"Forget the Ides of March, I'm worried about April 15th!"

At this point, my taxes are pretty easy to do, so largely filing my taxes requires me to finally stop slacking off and just do them (actually, thanks to years of having to file early for the FAFSA that generally happens somewhat early regardless).  I generally get a nice refund too, which is generally split between student debt and my savings, with maybe an expense I've been putting off also taken care of (one year I got a pair of Birkenstocks for my "big" tax refund purchase).  So really, I don't find filing a hassle to get done.

I've worked full time in a library for these past few tax seasons, and it has taught me to dread tax season.  I manage to largely forget how much I dread it in between, but once it starts the memories come flooding back.

Tax instruction booklets aren't being sent to as many homes anymore, though mine showed up in my mailbox today.  Increasingly libraries are becoming the place to get your forms and instructions.  Yes, everything is available online, but if you don't have an internet connection at home (or a printer, or a computer, or you're out of ink, or whatever reason) it immediately costs you money to print out the forms and worksheets. 

Problem 1: Hey Santa, want to deliver mail in your off-season AKA "Why don't you have the forms yet?"

At the earliest tax forms/instructions start showing up for distribution by mid-January.  We start getting calls about tax forms mid-December.  Believe it or not tax forms are ordered months in advance by the libraries, with the amounts needed estimated by previous demands.  This year and last year there has been legislation passed enacting last minute changes delaying the release of federal forms (the revision date for this year's 1040 is January 10th, now give the government offices time to get that printed and shipped out).  My third tax season here and every year we've not put out the tax forms until the last week in January, and discussion with staff has led me to believe that historically that is when we put the tax forms out regardless of last minute changes.

This year the tax forms/instructions are coming in all over the place.  We just received the 1040A forms today.  The 1040 and 1040A instructions are due by the end of the week.  We get to answer a lot of phone calls with ambiguity, since none of us want to give a blanket statement "yes" in answer to having tax forms.

Problem 2: Limited supply and selection of forms AKA "Soon everything will be online and we will all be ****ed" (or some variation thereof)

We hear this one constantly, and not just about tax forms.  We honestly sympathize with this, we KNOW that we're the only internet access many of our patrons have.  I even get the simple preference to do taxes by hand.  While I may use an online form to create a nice clean PDF of my taxes each year, I do a "draft" by hand with pencil and paper first.

The IRS only sends us the higher demand forms, similar to how those of us lucky enough to still get tax forms in the mail only get the the universal paperwork and not the special case forms.  Regardless this leads to sub-problems 2A and 2B of "Why don't you have the 4077MD form?" (because maybe two people in town come for it, or because that form doesn't exist perhaps it is called something else).  We do a lot of free printing of individual forms to for the lack, but it boils down to the IRS and the state want to supply as close to demand as possible with this as a result.

Two years ago we received a total of FIVE instruction booklets from the state.  Five booklets and most of the residents did not receive state tax forms in the mail.  In this case we did have to charge for full copies of the booklet, but we charged a drastically reduced amount than it would cost otherwise and cataloged both original and duplicate copies for circulation and for in-library use.  Our state tax forms have been available to the public for a week and we've gone through THREE of our five boxes already.  I'm seeing libraries on the network and state mailing lists that have run out and are looking for reordering information and extras if any library can spare them.

Problem 3: How long exactly does it take to do your taxes?  AKA "So are they going to extend the filing date then?"

No.  They really aren't.

This one might be a pet peeve of mine, but when I start hearing this in mid-January, and even now at the beginning of February, I'm a bit flummoxed.  I have never in all my years of employment, gotten all of my W-2s before the end of January.  I have never found the forms in my mailbox before February.  The fact that we may not have the core instruction booklets until the end of this week (though they are available online) should not send you into a panicked rage that you are expected to still file by April 15th.  Particularly since you may actually have a set of personally (or at least automatically) addressed forms and instructions making their way to your very own mailbox.

But really, how complicated are your taxes that 2 months is not enough time?

EDIT: I'd like to acknowledge that I know students have to file earlier for FASFA... my best guess is not a single person who has made this complaint to me is in fact a student filing their FASFA based on additional information from the conversation.

Problem 4: Tax advice AKA "Do I need these forms?"

Don't ask us this.  Seriously.  We legally cannot give you advice on your taxes.  We can tell you what the form says it is for, or point out that one booklet is for non-resident state taxes and one is for resident, stuff like that.  The rest of all this may cause some annoyance at worse, but this one is serious.

We can give you some information about our public computers, but it is ultimately up to the individual if they feel comfortable filing online on a public terminal.  We do what we can to secure the computers, and while they are very likely more secure than a number of personal computers I may have encountered at various opportunities, they are still public terminals.  Please plan your adventure accordingly.

Actually, you CAN ask us for tax advice... we just cannot give you a helpful answer.  And everyone knows librarians hate not being able to give helpful answers, so please, thinking of the librarians.


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