By Karen Reilly
Taxes. Just the word makes you shiver, doesn’t it? Not necessarily paying them — after all, your taxes support your local library (and thank you for that). But the act of preparing taxes is a daunting prospect for many people. Where do you find the forms? Who will help you do it properly? Are there mystery tax credits that could save you money — and you’re missing them? As with so many things, the library is here for you.
The Mission Valley Branch Library is hosting a weekly tax clinic on Tuesdays through April 9 from 1-7 p.m., with tax preparers from the nonprofit Home Start, Inc. This clinic is for people who earned $54,000 or less last year, and is by appointment only. To make an appointment, call 619-283-3624 and leave a message, or go to myfreetaxes.org. This website can also connect you with other free tax clinics.
There are also walk-in tax clinics at several other library locations until Tax Day:
- Allied Gardens Library: Mondays, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Fridays 12:30 to 4 p.m., 619-533-3970
- College-Rolando Library: Wednesdays 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Thursdays 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., 619-533-3902
- North University Community Library: Thursdays 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., 858-581-9637
- Pacific Beach/Taylor Library: Mondays 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., 858-581-9934
- Point Loma/Hervey Library: Tuesdays and Fridays, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., 619-531-1539
- Serra Mesa-Kearny Mesa; Fridays 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., 858-573-1396
Some words to the wise: Call before you go, because at almost every library there is one week when, for whatever reason, they do not have a clinic. Also, go early. Clinics fill up, and many volunteer tax preparers stop accepting signups at 3:30 p.m. But in some cases, if they run out of space, they will allow you to sign up for a priority slot on a future date. And bring your documents with you, or the volunteers won’t be able to help you. This includes a picture ID, a copy of last year’s tax returns, your W-2s and 1099s, and day care expense documentation and other receipts if you are itemizing. Also, spouses filing jointly both need to be there.
If none of these clinics work for you, don’t lose hope, there is a tax clinic locator on the IRS website at irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep/, or you can call the AARP tax aide locator at 1-888-227-7669.
Ready to do your taxes yourself? Good for you! The library can help with that, too. You may have noticed that the IRS and the California Franchise Tax Board distribute fewer and fewer tax forms and booklets each year. Some of our libraries still get a limited selection of forms: the Central Library and the North University Community Branch have federal 1040 forms and instructions and California 540 forms, and the following branches have a limited selection of California state tax forms:
- Carmel Mountain Ranch Library
- Carmel Valley Library
- Clairemont Library
- Kensington-Normal Heights Library
- Logan Heights Library
- Mountain View/Beckwourth Library
- North Clairemont Library
- Oak Park Library
- Pacific Beach/Taylor Library
- Serra Mesa-Kearny Mesa Library
- Skyline Hills Library
- University Community Library
If you need something else, you can find federal forms online at irs.gov/forms-pubs, or order them by calling 1-800-829-3676; California state forms are available at ftb.ca.gov/forms/search, or by calling 1-800-852-5711. We can also print forms out for you here at the library, for $.20 a page (at this price, you really won’t want to print out that instruction booklet, though). Keep in mind that we can’t help you decide what form to use. For that information, you need to go to one of our tax clinics.
Finally, maybe it’s time to explore the brave new world of e-filing your taxes! Many taxpayers can file online for free directly with the IRS and the California Franchise Tax Board. The IRS e-filing site can be found at irs.gov/filing/e-file-options, and the California FTP site is at bit.ly/2BtpUWE. (A Google search for “California FTB e-filing” will also get you there).
—Karen Reilly is managing librarian of the Mission Valley Library.