Tax season revisited

AT THE LIBRARY

I’m sticking my neck out and asking Jane Mort, Lifestyles Editor, to print an updated version of an article that appeared several years ago. That column garnered several days of criticism in the Open Line. Since the Open Line is now a positive forum for expression I feel a little safer revisiting the topic of tax season at the public library.

Hands on either side of my forehead; elbows on the desk; two tears trickling down my cheeks, I bow my head in prayer.

Dear God,

It is tax season again. Please let me win the lottery so I don’t have to live through another tax season at the library. If I can’t win the lottery, let me die so I don’t have to live through another tax season at the library. If it is not your will that I die, let me contract some horrible disease that lasts until April 17 (and makes me lose 75 pounds) so I don’t have to live through another tax season at the library. Thank you for hearing my prayer, Lord. Amen

Can you tell I really dislike tax season at the library? Over the years, my reasons have changed but never the emotion. At my very first public library job I arrived at work one day to boxes stacked so high I couldn’t get to my desk. At my look of dismay, I was told with a shrug of shoulders by the veteran employees, “The tax forms have arrived.” The government used to print every form and all the instructions, sending thousands of copies to public libraries across the United States. The poor tiny branch where I worked (about the size of Kish library) received 38 boxes for forms and instructions. We had those darn things everywhere. And, on April 20, we sent 35 boxes to be burned (we didn’t recycle back then).

After years of wasteful government printing and complaints from librarians, a sort-of-wise person in the Government Printing Office heard us. By then I’d moved to Miami and we only received 18 boxes of the most popular forms and instructions, as well as a notebook with all the forms and instructions.

In 2014 the GPO had several brilliant ideas. Get ready, I’m stepping on my soapbox again. The federal government decided:

≤ Let’s go paperless.

≤ Those librarians complained so let’s not send any paper forms or instructions.

≤ Let’s not tell anyone we are going to do this.

≤ This won’t be a problem because everyone has a computer and can download the forms and instructions from the IRS website; or better yet, file online.

Hello! Which of these ideas is the stupidest?

Here we are in 2019 and guess what? We have no federal tax forms. We didn’t have any state forms until State Sen. Jake Corman came to the rescue. And we still don’t have the “farming form.” That’s not its official name but since we don’t have it or the book that used to have all the schedules/forms in it, I don’t know what schedule letter it is. Rent Rebate forms are not to be found anywhere.

We don’t even have that huge binder with all the forms and instructions available for taxpayers to copy. I want a nickel for each time we tell a person we don’t have forms. Hmmmmm, maybe this is a new revenue stream for the library. Give me a nickel and I’ll tell you we have no forms.

You can get the forms online at www.irs.gov and www.revenue.pa.gov. Look for the “Forms and Publications” section. You can print out the forms and instructions needed. If you come to the library to print, we charge 25 cents a page.

Please, please, I beg you, do not come in April 15 and expect to pick up forms and instructions and walk out the door. The websites will also strongly encourage you to e-file. You certainly can do that on our public access computers. The security on these computers is set to erase all information when you log out, but we can’t promise with 100 percent certainty that your information is completely safe, but it is as protected as we can make it.

Now that I’ve vented about the forms/instructions or lack thereof, I’d like to share some of my favorite tax questions. DISCLAIMER: Library staff cannot answer tax questions or help you with tax preparation.

From a man who lived on the 10th floor of an apartment complex: “Should I file a Schedule F with my 1040?” Schedule F’s title is Profit or Loss from Farming. Gee, I don’t think so, but you should check with a trained tax preparer.

“I only work for cash. Do I have to file?” There are only two things you HAVE to do in this life — file taxes and die. But, you should check with a trained tax preparer.

“My ex pays for the dog, like child support … Can I claim the dog as a dependent?” You should consult a trained tax preparer.

“I’ll need help filling out my income tax. The library does that, right.” NO, we do not. Please consult a trained tax preparer.

Are you getting the point here? We are not able to help you with tax questions. We can’t help you decide which forms you need. We can’t prepare your taxes for you or help you file online. We’ll even commiserate with you about the difficulty in obtaining information and tax forms. We’ll show you to these 2018 tax resources: J.K. Lasser’s Your Income Tax 2018 and J.K. Lasser’s 1001 Deductions and Tax Breaks 2018: Your Complete Guide to Everything Deductible (2018).

As Albert Einstein said, “the hardest thing to understand in the world is the income tax.”

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Editor’s note: Molly reports that 35 minutes after she filed this week’s column, the Mifflin County Library received 12 boxes of federal tax forms. “So, yes, we have forms, but we still don’t give advice!”

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Molly S. Kinney is the director at the Mifflin County Library. She just finished “Shelter in Place: Chapter One,” by Nora Roberts.

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