Phoenix libraries offer tax-filing assistance

Burton Barr Central Library (Marianna Hauglie/DD)
Burton Barr Central Library is one of four Phoenix branch libraries that offered assistance to those looking to file their taxes at the last minute. (Marianna Hauglie/DD)

Four Phoenix libraries, including the Burton Barr Central Library in downtown Phoenix, provided free assistance last week to local residents in need of filing tax returns at the last minute, according to a library official.

For the first time, customers could electronically file their taxes on a computer or meet with an IRS-certified volunteer to prepare their returns from 6 p.m. to midnight, said Rita Marko, a management assistant for the public library.

Four libraries, including the Palo Verde, Yucca and Juniper branches, worked with the City of Phoenix Human Services Department to provide the assistance.

To e-file a return a person had to have a net income of $57,000, Marko said. To receive help from a volunteer, there was a $50,000 limit.

“We recognize that some of our customers might need a little help,” Marko said.

The library provided drinks and snacks for last-minute filers, and children had activities to occupy themselves until 9 p.m., according to the library’s website.

Heather Zilles, who volunteered to help people at the Burton Barr branch, took a course through the United Way to receive her certification.

“I’ve always done my family’s taxes,” she said, “and I’ve enjoyed doing my taxes. I thought this would be a natural extension of my interests.”

Zilles said she was a little shocked to see 30 people already in line when she arrived at the library at 5:45 p.m.

About two hours into the night, everything was going smoothly, she said, aside from some minor printing issues.

Luis Barrera came to the Burton Barr library for help in filing his taxes after finding a leaflet with Uncle Sam at the Ocotillo library. He had been completing his return at H&R Block since 1990, he said, but he went to a branch Sunday and could not pay their $80 charge.

Barrera said he has been living on social security and disability insurance since 2010 after having a heart attack.

“I would come back,” Barrera said about the library’s program. “I’m limited on money.”

Arlo Nuvayouma said he found the assistance very helpful. Nuvayouma, 20, has been working in sanitation for almost a year and was filing a tax return for only the second time.

He used Turbo Tax last year on his own, he said, but he made a mistake that cost him a refund. This year, he said he expects a $943 refund.

“It was two hours for the whole thing, but only 20 to 30 minutes to fill out my return,” he said, adding that he spent more time waiting in line than filing his return.

Preliminary reports show that 100 people used the computers to file their taxes electronically and another 75 filed their taxes with the assistance of volunteers at the four branches, Marko said in an email.

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