“Death, taxes, and childbirth! There’s never any convenient time for any of them.”
By Jimmie Epling
Darlington County Library System
“Death, taxes and childbirth! There’s never any convenient time for any of them,” according to author Margaret Mitchell of “Gone with the Wind” fame. Those visiting the Darlington County Library System in search of tax forms I venture will agree with her. Not only can it be inconvenient, it can be downright difficult. Today’s tax code comes in at a hefty 7 million words. When the income tax was instituted in 1913 it contained only 11,400 words. By comparison, more literate and moving literary works, such as the Gettysburg address has only 269 words, the Declaration of Independence is 1,337 words in length, and the Bible has only 773,000 words. With such complexity, it is no wonder then that Herman Wouk, author of “The Caine Mutiny,” “The Winds of War,” and “War and Remembrance,” noted, “income tax returns are the most imaginative fiction being written today.”
The Federal tax law begins with the Internal Revenue Code (IRC. Title 26, U.S. Code). This is followed by the Federal tax regulations, the official interpretation of the IRC. Both are available at the Library online at: (www.irs.gov/Tax-Professionals/Tax-Code-Regulations-and-Official-Guidance). In an effort at full disclosure, keep in mind the IRS cautions that when using this online resource it is not up to date. The version available online “is only current through the 1st Session of the 112th Congress convened in 2011.” If this is not warning enough, you are warned: “the IRC is complex and its sections must be read in the context of the entire Code and the court decisions that interpret it.” Maybe this is why Albert Einstein once said, “This is too difficult for a mathematician. It takes a philosopher. The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.”
Every January, the Library prepares to help those who will call or visit us looking for tax forms or guidance in how to comply with the law. Some of you may remember a time when the Post Office was the go to place for tax forms. Public libraries took over the service when the Post Office dropped it. I can remember a time when dozens of boxes of both Federal and state tax forms and instructions arrived by tractor-trailer truck in late December. Racks and tables were set up to display the forms and instructions after the New Year’s holiday for our customers’ convenience. Those days are gone as tax agencies shifted to providing everything online which you need to file your taxes electronically through the Internet.
The IRS is no longer printing and mailing forms and instructions like they once did. South Carolina is no longer shipping printed forms and instructions. The Library will receive some 1040, 1040A and 1040EZ Federal forms, but no state forms. Where can you go for both South Carolina and Federal tax forms in Darlington County? The Library is still the place to go!
The Library is the only source for paper copies of tax forms and instructions for many. We will work with those who visit the Library to get the forms and instructions they need for little or no cost. So how will the Library help those needing tax forms and instructions?
First, the Library has placed a “Tax Forms” screen button on its Internet homepage at www.darlington-lib.org to make it easy for you to go to the Federal website at www.irs.gov, South Carolina’s website at www.SCtax.org, and the websites of other states for forms and instructions. You can use the Library’s public computers to access these sites for forms and instructions and to print any you need.
Those needing Federal forms 1040, 1040A and 1040EZ will find them soon at the Library. Be sure to call before visiting to confirm we have the forms you need on hand. If you cannot wait, call the IRS at 1-800-829-3676 to have them sent to you.
If you need assistance in completing a tax return, as apparently 60% of us do, the Library’s staff cannot advise you, but we have arranged for professional help. A member of SCThrive’s staff will be at the Library to provide one-on-one assistance with your taxes. This expert will electronically file your return for you at the end of the session. This service is free and secure. Anyone making $65,000 or less (or $95,000 or less if you are filing jointly) may use this service. You will need the following information with you to complete the forms:
• Government issued ID and social security number(s)
• W-2’s, 1099’s, and/or 1098’s
• Last year’s tax return (if available)
• Information on all income, deductions, and credits
SCThrive’s tax assistance will be available at all four Library locations in January, February, and March on select dates from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. by appointment only on the following schedule:
Monday, January 25th: Darlington
Wednesday, January 27th: Society Hill
Friday, January 29th: Lamar
Monday, February 8th: Hartsville
Wednesday, February 10th: Darlington
Friday, February 12th: Lamar
Tuesday, February 16th: Hartsville
Tuesday, March 8th: Darlington
Wednesday, March 9th: Society Hill
Tuesday, March 15th: Hartsville
Wednesday, March 16th: Lamar
Appointments can be made by calling or visiting the Reference/Information desk at the Library branch of your choice.
Many will agree that there is never a “convenient time” to pay taxes, but it comes around every April 15th. The Darlington County Library System can’t interpret a tax code that “is so long it makes War and Peace seem breezy” (Steven LaTourette, Ohio politician) or figure your income taxes for you as the deadline draws ever closer with each passing day. What we can do is help you get the forms and instructions you need and arrange for some free professional help.