IRS budget cuts making filing taxes more difficult - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

IRS budget cuts making filing taxes more difficult

Internal Revenue Service budget cuts are making filing taxes more difficult this year, particularly for seniors and low income families. Some free tax filing services say they're seeing an increase in people needing help.

Mary Margaret Shannon was working on her taxes and needed a form. But when she went to the downtown Richmond IRS office, no luck.

"Many of the boxes that they have there for forms were just empty," she said.

Like many senior citizens, Shannon files on paper because she doesn't know how to use a computer. "I use one for sending and receiving emails, but I don't know much more about it," she said.

The IRS announced it would reduce printing forms and booklets this year to save money and wasted forms, since 91 percent of taxpayers file online. But that leaves 9 percent still looking for resources.

"We are finding more and more people coming in to get help with their taxes and we unfortunately turn people away every day," said Alan Boese with AARP Foundation Tax Aide. "Some of the people I've worked with today, this is their second or third trip to get their taxes done."

The free AARP Foundation Tax Aide service is based at Goodwill and seven other organizations across Central Virginia. Boese says they had an 11 percent increase in customers last year when the IRS stopped helping people fill out forms.

The IRS Taxpayer Advocate says their slashed budget means they only have staff this year to answer 43% of calls who will wait about 30 minutes on hold. Compare that to answering 87 percent of calls after 2.5 minutes in 2009. It's due to budget cuts. Not just a 3 percent cut this year, but 17 percent since 2010.

Goodwill has been hearing about it from clients. "Because of the budget cuts, they're waiting a long time on the phone and ultimately not getting their questions answered," said Goodwill's Ellen Thornhill.

If you're used to going to the post office, library, or even an IRS office to pick up tax forms, you may not find what you're looking for.

The Richmond Post Office and the Richmond Public Library say they quit receiving stacks of tax forms to provide to the public a few years ago. The library director says they print the online forms for people instead.

There are free tax filing services for those who can't afford to file online or hire an professional tax preparer, such as Free File, or AARP Foundation's Tax Aide.

But Boese says Tax Aide needs more volunteers. "We have the demand to open sites in other localities, close by in other counties. But we need more preparers in order to be able to serve the taxpayers."

Mary Margaret Shannon just wants the IRS budget restored. "I think it's taking too much away from people that need a little help."

You can find a comprehensive list of free and low cost tax preparation assistance on RVA On The Cheap.
 
Here is a statement from the IRS about this year's budget cuts:

With our ongoing budget issues, we continue to look for ways to provide effective service to taxpayers while doing everything possible to reduce costs. Since over 91 percent of taxpayers already use software to prepare their federal tax returns, we reduced our printing this year.

We've also seen a significant number of forms and publications not picked up or discarded at our Taxpayer Assistance Centers. For example out of every eight copies of the 2013 Form 1040EZ printed and shipped, only one was filed on paper, and this doesn't count the many copies that libraries often print for their patrons. We're finding that more and more taxpayers are going to
IRS.gov to get the forms and publication products they need. In fact, from May 2013 to April 2014, 89% of all downloads (106M) from IRS.gov were PDFs of current year tax products.

Though we are reducing the total and types of forms printed, we're still ensuring the forms with the greatest demand remain available at our TACs and at participating libraries. The Forms 1040 and 1040A will be available at our TACs and at local libraries participating in the Tax Forms Outlet Program. The libraries will also stock Form 1040EZ. Most forms can be viewed and downloaded from
IRS.gov or ordered online at IRS.gov.

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