The words, Nothing in this world is certain except for death and taxes, are most often associated with Benjamin Franklin. He was writing a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy at the time (in 1789) and discussing the New Constitution.  It is a rather depressing way to look at things but non- the-less true. Tax season is upon us my friends and I need to make you aware of some information about forms that might cause some of you to become rather annoyed. In the same way that generations of messengers have pleaded with the royals or VIPs they are forced to deliver news to, I will ask that you not shoot the messenger. In this case your library staff.

Days gone by

In days gone by if you needed to pick up federal and state tax forms you could pick them up at the post office.  Somewhere along the line the post office stopped handling tax forms.   For at least 15 years, the libraries of Wayne County have ordered bulk tax forms to make them available to the public. People could simply come in, grab the form they needed and be on their way.  As time has gone by (and as stated in government press releases in an effort to reduce waste) the government has cut down on how many forms they print or will send. They assume that most people will file on-line. Each year they send less and less.  

The Honesdale library responded by setting up a Tax Priority computer with www.IRS.gov  and www.revenue.pa.gov on the desktop so that people could print forms that were no longer available to them to simply take. The library also has the priority computer at the ready so that folks without access to their own computer or trustworthy internet service who want to file on line can do so.

This year the library has been notified by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue that we will no longer be able to order paper tax forms in bulk from the department. 

They advised us to tell you to file your PA-40 Pennsylvania  Income Tax Return online, at no cost, with PA Direct File (https://padirectfile.state.pa.us/) or to access PDF versions of tax forms from the department’s website: PA-40 go to www.revenue.pa.gov/PIT and select Forms and Publications on the right or PA-1000 Property Tax or Rent Rebate Claim at www.revenue.pa.gov/PTRR and select Forms and Publications on the right.

The Federal Government will still send some paper forms but not many and not all of them. Most will need to be printed.  

What if no computer?

This is all well and good if you are a person who has a computer and can access the internet, but what about those who do not? What about those who do not know how to use a computer or have very limited digital literacy skills? Was anyone thinking about the large population of people in small rural areas when they made this decision?   It also puts the library in a very awkward position. We want to be here to help our patrons but we are not tax experts. We can’t advise people as to which forms they need or how to fill out their taxes. Nor can we pay for all of the paper and ink it will take to print all of the forms out for people who truly need them.

It seems to me that the government needs to remember that, especially in small rural areas, not all of their hard working members of society have access to or the skills needed to complete their tax forms on line.  Hard working tax payers already struggle.  It would seem that the government hasn’t truly thought through how much harder it will be for people to pay their share if they can’t even get the forms they need. I agree that cutting down on waste is needed, but doing away with bulk forms cuts off the ability of an entire population of people to easily file their taxes.

On my soapbox

I don’t know anyone who is thrilled about paying taxes, but this thoughtless step has just made it that much harder. I don’t usually get up on my soapbox, but this one makes me frustrated.

So, if you are someone who needs to get forms, I ask you to plan ahead. This year is going to be even more frustrating than last year.  If you are a senior citizen, look for places (such as our local senior center) to set up an appointment for tax advisement.  Currently, the libraries do not have any federal tax forms, but they are ordered.  Call to check and see if the library has received any forms before you make the trip in to pick them up.  If you need to print PA tax forms please be prepared to pay 25 cents per page to print them, just like anything else you print or copy at the library.  

The library would love to be able to do this for you for free but we can’t. The state and our county commissioners support a little over half of the library’s budget, but we are not fully funded. We raise about 48% of our budget each year locally. Donors trust us to be fiscally responsible with their donations. So while we will do everything we can to help, we simply can’t afford to buy paper and ink to support the amount of forms people will need to print. So if you are printing, please know in advance that it is 25 cents per page.

I have reached out to our local state representative to let his office know… particularly about the State Form issue. They are looking into it and will let us know as soon as they have any information. For now, I simply want you to:  be informed, plan ahead, and be kind to your library staff. They are doing the best they can to help with a taxing situation.  (Yes, I know it is a groan worthy statement, but I’m trying to keep things positive.) Happy New Year!

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EDITOR'S NOTE: The PA Department of Revenue reports that individual taxpayers may call the Department of Revenue and request a Pennsylvania Personal Income Tax Return (PA-40). The department will mail the form directly to taxpayers who make a request. The phone number is 888-PATAXES (888-728-2937), option 4.