Tax Resources @ your library
Still deciding whether to tackle filing your tax return versus using the services of a paid preparer before the April 15 deadline? Wondering how the new 2009 tax law changes—college tax benefits for parents and students, energy credits for homeowners who are going green, and even tax breaks for home buyers and car buyers—are going to benefit you? Help in solving these mysteries is available right in your neighborhood—@ your library.
Many libraries provide the necessary forms for a do-it-yourself job on paper. For example, Washington Centerville (Ohio) Public Library keeps binders of reproducible tax forms for patrons to copy, along with taxpayer information publications and a variety of tax forms. The forms are also available online from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or state revenue agencies.
At Sedona (Ariz.) Public Library, reference librarian Patricia Lowell has 21 years’ experience at the library in ordering, organizing, and making available federal and state forms for the SPL’s reference department, according to an article by SPL board member Mark E. Rosen on the library’s website. “The forms don’t frighten me; to me they make a lot of sense,” Lowell said. “And we are the only game in town . . . the forms are no longer available in banks or the post office. We can help patrons wade through the forms and assist in finding what they are looking for.”
Free for the asking
Through joint programs with such organizations as the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA), volunteers are available at libraries nationwide offering free tax preparation to certain filers.
Sedona Public Library offers the free AARP Tax Preparers Service to all its patrons; you don’t have to be an AARP member and there is no minimum age requirement. The same service is available at Baldwin City (Kans.) Library, where residents filing income tax forms electronically can get free help, by reservation only.
Scarborough (Maine) Public Library offers public access workstations to file federal and state returns online as well as free Tax-Aide tax preparation assistance, in partnership with AARP, for seniors and low- or middle-income individuals.
The Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County in Ohio is providing free tax preparation and electronic filing for seniors and those at any age with low- to moderate- income through a grant from the IRS and a partnership with the Mahoning Valley Economic Opportunity Coalition. They also allow patrons to file taxes on the library’s computers, with warnings about the one-hour time limit, the reliability of internet connections, and the safety of using a public computer.
Free AARP filing help is also available on a first-come, first-served basis at the Main and Latter branches of New Orleans Public Library; Nashville (Tenn.) Public Library, through VITA, for low- to moderate-income filers (generally $49,000 and below); and through Washington County (Ohio) Public Library’s AARP Tax-Aide Assistance on a first-come, first-served basis for low-and middle-income taxpayers, with special attention to those 60 years and older.
Patrons of the Iowa City Public Library can e-file their returns in the computer training lab or, if they qualify, get free federal tax assistance through the VITA program. Free tax help is also available at Sarasota (Fla.) County Libraries through AARP and Dallas (Tex.) Public Library through AARP and VITA.
Seattle Public Library, United Way of King County, and AARP are collaborating to offer free tax preparation to everyone at 11 branches; registration is required. The service is not available for business tax returns.
Charleston (S.C.) Public Library branches, in cooperation with AARP and VITA are offering free tax assistance at eight branches, including the St. John’s Regional branch for Spanish-only patrons.
In addition to free services through VITA, Bridgeport (Conn.) Public Library provides a Tax Counseling for the Elderly service with free tax help for people aged 60 and older. Trained volunteers from nonprofit organizations provide tax counseling and income tax return preparation for senior citizens. BPL also offers free tax help for military personnel and their families through the Armed Forces Tax Council, coordinators for the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.
In addition to IRS and state resources, check out the following 2009 publications for tackling the filing yourself or for research purposes:
Taxes 2009 for Dummies
by Eric Tyson, Margaret A. Mumro, and David J. Silverman
How to Pay Zero Taxes, 2010
by Jeff Schnepper