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Apr 7 2009

Taxes…

by Jnai W

April 15 is next Wednesday and I have to admit I’m still scrambling. I’m still rooting around in my accordion file folders and shoeboxes (it’s sad so, please, no laughing) for my little charity tax deduction card. The charity, to their credit, sent it to me back in January but a lot can happen between January and April.

If you’re anything like me, then all I can say is “tsk tsk tsk”.  We know better, don’t we? We read the blog post about tax preparation at DCPL. We said to ourselves Thank you, Lesley B! I’ll get right on that!…back in February. We promised ourselves we would at least have them done by the end of March, only to be astounded by how quickly March seemed to pass. We even checked out all the Taxes For Dummies books that we could get our hands on…which is why they’re all checked out now (sigh).

Well, I want to tell everyone not to fret because there’s still hope, albeit just a tiny little bit of hope, but it’s hope all the same.

Some branches still have AARP and VITA volunteers kindly offering their tax preparation services. Just make sure you’ve got all of your pertinent information. (Remember that yummy stimulus money you got last year? Bring that info also.)

And of course, we’ve got books on preparing, filing, etc.

Today’s April 7th. We still have 9 days and counting. We can do it!

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Aug 9 2017

Becoming An American Citizen

by Camille B

Photo AOn July 3rd, 2017 I became a citizen of the United States. Standing alongside 72 other candidates, all from different countries around the world, I solemnly took the Oath of Allegiance to Support and defend the Constitution and laws of this great nation.

I remember the lady sitting next to me was from Cuba, the gentleman to my right was from Jamaica, and I listened intently as one by one the names of the various countries present were called: China, Nigeria, Canada, India, Vietnam, Pakistan, Ecuador…

One by one we stood, looking solemn and a little nervous, as we prepared to embrace this country as our own. We were now about to become Americans not by birth but by choice. In reality, most of us had already done so, having borne permanent resident status for many years, which granted us the freedom to do such things as work, pay taxes, get a driver’s license, go to school etc. But it was something different to be called an American citizen, to now have a voice and be counted when and where it really mattered.

Later that day a family member asked me how I felt, and I thought they were being a little dramatic. It wasn’t like I’d had surgery. But on further reflection, I realized that it was a valid question. How did I feel besides being excited and a little overwhelmed?

Well, strangely enough, amidst all the other emotions I was feeling, I realized that I was having some anxiety wondering how my family and friends back home would react to the news; the people I had grown up with from childhood; and gone to school with, worked with. Would they celebrate my newfound citizenship? Or would they think I had turned my back on my country of birth? And if, perchance they did feel this way, how did I explain that it was not the case?

I guess the only example I could draw on was the same bitter-sweet feeling a bride must have felt in the olden days when she had to leave her parents home and give up her name for her husband’s. Yes she was in love and ready to start a new life with him, but she was also leaving her family behind. But this didn’t mean she loved them any less. They still remained a very important part of her life. It was the same feeling I had about my native land.

The Naturalization Process

The road to citizenship can sometimes be a long one, and for some confusing, but I found everything that I needed to help me through the process both on the USCIS and DCPL websites.

The Application

Form N-400 is the one needed to file for Application for Naturalization and can be downloaded at uscis.gov/n-400, submit it along with the appropriate fees (as of December 23, 2016 the application fee has increased to $640, the biometrics fee remains $85). You will receive a receipt notice from the USCIS office letting you know that they’ve received your application and will be contacting you with a date, time and location for your biometric screening.

Biometrics Appointment

The biometrics screening process requires you to be fingerprinted and photographed for the purpose of conducting an FBI criminal background check. All applicants must have background checks completed before USCIS will schedule an interview, so if there are skeletons in your closet, beware. Biometrics

The Citizenship Test/ Naturalization Interview

Some time after having your biometrics screening done, you will receive an appointment notice scheduling a date and time for an interview with USCIS. The wait time for this can take several months, and you should use this time to study for the test which is broken into four categories: civics, reading, writing and speaking.Exam Book

The civics test consists of questions based on American history and government as well as integrated civics questions. You will be given 100 questions to study out of which you will be asked 10 randomly at the interview. You must correctly answer 6 of these questions  in order to pass this portion of the test.

Next, you must read one out of three sentences correctly to show your ability to read in English, write one out of three sentences to show your ability to write in English, and answer questions from your submitted application to determine your ability to speak English.

The Oath of Allegiance Swearing-In Ceremony

If you are successful in passing your interview, there is a possibility that you can take your Oath of Allegiance that same day. If not, USCIS will mail you a notification with the date, time, and location of your scheduled oath ceremony. You are not a U.S. citizen until you take the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony.

The Oath of Allegiance is administered, either by USCIS at an administrative ceremony or by a judge in a judicial ceremony, and you receive your Certificate of Naturalization on the same day after taking it. On this day you will also be turning in your permanent resident card (Green card) to USCIS.

