By Shannon Kazmierczak
An old saying goes, “Nothing is certain except for death and taxes.”
Well, the latter rings true this time of year, especially if you are working at a patron-facing service desk in a public library.
The dread of it all seems to set in earlier and earlier. This year I received my first tax related question the week before Christmas. The ink wasn’t even dry on my greeting cards and someone was asking if we had any forms!
We have a standard answer for that here at our library: “We don’t have that form, but if you come in, we can assist you in printing one out.”
I couldn’t even say that because the form wasn’t even live on the IRS website! (Oh, and Illinois forms–forget about it!)
Every year the amount of tax forms sent freely to the public libraries has dwindled to providing just the most basic of forms. This has made helping some of our elder populations and people who don’t have a tech mindset or are tech-phobic very hard. They are frustrated, they are fearful, and we are their first line of defense. Our patience is strong at the beginning, but somewhere around the 10th of April, when people are becoming manic, it wanes to non-existent.
The most helpless moments are trying to help people understand that we can not act as their CPA and we do not have the ability to learn that vast amount of knowledge in such a short time frame, as in, the 5 minutes during which we are having our reference interview. We can share resources, we can share phone numbers of the few free tax services, but what we can’t do is estimate what your taxes will be based on the tax table we just helped you print out.
However, every year there is a story that I like to take home with me and share, much like a war story. We will call this “Schedule B.”
Schedule B called earlier in the morning, asking for their namesake form.
I told Schedule B our gratis answer, “We don’t have that form, but if you come in, we can assist you in printing one out.”
Schedule B didn’t quite understand the statement. He asked if we had the form, and I responded to him we will when he gets here.
The conversation continued though and circled back to the original question, asking what forms we have, which we have just the basic 1040 forms. He asked, “Well do you have Schedule B?”
I think part of the problem was this man was also hard of hearing, and in a quiet library at 9:15 a.m., everyone wondered if Schedule B was available by the end of our conversation.
Well Schedule B finally came in, thankfully when I was no longer on desk, and wondered where his forms were. Thankfully my co-worker, who knew about Schedule B, printed it at the ready with no questions asked.
So all I can say, friends, is that we still have another 6 weeks of tax season to go. Let us be granted the serenity to help our patrons to find the forms they need, the courage to tell them we can’t help them like a CPA can, and the wisdom to find our own tax preparer and not bother our local librarians.