Thursday, February 12, 2015

Income Tax Season Problems, Part Two

Part two, you ask? Yep, because it's not just dealing with filing your income tax returns: it's avoiding all the scams out there that make your income tax filing more of a headache.

The IRS has a list of the "Dirty Dozen" tax scams on their site at These are scams that have triggered the most complaints filed with the IRS, and can cause penalties and criminal prosecution for victimized taxpayers. The IRS can't say this enough:  "Taxpayers should remember that they are legally responsible for what is on their tax returns even if it is prepared by someone else." (Quoted from the IRS page linked above.)

Be aware that if you haven't filed your taxes in the past as you should, you may be setting yourself up for the phone scams that are going around. Callers threaten taxpayers with arrest or penalties if they do not immediately pay back taxes using prepaid cards or similar methods. You need to remember that the IRS sends out notices by US Mail, and it will not request your personal information over the telephone. Hang up on these callers immediately and report the call.

          If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from
          the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do:
  • If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.
  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the TIGTA at 1-800-366-4484 or at
  • If you’ve been targeted by this scam, also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint.
(From "Phone Scams Continue to be Serious Threat",

You also need to be aware that, if your personal information was stolen through one of the many data breaches that has occurred in stores and companies over the past few years, you could be a victim of fraud. If you try to file your tax return online, and are told that you have already filed a return, contact the agency immediately. Fraudulent tax returns using identity theft are on the rise and state tax departments are trying to watch for it.

The IRS has created a number of videos on YouTube to help you out. You can view their most recent video about avoiding scams, or learn how to choose a tax preparer, or several other topics.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Groan, It's Tax Season Again...

We are all saying that. Which is worse, the winter weather we've been dealing with (or threatened with), or the period from January to April 15 when we know we just have to sit down and figure out what we owe the government? For some, that's a real toss-up. 

And this year is a bit more frustrating than past years. Just when everyone is expected to report their health insurance status on their income tax forms, the IRS has decided not to send out instruction books due to their budget cuts. So everyone wants to know, how are we supposed to file our taxes if we don't know how to fill out the forms?

The good news is, for many people it is free to file their federal income taxes using one of the many tax services available. More than 85% of people file their federal taxes online, either using a professional preparer's service or doing it themselves. If you don't have a computer at home, you can use the public computers at the Pottsville Library to file your taxes. (Just keep in mind that, legally, we cannot answer any tax questions for you. We can help you print, or set up an email account, but please don't ask us how to fill in specific lines on the tax forms.) Want to find a reputable online service? Visit the IRS web page at for a list of companies that offer free federal tax filing for adjusted gross incomes of $60,000 or less.

For people who prefer to use the paper forms, it can get a bit trickier. The Pottsville Library did receive the federal tax forms 1040, 1040A and 1040EZ, but we did NOT receive any of the instruction booklets or any of the additional schedules and forms. (Did you see our picture in the paper? Those were state tax forms in the photos, not federal. The photo caption didn't make that clear.) We can print off specific pages from the instruction books for you from the internet, although we don't recommend printing off the entire instruction book: at 10 cents a page, even the 1040EZ would cost you more than $4 to print. We have a copy of the tax table at the Circulation Desk (right inside the front door) and a copy of Publication 17 at the Reference Desk.

The alternative is to order an instruction book from the IRS. There is a telephone number to call, 1-800-829-3676, but be prepared to wait to get through. Or you can order copies online from and get them mailed to you within a week or two.

However you file your taxes, try not to wait until the last minute: it might be harder to find and get what you need to finish the job!