Archive for Thursday, March 23, 2006

Library offers taxpayers guidance

March 23, 2006

As wage-earning Americans groan at the thought of filing state and federal income tax returns, the city of Lansing has taken steps to help ease the pain of the dreaded process.

Through the Lansing Community Library, the city is offering assistance to local residents who wish to file their taxes online.

"We are helping people out quite a bit," said Karen Logan, Lansing city clerk.

The free service began Jan. 23 after the city received multiple requests for the instruction. Patrons used the library computers on their own last year to file their taxes.

In the past, people could get instruction but the program never reached the popularity of the current one.

The program, however, is not designed for everyone. The library offers assistance on basic tax returns, such as the 1040 and W-2. The programs can be downloaded from the IRS Web site.

Logan, library director Darlene Dean, assistant city clerk Sunshine Petrone and Georgia Brown, accountant, all have received basic instruction on how to file taxes over the Internet.

The staff takes turns giving assistance, and while they said they can handle the current amount of traffic at the library, they are considering finding additional staff to help with the project as the April 17 tax deadline approaches.

Because April 15, the usual deadline, falls on a Saturday, taxpayers have until April 17, the next business day, to file their taxes.

The volunteers reviewed all of the basic online formats before they offered their assistance.

Logan said that there wasn't a particular demographic using the service more than any other. She has noticed, however, that middle-aged taxpayers aren't using the service often. The middle-aged group "probably has more itemized deductions," Logan said.

Tonnesha Jefferson, Leavenworth, said she found the service helpful. Jefferson filed her federal and state taxes through the computers at the library and said the process took slightly more than an hour.

It doesn't take a long time "if you're computer literate," she said.

Petrone said the program was helpful because most residents don't know they can file their taxes online.

"A lot of people aren't aware," she said.

The program has been advertised through the city's Web site, fliers left around town and on the PRIDE sign on North Main Street. Logan also said that word-of-mouth has been strong in informing the public.

So far, 14 people have used the free service, and Logan said they have been appreciative of the help.

The library is offering assistance Monday thru Thursday, by appointment only, until April 13.

- Tom Slaughter is a University of Kansas journalism student and will be contributing this semester to The Current.

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