And here is some advice I’ve pulled off of the VTLIBRARIES mailing list about tax assistance for people with disabilities. Here is an obligatory link to an article outlining the effect on some public libraries (in Maine in this case) who are dealing with the fact that people are not getting mailed paper tax forms unless they request them. Currently about 70% of Americans file their taxes electronically.
“Hundreds of the most popular federal tax forms and publications are available for download from IRS.gov for sight impaired individuals. These products range from talking tax forms to Braille formats, and are accessible using screen reading software, refreshable Braille displays and voice recognition software. Click on the links below to download these forms and publications:
Download Accessible Tax Forms (Braille and Text Formats)
Download Accessible Tax Publications (Braille and Text Formats)
Download Accessible Talking Tax Forms
Download Tax Instructions (Large Print Format)
Download Tax Publications (Large Print Format)
The IRS also offers customer service assistance for persons who are deaf or who have hearing disabilities. People with TTY equipment may call 800-829-4059, which is a toll-free number, for assistance.
People who are unable to complete their tax return because of a physical disability may get assistance from an IRS office, or through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) sponsored by the IRS. Taxpayers can find a nearby location by calling 1-800-906-9887 or checking the partial list on the IRS’s website.
Publication 907, Tax Highlights for Persons with Disabilities, explains the tax implications of certain disability benefits and other issues, and is available at IRS.gov.
Visit www.IRS.gov and click on the word â€œaccessibilityâ€ for help and information.
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:
â— Accessing our forms and instructions online at IRS.gov. You can quickly download the latest products from our site.
â— Dropping by your local IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center.
â— 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.
Only sort of related to libraries, but since it’s National Library Week and coincidentally tax week in the US, I thought you might be interested in reading this article about how and why the IRS is moving to e-filing. To me this touches on some digital divide issues. It’s significantly cheaper for the IRS to process a return submitted online.
It costs nearly $3 to process a paper return, but processing an electronic return costs only about 35 cents. The error rate on paper returns is 20 percent, which consumers must compute and workers must enter into IRS computers, compared with 1 percent for e-filed returns.
People also get their refunds more quickly. There are fewer errors with online returns.
Yet after 20 years of e-file availability, we’re still only seeing 66% of returns filed online. And this is happening even as printed state (NJ, KY) and federal tax forms are becoming less and less available in libraries. Some states aren’t even printing the big tax form notebook anymore. And some states aren’t mailing print forms. Some county library systems haven’t been doing the tax form thing for nearly 20 years. The article examines why. If you are helping your patrons file online, be aware that there are free options available for low-income filers and even discounts for non-low income people if they know where to look. My bank, for example, had a discount on TurboTax’s usual rates available just by me clicking a link on their website.
And I’m trying to track down the copy I had of the letter we got at one of the small rural libraries from the IRS that basically said they wouldn’t be sending us printed tax forms anymore. This was back when we still had a dialup connection and it was mighty inconvenient. Having a hard time remembering when this was. Anyone know?
I’m moving house this week, so I’m living out of my inbox more than usual.
I’ve been getting emails about a Library Hotline article I was quoted in, from my talk at ALA. I gave a presentation with Louise Alcorn as part of the PLA track at ALA. My talk was called “Six Things You Maybe Didn’t Know About Rural Technology” You can see the pdf as well as links to Louise’s presentations on this page, there’s some great stuff about technology for small libraries. It went well and was well-attended.
LH covered it well but they did use this one line “How many of you know that tax forms must be filed online next year? she queried the audience. Many didn’t” What I actually said was that for many libraries they must help patrons GET their tax forms online. Small misquote, no big deal. It’s even possible I misspoke. In any case, I only knew about this when I started getting emails. Often if I post something in error to librarian.net I’ll get a comment about it, maybe two. In this case, I got ten emails within maybe a week or two from librarians asking me about this, and looking for more information about what they thought was a policy they hadn’t heard of. I replied that it was an error and finally wrote to Library Hotline who graciously agreed to print a correction.
This sort of thing always reminds me that in many ways large parts of our profession still rely on print-only sources for at least some of their keeping current. I know that every time I get a copy of Computers in Libraries or School Library Journal I always think “Oh hey I should write about that on librarian.net” and am always sad to not find the content online and linkable.
One of the constant threats that small libraries have to contest with is threat of closure. In Vermont where I live many small libraries just barely stay open because people in the town advocate for them and the decision ultimately rests with the town. If they want to pay for it, they get to keep it. In Indiana there is a movement afoot to consolidate the state’s libraries to, I believe, one per county. It’s at the initial stages, a plan by the governor, at this point. Small libraries are discussion the issue wiht their boards, and other libraries. The plan would cut the total number of libraries from 238 to 92 via consolidation. This would, apparently save property tax money and “streamline” government somewhat. We’re talking about a state that has advertisements on its government site search. The Indiana State Library website doens’t have any immediately available information on this topic that I could find through basic searching.
It’s pretty clear that this would mostly shift library costs to the patron (travel, re-learning systems, fees?) and staff (lost jobs, retraining, commuting) and away from the funding bodies. So, sure there is money to be saved but would a reorganization scheme actually work? I find the concept chilling but I haven’t really started reading about it yet. For people who are interested in this issue, I suggest the Save Our Small Public Libraries blog and the INpublb archives (view by thread to find consoludation discussions) [ttw]