St. Cloud, MN, March 2013: Preprinted income tax forms will not be available at Great River Regional Library locations after this current tax season. The late release of printed forms from both the Federal and State level, difficulties in obtaining the most frequently requested forms and instructions, and the move toward electronic tax filing have persuaded the library that it is no longer a service it should offer.
The library has made tax forms available at each of its 32 locations in Central Minnesota for many years, but it has found the process increasingly burdensome. Beginning in 2014, library staff will provide assistance in locating the IRS and MN Department of Revenue sites online and taxpayers will be able to use library computers to print forms they need, but the library will not provide preprinted tax forms.
The IRS stopped mailing paper income tax packages in 2011, reportedly to save money and to encourage taxpayers to file electronically. After post offices and most banks discontinued the service, libraries became the primary location where individuals who continued to use paper forms could obtain them. That is no longer always the case. Some states, including New Jersey and Iowa, no longer provide paper tax forms to libraries, and many libraries around the nation have discontinued providing paper tax forms because of problems with the service.
“The IRS has done a poor job of getting all of its information and all of the forms available in a timely manner,” said Karen Pundsack, the library’s patron services coordinator. Because of changing tax laws in the past two years, the IRS has had to delay printing and distributing forms. People become frustrated when they make multiple trips to the library hoping to pick up their tax forms only to learn the forms are not yet available. Also, people sometimes expect library staff to give them advice about which forms to use or even how to enter information about their tax returns.
“Library staff cannot offer tax advice or help in filling out tax forms,” Pundsack said. “We have tried to make it clear that we cannot give people tax advice, but because we had the forms, people assumed that library staff had expert knowledge.” The library’s role has been to make the tax forms available so people could find what they needed. “When the forms aren’t available, this just doesn’t work. We want people to have a good experience at the library, but where tax forms are concerned, that’s been taken out of our control.”
Each GRRL location has Internet stations and printers available to the public. Because of time limits, Pundsack advises people not to attempt to file electronically using library computers. Instead, they can print the forms they need for $.10 per page, and library staff can assist them in locating helpful resources. Some library locations partner with local organizations and volunteers to assist seniors with tax preparation. GRRL will be looking at ways to expand this type of assistance and provide more resources for patrons in 2014.
The library chose this time to announce that it will not provide tax forms in future so as to give taxpayers an opportunity to make alternative plans for next year, Pundsack said.
Great River Regional Library (GRRL) provides library services at 32 public libraries in Benton, Morrison, Sherburne, Stearns, Todd and Wright Counties. It provides Central Minnesota residents with nearly 1 million books, CDs and DVDs, 250 public computers, programming and information services.
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