What it Means To Be a Citizen

So now that it’s all said and done, what does this mean to you the new American citizen? Well you now have certain rights that you didn’t have before:

-The right to vote

-The right to run for certain public offices

-The right to have a U.S. passport

-The right to obtain a federal government job

-The right to have U.S. government protection and help when traveling to other countries

You also have responsibilities as a citizen such as:

-Supporting and defending the Constitution and U.S. laws

-Serving on a jury

-Registering to vote

-Voting

-Serving in the armed forces of the United States when required

As I mentioned earlier, there were many great books at DCPL that helped me through the naturalization process from beginning to end, and I’ve listed a few of them here. As well as the Learning Express Library database on the website where you can find helpful resources including practice questions for the English and Civics test.

 

Nolo Book

Becoming a U.S. citizen- a Guide to the Law, Exam & Interview (IIona Bray)

 

Exam BookPass the U.S. citizenship exam 

 

 

Kaplan's Book

 

Becoming a U.S. citizen: understanding the naturalization process

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Jul 3 2015

Who Stole My Identity?

by Camille B

Identity theft photo 2We’ve probably all heard these words before. “I’m sorry, your card has been declined.” Whether at a restaurant, department store, or at the supermarket buying groceries, the feeling of panic and confusion immediately sets in and our first thought is there has to be some mistake.

And sometimes there is, sometimes the problem is easily fixed right there and then. You’ve somehow slid the wrong card, there was a problem with the credit card machine, or you simply didn’t have enough funds in your account to cover the transaction at that time.

But what if it wasn’t that simple? What if the problem was none of the above? And, after further investigation, you discover that someone has tampered with your account and your personal information has now been compromised. You find out that your name, date of birth, Social Security number–all of it–is now in the hands of a thief. So the nightmare begins.

My decision to take a closer look at identity theft and its aftermath came after a close friend of mine recently had one of her personal checks cashed by a total stranger–and for quite a tidy sum at that. The bold thief did not use a blank check as one might suppose, but rather one that had already been signed by her and made out to one of her creditors. The check was altered to change the name of the payee and dollar amount. The process for her, of having to file a criminal report and getting the matter resolved with the bank, proved to be a long and arduous one. It was two whole months before she finally got the money back.

She is not alone in her experience. Identity theft happens every day, all around us, to people of all walks of life regardless of their age, color, sex or race–and we all like to think it won’t happen to us, until it does. As its name suggests, identity theft can leave you literally having to go to lengths to prove you really are who you say you are, all because someone else is out there pretending to be you.

I mean, imagine someone calling you up and telling you that you’ve accumulated thousands of dollars worth of debt after someone else fraudulently used your credit card to make unauthorized purchases, or being pulled over in a traffic stop only to find out that you have not one but several unpaid tickets–or worse, a warrant out for your arrest–all because someone used your identity to obtain a driver’s license.

And the longer you take to figure out what’s happening, the more devastating it can be, as was the case with one victim I heard about in my research. When he finally did make the discovery, it was several months later and the damage to his credit was brutal.

You might be reading this and thinking to yourself, “Well gee, I already knew all of that,” which is how I felt until it hit so close to home and I had to scratch my head and realize this could have easily been me.

When it’s just a random, faceless person out there we hear about in the news, sure we empathize, but the case feels so remote and far removed from us that after a while we become complacent, and sometimes even careless, regarding our own day-to-day affairs. So we should be more alert. Identity theft does not announce itself or give us a head start to prepare for its onslaught, nor can we treat it like we might jury duty–and hope “we won’t get picked.” Identity theft is a problem we should take proactive measures against.

And even though we cannot make ourselves one hundred percent foolproof from becoming victims (I’ve checked, there’s no vaccine), we can take preventative measures to secure ourselves and minimize the risk of theft. To me, some of it is just good old common sense and some of it may seem a bit extreme–but as the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The following are just a few safety measures we can take; it only scratches the surface I know, but it’s a good place to start in being a bit more mindful of our overall financial safety.

