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Saturday, March 24, 2018

MT Department of Revenue no longer printing tax booklets

By Charlie Denison and Ranger-Review news staff

Yellowstone Newspapers

Read my lips: no more tax booklets.

That’s the word from the Montana Department of Revenue.

“To save taxpayer dollars, the Department of Revenue no longer prints and mails tax booklets and forms,” the DOR wrote in a mail-out that went all over the state this month.

Those depending on printed or mailed tax booklets are now encouraged to file their taxes electronically.

“You can find e-file options, forms and instructions at revenue.mt.gov,” the mail out says.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to most Montana taxpayers. According to DOR Public Information Officer Mary Ann Dunwell, 87 percent of Montana taxpayers filed their state income taxes electronically last year, despite the DOR printing approximately 58,000 tax booklets, costing approximately $60,000 per year.

“Our decision is economically driven,” Dunwell said. “We want to provide maximum service but also minimize cost.”

Any savings are beneficial right now, Dunwell added, as the state department is “making serious budget cuts.”

“Our department is closing several locations,” she said. “Some of my colleagues are losing their jobs.” 

This is a difficult time for the DOR, Dunwell said, so they are making cuts where they can, and the booklets seemed like a good place to start, as Dunwell said a fair number of the booklets printed were not used.

“Many people would get the booklets, follow the instructions and file online,” she said. “Now they can read those instructions on www.revenue.mt.gov and file their taxes on the site through e-file program.”

Nevertheless, Dunwell said she knows there are people who prefer not to file online.

“We still need to serve the 13 percent who use the booklets,” she said. “It’s not easy for some people to get online, and we want those people to have a convenient way to file. If you really want a tax booklet, call us and speak to one of our customer service representatives. We’ll get you a booklet.”

Getting the word out

Although the DOR sent out postcards, not everyone who used a booklet last year is aware that booklets aren’t available. 

Kari Denison, Lewistown Public Library Public Services and Circulation manager, said she’s already had a few complaints from patrons that the books are no longer available at the library.

“We’ve had a few folks come in to get their booklets that are frustrated with the new process,” she said.

Glendive Public Library director Dawn Kingstad said she has had numerous requests for the booklets.

“Every day since mid-January, the Glendive Public Library has had inquiries on how to obtain state tax booklets.  Not all Montana residents have access to their own personal computer and internet,” Kingstad noted.

Glendive library staff has been printing state and federal forms for local residents for free, but have been charging printing fees for tax booklets at 10 cents per page to cover basic printing costs.

“Community members have voiced their frustration to library staff about the new tax practice, stating they do not have their own computer or that they do not know what forms they need. The daily workload of the library staff has increased to compensate for the additional patron inquiries,” Kingstad said.

She noted that the library staff will assist with printing tax forms and publications as needed but that they are not tax professionals and cannot assist with tax questions. For those questions, she reminded local residents to contact a tax professional.

Dunwell encourages library staff statewide to inform those looking for booklets to file electronically through the DOR website or call the DOR at (406) 444-6900 and have them send a booklet.

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