Tax time: South Hills libraries offer services, supplies for tax prep
Tracy O'Neill, the senior customer services librarian at Brentwood Library, loves volunteers.
Especially those who are part of the VITA, or Volunteer Income Tax Assistance or TCE — the Tax Counseling for the Elderly — programs. This year Brentwood Library – through VITA – is offering free tax preparation services for people 60 and older who earned less than $56,000 last year.
“I want to emphasize that we couldn't offer this important service without the generosity of the amazing and dedicated VITA volunteers who make it all happen,” O'Neill said. “That said, we're so pleased to be able to offer this help to people who might find their own taxes daunting, either due to technology limitations, financial restrictions, or just plain insecurity about the ever-complicated tax laws. We are glad to help make people's lives just a bit easier.”
O'Neill and her staff at Brentwood Library are scheduling 15-minute appointments on Saturdays in February and March for people to drop off their forms and meet briefly with the tax preparer. Returns are completed during the week and returned the following Saturday.
The library also has paper versions of the state tax forms and will provide online help. The federal government no longer provides schedules, but sent a book of forms that can be copied. Brentwood Library charges 10 cents a page.
Baldwin Borough Library also has volunteer tax preparers from the American Association of Retired Persons, said Nancy Musser, the adult services librarian.
“We usually have four AARP volunteers who electronically file client's taxes at no cost,” Musser said. “They come once a week for 10 weeks and stay four to five hours.”
The library has yet to receive paper versions of the Pennsylvania and federal forms. Musser said the date changes each year.
“The state and the IRS are trying to get away from paper filing in favor of electronic returns,” she said.
The Pleasant Hills Public Library will offer the AARP Tax Aide program beginning Feb. 6 through April 10 from 12:30 to 8 p.m., said Sharon Julian-Milas, the library director. The service will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Julian-Milas said the library has been offering tax help to residents for a number of years as a public service.
“It is also a sneaky way to get non-library users into the building to see exactly what our library has to offer,” she said. “All of the traffic on tax help Tuesdays even gets noticed by the people who drive by at the busy intersection of West Bruceton and Old Clairton and ask what is going on at the library. Who knew taxes could cause such interest in the library?”
The library has paper copies of some of the federal and state forms, along with instructions. Like the other libraries, it has no control of when the IRS will send forms. But, when the library gets the forms they will be available for the public.
“The most popular state form is the 2017 PA-1000 booklets (rent rebate form and instructions) for senior citizens,” she said. “We just received notice that those forms will be available the first week in February.”
AARP tax preparers will also be at the Whitehall Public Library, said Paula Kelly, library director. The tax service will be available on Mondays between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., also on a first-come, first-served basis.
The program provides a much needed and appreciated service to patrons, seniors in particular, who may not be able to afford help otherwise,” Kelly said. Paper versions of the state and federal returns are available and can be printed out for 10 cents a page.
Suzanne Elliott is a Tribune-Review staff writer.