January 24, 1996 in Nation/World

In Rare Form: Taxpayers Hunt For The Elusive 1040

By The Spokesman-Review
 

From For the record (January 26, 1996): Federal income tax forms are not available at the American Legion on Fourth Street in Coeur d’Alene. An article in Wednesday’s Idaho Spokesman-Review was incorrect. Beginning in February, the Legion will be offering tax assistance on Wednesdays, but asks that participants supply their won forms.

Want to file your income tax early? Good luck finding the paperwork.

Taxpayers in search of federal income tax forms are being turned away all over Coeur d’Alene.

Few places, it seems, have the elusive 1099 or 1040 series.

Including the Internal Revenue Service.

Downsizing at the much-maligned federal agency has left the Coeur d’Alene IRS office with 15 “compliance officers” - auditors and other tax collectors - and no one to stock the shelves with forms, said IRS spokeswoman Mary Trudeau, in Boise.

“It takes a lot of time,” she said. “If we pulled someone off a compliance job - that’s where we make our money - to do a service job, that doesn’t make sense to the organization.”

Workers there couldn’t just leave the forms out because “people come by and take them in handfuls,” she said.

Until Monday, the front door to the Ironwood Drive office opened onto a stark alcove bordered by rows of empty shelves and a bank of telephones.

Tuesday morning, even the shelves were gone. Only a sign remained, directing taxpayers to Spokane or urging them to call a 1-800 number and order forms through the mail. The wait: Seven to 10 days.

“No, it’s not as easy as walking in and picking up a form, but most people aren’t going to do their taxes that day anyway,” Trudeau said.

The forms still can be found in places taxpayers might not look - the American Legion office on Fourth Street and the Silver Lake Mall. Both have occasional booths set up for taxpayer assistance.

The state tax office also has forms - because an employee there picks them up in Spokane.

“We didn’t get our regular shipment,” said Diana Nottage, a tax compliance officer with the state.

But the problem is complicated this year because the traditional places to get forms don’t have them this year.

H&R; Block has a master copy, if taxpayers want to pay to make a photocopy. Office supply stores ran out weeks ago.

“I’m kind of amazed by it,” said John McGruder, manager of The Inkwell, an office supply store that ran out of forms. “People are coming in here mad saying we didn’t order enough. But I’m just providing a service.”

The Coeur d’Alene Post Office hasn’t carried the forms in years and often sends folks to the Coeur d’Alene Library.

But the library quit carrying 1040s and 1099s this year. The library was experiencing a space crunch and the forms were getting difficult to get from the IRS, said library spokeswoman Pat Laam.

“We were just constantly reordering and reordering,” she said.

Now, she sends frustrated visitors to the Hayden Library on Government Way.

“They (patrons) are for the most part understanding,” she said. “I also think this whole thing is not terribly unexpected.”

Once in Hayden, taxpayers express relief, said branch manager Tamara Degitz.

“You can tell they’re happy to finally find them,” she said.

Coeur d’Alene Postmaster Ron Carroll understands the frustration.

“Let’s all write a letter to Uncle Sam and say that this year, we’re experiencing a taxpayer shutdown,” he joked.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo


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