  • Invest in a good shredder, preferably one that cross-shreds, since truly determined thieves have nothing but time on their hands and would not be deterred by a few hundred strips of paper. Shred important financial statements including medical ones. If it’s something a thief can use against you, shred it.
  • Do not dispose of important paperwork away from home.
  • Be careful about putting bills with checks in the mailbox. This was okay years ago, but nowadays not so much. If a thief gets to that mailbox ahead of the mail carrier, there goes some very valuable information to use to commit fraud. Instead, invest in a mailbox that you can lock with a key–this might be a better option.
  • Take your Social Security card out of your purse or wallet and put it in a secure place along with all of your other personal documents. You do not need to be walking around with your Social Security card all day. Don’t make it easy for thieves to find your Social Security number and unleash a world of hurt, using your number to apply for credit, gain employment, open bank accounts, and even file taxes. Idnetity Theft Image 3
  • Reduce the amount of active credit cards you have. More cards mean more statements coming in and more bills going out. With two cards or less, it’s easier to keep track of activity and spot inconsistencies.
  • Always keep your checkbook in a secure place. Never leave it in the car while you run errands, on your desk at work, or any place where it can fall into the wrong hands. Even boxes of blank checks should be kept safe and out of sight.
  • Beware of phishing. Identity thieves are out there surfing the internet, “phishing” to get innocent victims like you and me to give out our personal information, using phony websites that look oh-so-real, and providing links for us to click on to take us to even darker places where they can try and pry the information from us. Invest in an antivirus program or a firewall that makes it difficult for hackers to access personal information on your computer.
  • Place a “Fraud Alert” with the major credit reporting agencies so you can be alerted when a request is made for credit using your name and information–this makes lenders and creditors go the extra mile before extending credit in your name.
  • Secure PIN numbers and passwords, and avoid using numbers that might be easy or obvious. A thief can unlock all types of information connected to your account using your password, so make it harder to decipher by using a combination of letters, numbers and special characters.
  • Monitor your financial accounts regularly. Nowadays you don’t have to wait for a monthly statement to come in the mail, you can check your account online–daily.

The Federal Trade Commission website is a good source of information on how to avoid identity theft and what to do if it happens to you. And, DCPL has books of interest too.

Identity Theft by Rachael Hanel

Stealing Your Life: The Ultimate Identity Theft Prevention Plan by Frank W. Abagnale

The Con: How Scams Work, Why You’re Vulnerable, and How to Protect Yourself by James Munton and Jelita McLeod

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Jan 28 2015

Cutting Your Bills

by Glenda

bill-reductionsEvery year we make New Year’s Resolutions. They vary from losing weight to spending more time with family. Sadly, most of us give up on them by February. Last year I made the resolution to cut the cost of one of my bills–and I have kept that promise for one whole year.

I checked out a few books from the Library on saving money. After reading those books, I decided to cut my major cell phone carrier service. It was with one of the big three providers, but now I am with a smaller provider. My major-carrier cell phone bill was about $100.00 a month after they added all of the fees and taxes. Now my bill is $65.00 a month. That is a savings of about $35.00 a month. Over a twelve-month period, that is a savings of about $420.00. Imagine the things I can do with that money. And, now I have a smartphone–before I did not have a smartphone.

So if you are looking to save so money this year, check out some of these resources available at DCPL:

Clark Howard’s Living Large in Lean Times: 250+ Ways to Buy Smarter, Spend Smarter, and Save Money by Clark Howard, with Mark Meltzer and Theo Thimou

Living Cheaply with Style by Ernest Callenbach

Clark Howard’s Living Large for the Long Haul: Consumer-Tested Ways to Overhaul Your Finances, Increase Your Savings, and Get Your Life Back on Track by Clark Howard, with Mark Meltzer and Theo Thimou

The Money Class: Learn to Create Your New American Dream by Suze Orman

 

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Apr 13 2012

April 15 – Also an Infamous Date?

by Greg H

I’ve always  found it interesting that April 15, a menacing date to those of us who pay taxes (and, therefore, just another day to those “people”  who just happen to be corporations), is also the date of at least two other calamities of great significance.  President Abraham Lincoln died of his gunshot wound and the Titanic sank, both in the morning hours of April 15.  Both mortal events occurred, however,  on the evening of April 14 so perhaps the wrong date is getting the rap here.

Well, I checked the internet for other historical events that happened on April 14 and, while I found several disasters of a smaller magnitude, I could not find anything else so engaging that James Cameron would want to make a movie about it. In fact, the historical event that most intrigued me was that in 1191 Giacinto Bobo became Pope Coelestinus III.  I was first amazed that anyone known by the name Bobo who, as Pope, could then choose pretty much any other name for himself, would choose Coelestinus, which, face it, sounds like an intestinal bacteria. Then I realized that two other guys before him had made the exact  same choice!  Maybe in the 12th Century Coelestinus was as popular a boy’s name as Jacob and Ethan are today.  And I think Pope Bobo would have been kind of endearing.

Still,  let’s give April 14 some credit for its bad mojo.  The uncertainty and anxiety that one feels after waiting this long to file a tax return must reach its peak by late in the day of  April 14th.  Those poor souls on the Titanic certainly understood that sinking feeling. And they couldn’t file for an extension.

