“You May See an Increase in Patrons” – IRS kicks paper tax filers out of the nest.

We can talk about whether there’s really a problem with people not knowing how to use a computer in the abstract. I think my life is enriched by having access to and knowledge about technology, but it’s tough to make the argument that lack of access/knowledge makes other people’s lives worse. That is, until people suddenly need to find a way to get tax forms so that they can file their mandatory tax reporting, or they need to learn to do their taxes online. That is, if they know how to use a computer. The IRS sent this update in September (pdf). I don’t know about your library but many of ours don’t get paper forms either. Brian talked about the hilarity that is the IRS’s understatement “You May See an Increase in Patrons”

With the continued growth in electronic filing and to help reduce costs, the IRS will no longer mail paper tax packages that typically arrive in January of each year. If you still wish to use a paper form, the IRS has several options available to help you obtain paper copies of individual forms and instructions, including:
● Accessing our forms and instructions online at IRS.gov. You can quickly download the latest products from our site.
● Dropping by your local IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center.
● Going to your local post office or library (if they participate in the federal tax products program) [emphasis mine.

So hey, 2011 is around the corner. We should probably get ready for this.

7 thoughts on ““You May See an Increase in Patrons” – IRS kicks paper tax filers out of the nest.

  1. I haven’t been able to get paper forms for the library for several years. The last couple years they have sent a DVD so that people can print forms, but who wants to print (and pay for) a 70 page instruction booklet? I’ve worked with patrons to save the pdf to the desktop and just refer to the pages they need, etc. but it’s a pain in the neck for both of us. And the online filing, I end up trying to help with that, too, but I’m by no means expert at it.

  2. In New Jersey last year, the state stopped sending instruction booklets and tax forms to taxpayers and libraries; if you wanted an instruction booklet, you had to order it from a special phone number or print it out from the state site (the tax form was also available that way). We had been fretting about the potential nightmare situations that would arise from this, but very few came to fruition.

    In responding to it, we made photocopies of the tax form itself, put some of instruction booklets on short circulation (I think it was 3 days or something like that), and had the number & website handy for those who wanted their own copies. It was a mixed reaction to the change; some applauded the state for saving $500,000 by not mailing the forms, others got outraged at the inconvenience. But, as a whole, we pulled through without much fuss. The only leery parts of the whole experience were around the closing time for taxes when people wanted forms and booklets and there were none to be had. That was frustrating, but only in the sense that we were taking the heat for other people not planning well.

    Now, with both the state and the federal not giving us stuff, at least we have an idea of what to prepare for and how to deal with the whole thing. So, for us, just the same thing, only bigger next year. No worries.

  3. Last week the Massachusetts Dept. of Revenue sent a letter to MA libraries saying they are also changing their printed forms. In the past, the individual tax booklet contained two copies of all the forms and one copy of the complete instructions. This year, it will only contain one copy of the form, and no instructions. Libraries will still get five copies of the instructions for people to photocopy, but other than that, it’s all online.

    People love to talk about cutting government spending and saving money, but I expect to also hear many complaints when people see how it impacts their lives. But then, the people this impacts most heavily aren’t the ones talking about shrinking the government.

    ps – yay for the Jessamyn bump!

  4. Just wanted to mention that “The Library: Three Jeremiads” is in the current issue of NYRB.

  5. Hmmmm…our library is increasing our printing fee to 20 cents a page at the start of the new year. Doesn’t seem like much money until you think about what it would cost to print out an entire tax instruction book. The good news is that we should have master copies of the most common forms and instruction booklets–our copier fee is holding steady at 10 cents a page.

  6. IRS says that paper returns accounted for only 20% of returns last year, and over half of those were done by a paid preparer. So the 8% who are still do-it-yourselfers will not be sent their forms automatically.

    Yes, these folks will have to perform the onerous task of picking up their phone and calling 1-800-TAXFORM to request their paper forms.

    Is this what you mean by “kicked out of the nest”?

  7. I’m dreading this transitional tax season. We’ve already had numerous people wander in looking for the forms. We will still have physical copies of basic forms, but the number of boxes I’ve seen will in no way sate the new onslaught of people who haven’t received forms in the mail.

    And no – they don’t want to log into the computer to print out the forms… the will want us to do it for them. Again, and again, and again, and again…

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