Uncle Sam gets stingy with free tax forms, instruction booklets
The decision by the Internal Revenue Service to limit the distribution of special forms and instruction booklets is taxing people’s patience, and librarians are feeling the brunt of it.
The agency announced last month that it will send libraries Forms 1040, 1040A and 1040EZ, but not special forms such as Schedule A for itemizing deductions, the instruction booklets for completing the returns and the tax tables for figuring how much one owes.
“We get the patrons’ frustration that they’re not getting the forms they need,” said Suzy Ruskin, interim director of the Moon Public Library. “But it’s not aimed at the IRS. It’s aimed at us. We’re the person that’s there. The IRS … doesn’t have a face. You know the people at the library. They have a face.”
The decision to curtail mass distribution of forms to libraries was carried out as the IRS begins accepting returns for processing Tuesday. Four years ago, the IRS stopped mailing forms and instructions to taxpayers’ homes.
Some libraries have posted signs with the IRS announcement about the policy change. The sign at Northland Public Library in McCandless attributes the lack of instructions and special forms to congressional budget cuts.
“I’m sure there will be lots of comments from people and grumbling,” said Amy Steele, executive director of Northland Public Library. Last year, the library ordered 17 types of forms and 4,050 instruction booklets for the three types of 1040 forms.
Jerome Cawley stopped recently to pick up tax forms at Northland. He noticed federal forms were missing.
“If they’re going to demand the taxes, they ought to tell you at least how to work your taxes,” said Cawley, 83, of McCandless, who took some state forms.
IRS spokeswoman Jennifer Jenkins said she didn’t know how much the agency would save in printing costs. She said it costs the IRS less than 20 cents to process a return filed online compared to more than $3 for a paper-filed return. More than 91 percent of taxpayers use software to prepare their federal tax returns.
She said libraries still receive basic forms, and taxpayers can download the other forms and instructions at irs.gov. They may order the material by calling 800-829-3676.
Cynthia Richey, director of the Mt. Lebanon Public Library, said the library formerly received 38,000 forms, schedules and booklets. This year, the IRS will send it only 9,000 of the 1040 forms.
The library will permit visitors to read or print materials from the IRS website on the library’s computers or do the same from the library’s master copies of the forms and instructions.
Richey said Mt. Lebanon prints the first two pages of forms for free for patrons and charges 25 cents for each page thereafter, but is reviewing whether to lower that fee.
The Greensburg Hempfield Area Library in Greensburg charges 25 cents a page for printing but has reduced that to 10 cents a page for tax materials.
“We can’t give them out for free. We can’t financially afford to do that,” said Linda Matey, director of the library in Greensburg.
The Oakmont Carnegie Library charges 10 cents a page for copying.
“It’s pretty obvious people are being pushed toward the website,” said Beth Mellor, director of the Oakmont library.
Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.