By: Mark Roseman, Board Member
For: Red Rock News
Date: January 22, 2010
The Sedona Public Library Has Resources to Help with Filing your 2009 Income Tax Returns
Albert Einstein said it best: “The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.” However, with help from the Sedona Public Library (SPL) reference librarians and volunteers, much of the mystery will yield to knowledge.
In 1862, President Lincoln and Congress created the office of commission of Internal Revenue to finance the North’s involvement in the Civil War. The commissioner was charged with enforcement of The Revenue Act of 1862. However, in 1894, Congress enacted a flat rate Federal income tax, which was found to be unconstitutional, the following year, by the U.S. Supreme Court. Despite the court’s decision, the federal government’s thirst for taxing income was going to be quenched.
In 1913, the 16th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified by the states. The Amendment gave Congress the authority to enact an income tax. The first Form 1040 appeared in 1913, after Congress levied a 1% tax on net personal incomes above $3,000.
The income tax laws, schedules, and filing procedures have change dramatically since 1913, but the SPL can help. Reference librarian Patricia Lowell has 21 years’ experience at the library; her responsibilities include ordering, organizing, and making available federal and state forms for SPL’s reference department. “The forms don’t frighten me; to me they make a lot of sense,” sparkled Patricia, “And we are the only game in town . . . the forms are no longer available in banks or the post office.”
While all federal and state forms are available online: www.irs.gov and www.azdor.gov, respectively, for individuals without computers or who do not want to download and print hefty manuals, publications, and instructions that explain the forms and procedures, SPL’s tax information resources are the answer.
“We can help patrons wade through the forms and assist in finding what they are looking for,” reassured Patricia. This year the federal and Arizona governments are releasing fewer instructive publications for taxpayers, and to date, SPL has received only one: Publication 17 – “Your Federal Income Tax, For Individuals.” The library has sufficient copies of Publication 17 to allow circulation to patrons. You can check out a copy and use its 301 pages as a practical guide to complete your personal return. Included in the publication are sections such as: important tax changes that took effect in 2009, new tax laws for 2010, reminders and other items that may help you file your 2009 return, and the general rules for filing a federal income tax return. The publication closely follows Form 1040, and is divided into six parts which cover different sections of the form.
This is the first year that Arizona is not providing hardcopy forms for filing your state income tax return. According to Patricia, “This year we are just not getting what we usually do from the state.” However, the library has two tax form program notebooks containing State of Arizona income tax forms in its non-circulating reference collection. One of the notebooks is located on the shelves with the federal tax forms, at the entrance to the Si Birch Community Room. The other notebook is at the Reference Desk.
Both Arizona notebooks contain forms that may be copied, including individual tax forms and corporation, partnership, and exempt organization tax forms. The 553 page notebooks have all the forms necessary for your Arizona return, and you can make your own copies, at the copier located near where the forms are shelved. Copies are $0.10 each
An additional resource and service hosted by SPL is its annual AARP Tax Preparers Service. This service is indicative of SPL’s commitment to provide affordable and responsive community services. The program starts February 2, and ends April 15, 2010. The hours are 10:00 am to noon, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, in the library’s Si Birch Community Room. The service is available to everyone; you do not have to be a member of AARP, and there is no minimum age requirement. This service is free.
According to Liz Sweeney, a retired CPA, Friends of the Library volunteer, and managing participant in the program, there are limitations to the breath of the program. IRS certified volunteers will assist the public with some of these services: 1040 and 1040EZ returns that are straight forward (no depreciation, no rental property income, no large business returns), returns with itemized deductions, Schedule B (Interest and Ordinary Dividends), and simple K-1 returns from trusts and estates. Only federal and Arizona income tax returns are prepared, along with part-time Arizona returns, when applicable.
To best take advantage of this program, and if you have not filed a return through this program in the past, please bring a form of photo identification and proof of your social security number (your card or statement from the social security commission bearing your number). Everyone should bring with them last year’s federal and state tax returns, and W-2 and 1099 forms, and interest and dividend documents, if applicable. No appointments are necessary to take part in the service; patrons are assisted on a first come first served basis. All returns are prepared using IRS software, and all returns are filed electronically, the same day as they are prepared. If you’re over age 65, according to Liz Sweeney, “There are some peculiar credits for Arizona residents . . .” that are worth checking out.
With the help of SPL reference librarians and volunteers, and the AARP tax preparation program sponsored by SPL, you can exceed Einstein’s understanding of the income tax, through an assisted understanding of how to file your federal and Arizona income tax returns. It’s not too early to get started.
Mark Roseman, author of this week's article,
is a retired attorney and a Member of the Board of Trustees of the Sedona Public Library.
Library News appears each Friday in the Red Rock News
and is also presented on: Gateway to Sedona and Sedona Biz.