October 14th, 2010 Brian Herzog
I'm sure everyone has heard that the IRS is not going to be mailing 2010 tax forms to peoples' homes next year.
I don't blame them for looking for ways to save money, and it's good to be moving towards more efficient processes. But this isn't exactly a gentle nudge - this is a sharp push, which will be especially painful to people without internet access or few computer skills.
This also means, of course, that libraries will see even more demand for tax forms next year (and probably hear from many annoyed patrons). To warn us, the IRS sent out the following email through their Tax Form Outlet Program - forgive me if you've seen this, but the bold line below was too priceless not to share:
IRS TFOP ALERT: NO IRS TAX PACKAGES
TO TAX FORMS OUTLET PROGRAM (TFOP) PARTICIPANTS:
Thank you for your participation in TFOP. The IRS announced that individual and business taxpayers will no longer receive paper income tax packages in the mail from the IRS. These tax packages contained the forms, schedules and instructions for filing a paper income tax return. The IRS is taking this step because of the continued growth in electronic filing and the availability of free
options to taxpayers, as well as to help reduce costs.
There are numerous FREE OPTIONS available for your patrons to obtain tax products, tax preparation and assistance in filing their tax returns:
- Download Forms and instructions online at IRS.gov
- Visit an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center (TAC), participating libraries and U. S. Post Offices
- Individuals making $49,000 or less can use the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program for free tax preparation and, in many cases, free electronic filing
- Individuals aged 60 and older can take advantage of free tax counseling and basic income tax preparation through Tax Counseling for the Elderly
- IRS Free File provides options for free brand-name tax software or online fillable forms plus free electronic filing. For more information, visit IRS Free File on IRS.gov
YOU MAY SEE AN INCREASE IN PATRONS
Although tax products are available online at IRS.gov and IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs), you may experience an increase in patrons visiting your location for tax products.
The IRS mailed postcards to individuals who filed paper returns last year and did not use a tax preparer or tax software. The postcard provides information on how to get the tax forms and instructions they need for filing their tax year 2010 return.
ASSISTING YOUR PATRONS
Your TFOP order form lists the most commonly used tax products. Use the order form to order additional stock of any of these products, if necessary. Your order form lists Publication 1132, /Reproducible Copies of Federal Tax Forms and Instructions/ and Publication 3194, /Reproducible Copies of Federal Tax Forms /- Laminated Version. These publications contain the most commonly used tax products that, if available, can be photocopied by your patrons. Tax products will become available beginning January 2011.
IRS TFOP Administrator
I think "you may see an increase in patrons" is a bit of an understatement.
So to prepare, I'll be making signs to put up near the tax forms explaining the situation, and will also try to get the local newspaper to run a notification article or two before tax season starts. I will also quote to them from the CNN article:
Those who prefer hardcopy documents can still find them at libraries, post offices and walk-in IRS offices around the country. After Jan. 1, they can request a mailing through the IRS toll-free number, 800-829-3676.
Yes, it should be a fun one this year.
January 5th, 2008 Brian Herzog
By far, this was the most frequently-asked question this week:
Hey, you got any tax forms yet?
Why yes, we do.
Since last year's display worked so well, I did the same thing again. We've been receiving tax forms since about November, but my library just got big ones last week - the 1040s, Publication 17, and the State forms.
I don't know if there is any hard and fast rule as to when libraries can put out tax forms, but since patrons have asked me about ten times every hour all week, I decided today was the day.
Also like last year, as part of our tax assistance offerings, we plan to have an AARP Tax-Aide volunteer again, but that hasn't been scheduled yet. Better him giving tax advice than library staff.
I guess the only surprise this year was the fancy new cover for the 1040 instruction booklets. It certainly looks nice, but I wonder how many thousands of tax dollars went into designing and producing that.
Happy tax season to all.
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December 8th, 2007 Brian Herzog
This reference question is a bit self-serving, but...
A patron called my library's Director and said she wanted to donate money to the library. However, she said she could only donate to 501(c)(3) organizations.
My library is a department of the Town's municipal government, and has a trust fund, but our Board of Trustees had voted not to apply for 501(c)(3) status, as it is a tremendous amount of paperwork.
So, my Director asked me to find some kind of documentation stating that this patron could in fact donate the money to the library, and still write it off as a donation.
The first thing I tried was a Google search of the IRS website for "municipal donation site:irs.gov." Among the matches were the IRS' Publication 17 [pdf], Your Federal Income Tax, and their Publication 526 [pdf], Charitable Contributions.
In Pub 526 (page 2), I found the following to answer the question (emphasis added):
...You can deduct your contributions only if you make them to a qualified organization...
Types of Qualified Organizations
Generally, only the five following types of organizations can be qualified organizations.
1. A community chest, corporation, trust, fund, or foundation organized or created in or under the laws of the United States, any state, the District of Columbia, or any possession of the United States (including Puerto Rico). It must be organized and operated only for one or more of the following purposes.
- The prevention of cruelty to children or animals...
Even though that seemed to qualify us for the donation, I wanted to find a more definite answer. We still have a reference copy from of Pub 17 from last tax season, so I consulted that and found on page 150:
Deductible As Charitable Contributions
Money or property you give to:
- Federal, state, and local governments, if contribution is solely for public purposes (for example, a gift to reduce the public debt)
Okay, "local government...for public purposes" - that's pretty clear. I still maintain that librarians should never give tax advice, but I copied that and gave it to my Director.
And since I enjoy reading the tax code as much as the next person, I read on, and was rewarded with this gem:
You cannot deduct contributions to organizations that are not qualified to receive tax-deductible contributions, including the following.
- Certain state bar associations...
- Chambers of commerce and other business leagues or organizations.
- Civic leagues and associations.
- Communist organizations.
- Country clubs and other social clubs.
- Foreign organizations...
- Homeowners' associations.
- Labor unions...
- Political organizations and candidates.
The one that caught my eye was "Communist organizations." I thought it odd to single them out, especially since "Political organizations and candidates" is also listed. Commies can never catch a break.
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