms needed.


Our libraries can also download forms for you, or anything from the IRS web site


You can also do your taxes online at all of our libraries; we have Internet access available to the public.


What we cannot do is provide tax advice, as we are not tax experts.  Tell us the forms you need, and we are glad to provide them for free or at a small cost for copying.


The IRS provides live telephone assistance for individuals at 1-800-829-1040 on weekdays and for businesses at-1-800-829-4933 on weekdays.


Another factor in this year’s tax season is that federal taxes aren’t due until April 18 due to Emancipation Day being observed on the 15th in some U.S. territories and Washington, D.C.


Our libraries also have state income tax forms available for the State of Ohio.  That consists of one packet of materials.


We also provide various legal forms through our Gale Legal Forms online service, as well as the Legal Aid binders provided to some of our locations for local legal paperwork.


One of my goals for 2011 is to increase the number of public computers by using banks of lap top computers that connect through our wireless networks.  Tax form season makes this a good idea in my mind.


All of this confirms my thought that public libraries are the last public service point left in our society.


We have lost so many agencies and offices over the past years, replaced my endless online web sites and those brainless phone answering systems to lead nowhere.


The library is pleased to provide these services, and glad that we still have a human being at the desk and answering the phone during library hours.


In the meantime, our cases of tax forms are disappearing quickly, so get ‘em while they remain in stock!