IRS ends mailing booklets for paper tax returns
Irene Furst grew tired of waiting for her 1040 federal income tax booklet to arrive in the mail, as it had every January for decades. So, she called the Internal Revenue Service.
It's not coming. Starting this year, the IRS has stopped sending those fat tax booklets to taxpayers' doors — a headache in the making for the millions who haven't filed their federal income taxes electronically.
"I am one of those people who do their taxes on paper, and I really wanted those instructions," said Furst, 89, of Squirrel Hill. "So, how am I going to file?"
She is far from alone. About 40 percent of Pennsylvania residents, or about 2.5 million people, file a paper return for their federal income taxes, according to IRS data. Nationwide, it's 34 percent, or some 49 million taxpayers.
"It's not that forms are not available," said Mark Hanson, the Internal Revenue Service spokesman in Philadelphia.
"You can visit a local IRS taxpayer assistance center, if you live by one," he said. "Or you can check with the local library or post office."
That's news to the United States Postal Service.
"The IRS hasn't sent us forms and books for about five years now," said Tad Kelly, spokesman for the Postal Service's Western Pennsylvania district, which covers 12 counties and part of West Virginia. " We used to receive tables full of books."
Even the IRS centers and local libraries that do carry tax forms don't have them yet. Last-minute tax legislation adopted by Congress Dec. 17 meant the IRS had to delay printing forms and publications.
"I've never done my taxes electronically," said Mary Pollice, of Aspinwall, who routinely prepares the returns of friends and family members, too. While computer-literate, she does not have a computer at home.
"I attempted to do them online once," said Pollice, 56. "But for the amount of time it would have taken me to answer all the questions, I could have done the return 10 times on paper."
The IRS' Hanson said the paper purge is not driven by an IRS quest to cut paper and handling costs, and he had no estimate of agency savings from e-filing. It stopped the automatic mailings because fewer and fewer people file paper returns, he said.
Hanson noted e-filers can get an IRS refund in as little as 10 business days. Whereas, paper filers usually wait four to six weeks to get a paper check.
Taxpayers can call the IRS at a number activated Tuesday and request that forms and booklets be mailed to them. But calls by a reporter last week met several minutes of wait time, or the IRS simply hung up after a recorded message, citing "extremely high call volumes."
"The IRS is just trying to push everyone into the Internet age, and some people will never get there," said state Rep. Randy Vulakovich, R-Glenshaw.
In fact, the IRS on Jan. 1 began requiring tax preparers of 100 or more federal income tax returns to submit them electronically, And if tax clients refuse to "e-file," they must attach to their returns a signed affidavit saying they insist their tax preparer file a paper return.
"Some people either don't know anything about doing it online, or don't have a computer," said Vulakovich, who, like several legislators, makes space in his office for AARP volunteers to assist constituents with returns. "Electronic filing is an inconvenience for a lot of traditional people like myself who like paper in front of them."
Many libraries do provide printed tax forms, as well as assistance from AARP tax volunteers. Fourteen of the 19 Carnegie Libraries in Pittsburgh expect to receive 1040 forms and publications from the IRS, but not until late January.
"There are fewer and fewer places providing tax forms," said Holly McCullough, manager of the Carnegie Library in Squirrel Hill. She is "very concerned" that the IRS changes will catch many people off guard and that droves will show up at her library.
"I'm hearing nervousness from some people" about the IRS cutting the mailings, she said. "But it's nothing like what's probably coming down the road from people who haven't paid attention to this yet."
"If more work is going to fall to the libraries to do this, shouldn't some money come to libraries to provide more of this service?" asked McCullough. Her library stocked and disbursed 2,730 federal income tax booklets in early 2010, before the IRS cut off mailings.
One bit of good news: Taxpayers have an extra three days to file this year — until April 18 — because April 15 is a holiday in Washington.Additional Information:
Help is near
Below are locations and phone numbers for the five IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers in the Pittsburgh region that will have tax forms and publications. In addition, you can call the IRS at 800-829-3676 to request they be mailed to you.
• Butler -- 220 S. Main St. (724-282-4531)
• Monroeville -- 4314 Old William Penn Highway (412-856-1913)
• Pittsburgh -- 1000 Liberty Ave. (412-395-5667)
• Warrendale -- 547 Keystone Dr. (724-772-5111)
• Washington -- 162 W. Chestnut St. (724-229-5985)
Among the the 19 Carnegie Library locations in Pittsburgh, these 14 will have tax forms and publications:
• Hill District
• Mt. Washington
• South Side
• Squirrel Hill
• West End
• Woods RunAdditional Information:
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue said Friday it's ready for residents to file personal income tax returns, by phone or Internet.
A so-called Tele-file return can be completed by calling 888- 4PAFILE (472-3453). Electronic filers can complete their 'pa.direct.file' returns by going online .
About 3.7 Pennsylvanians e-filed last year. Electronic filing saves the state about $3.49 per return, said the agency.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Police officer fatally shot in New Florence; suspect in custody
- Four downs: Steelers might still be Adams’ best bet
- Zatkoff’s, Malkin’s heroics not enough as Oilers down Penguins in shootout
- Steelers find success vs. NFC
- Steelers notebook: Brown downplays possible matchup against Seahawks’ Sherman
- Central Catholic wins 5th WPIAL football title
- Thomas Jefferson uses defense, running game to capture WPIAL title
- Woman dies after bleeding on sidewalk outside Carrick pizzeria
- Offense continues to click as Panthers hold off Kent State, 85-76
- As historic breakup nears, Alcoa works to redefine its ‘advantage’
- Aliquippa wins 16th WPIAL title, ends South Fayette’s 44-game winning streak