New Britain City Journal

New Britain's Weekly Online Newspaper

Commentary

It’s Tax Time

It’s official – it’s tax time. In January, the IRS began accepting and processing tax returns. Unfortunately, however, it might not be as easy this year for the taxpayer. The IRS has received a large budget cut and taxpayer services are expected to be reduced to a historically low level. IRS Commissioner, John Koskinen confirms cuts are forcing the agency to reduce services. News sources report that the IRS will no longer help low-income taxpayers fill out their returns, tax refunds could be delayed for people who file paper returns and phone help will be more difficult than before. According to the IRS itself, only about half of the 100 million expected callers will actually get through to a representative. And those who do get through may have to wait for 30 minutes or more just to talk to someone. Returns with errors that require additional manual review will also face delays.

Once again the library will be providing tax forms – a service we have been providing for many years. When the service began we had a much larger variety of forms but these have been slowly reduced. This year we have been notified that these cuts will greatly impact what we receive. The IRS is drastically cutting the quantity and variety of tax forms that will be available at libraries and post offices. Most significantly, we will not have instruction booklets for 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ as they are not being printed; people will need to go online for all instructions.

The IRS is reminding tax payers that filing electronically is the most accurate way to file a tax return and combined with direct deposit, it is the fastest way to get a refund. Due to these budget cuts, people who file paper tax returns could wait an extra week for their refund — “or possibly longer,” wrote IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in a recent memo to employees.

A new change this year, and one most likely to cause confusion, concerns the Affordable Care Act, and the documentation required, as well as the potential penalties for not having coverage. Tax filers will now have to report information about their health insurance during the previous year. For those who get health coverage through work or through government programs like Medicaid, it will mean simply checking a box. Those who obtained insurance through state and federal marketplaces will have to file a new form, and people who received subsidies will have to provide more detailed information. And for the folks who didn’t have health insurance last year, they will face fines unless they qualify for a waiver, which requires more paperwork.

For those who have not used online service before, the Reference staff can provide information on how to access forms and instruction books online. There will be copies available of Publication 4604 (Use the Web for IRS Tax Products & Information), available in both English and Spanish. There will also be a limited number of the common paper tax forms available.

As the world continues moving to electronic resources, whether we are ready or not, don’t despair. At the library, we can’t promise to make it completely painless but staff can provide assistance to connect you with what you need.