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Apr 15 2009

Calling all Procrastinators!

by Amanda L

Today is D-day for all taxpayers. If you haven’t begun doing your taxes yet, you have until midnight. The Library has all of the basic forms.  Some of the branches may be running out of Georgia forms, but never fear the forms are available online.  For the Federal forms, go to www.irs.gov/formspubs. All of the forms are available to print out and some you can even fill out online. For Georgia state forms, go to https://etax.dor.ga.gov/Individual_Taxes.aspx.  We can also print forms for you at a charge of $.15 a page. The Georgia Department of Revenue has created a document of “Ten Last Minute Filing Tips” that  might be helpful.

Need to know what post offices are staying open late so you can mail those last minute forms? Here are the Post Offices open until midnight: Atlanta Main Post Office, 3900 Crown Road SW ; Boggs Road Postal Store, 1605 Boggs Road, Decatur Main Post Office, 502 West Ponce de Leon Ave.

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Feb 12 2009

Free Tax Filing at your Library

by Lesley B

One of the free IRS tax prep services that DeKalb County Public Library hosts each year is the AARP Tax-Aide program. AARP volunteers help hundreds of people each year file their taxes and collect their refunds. The IRS provides the computers and software. Volunteers complete approx. 100 hours of training before assisting low- and middle-income taxpayers of any age with their federal and state tax returns.

At the Dunwoody Library, Jerry Vitt is returning for his 12th year as an AARP Tax-Aide Coordinator. Last year his crew of volunteer tax counselors filed more than 750 tax returns. Mr. Vitt said, “The one thing I wish everyone knew is that this service really is absolutely free. It’s open to everyone, not just seniors, and you don’t have to be a member of AARP.” He added that even if someone doesn’t need to file a federal tax return, they should still come in to see if they’re eligible to claim the Georgia low income tax credit. The Dunwoody location files about 95% of the tax returns electronically, but they can print out a paper copy for those uncomfortable with the internet.

When you come to the library for tax help, bring the following with you:

  • current year’s tax forms and booklets
  • copy of last year’s tax return
  • all income forms, such as W-2, SSA-1099, all 1099 forms
  • child care provider information (name, employer, ID, SS#)
  • receipts or canceled checks if itemizing deductions.
  • Social Security cards or other official documentation for yourself and all dependents

Take a look at the AARP Tax-Aide website for more information about this program and for a list of all their locations, so you can let your grandmother in Florida know about this terrific FREE program.

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Mar 26 2008

Not your run-of-the-mill jobs…

by David T

IndexShort on funds after paying your taxes? Want to sock away a little money for your summer vacation?  Check out Odd Jobs: 101 Ways to Make an Extra Buck, by Abigail R. Gehring.

According to the book’s publicity, the author herself has held 24 of the 101 jobs listed in its pages, some of which truly merit the adjective “odd.” In her introduction, Gehring says her book is for “anyone who could use a little extra cash, who wants to add some spice to his normal work routine, or who’s ready to murder his boss and jump the next plane to New Zealand.”

The book lists a multitude of part-time, temporary, and seasonal employment opportunities, from Crossing Guard to Mystery Shopper to Virtual Assistant. Among the many choices are ones that can be done from home or online, as well as some that require travel. For each, she provides the typical duties of the job, how to apply, what pay you can expect, expenses you’d have in getting started, and websites where more detailed information can be found. She also notes, with a nice sense of irony, “perks” and “downsides” of each job. Though you might not see yourself posing nude for a college art class, Gehring points out that the job is open to men and women of all body types, normally pays at least $15 an hour, and says encouragingly, “You’ll probably never make money doing less physically or mentally. Most of the time you just sit there.”

Even if you’re not in the market for part-time work, Odd Jobs is fun to browse, and some of the occupations we’ll bet you’ve never heard of. Somewhere in the world today, there’s a worker earning money as a Motivational Dancer, Vacuum Dust Sorter, or Gustatory Athlete. Just think — it could be you.

So, DCPLivers, what’s the most unusual job you’ve ever had?

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Feb 1 2008

AARP Tax Assistance Begins Today

by Chris S

Every year, the AARP Tax-Aide volunteers come out to easily accessible locations to assist seniors (and others) with filing their taxes.  Many people have come to associate this service with the Library, although no library staff members are able to answer tax-related questions and this valuable service is not exclusively located at libraries, but also inside churches and other community centers.  Here’s the link to the AARP Tax-Aide locator:

https://locator.aarp.org/vmis/sites/tax_aide_locator.jsp

Also, the IRS website has nearly all necessary tax forms and other information on its website:

http://www.irs.gov/

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Dec 6 2007

Got the Undecided Voter's Blues?

by Jimmy L

Don’t know which presidential candidate to support?  Don’t fret.  The library has recently purchased two books that will help you familiarize yourself with the candidates.

Cover of Meet the President Meet the next president : what you don’t know about the candidates
by Bill Sammon 

A voter’s guide to the upcoming 2008 presidential campaign evaluates the platforms and positions of its major candidates, in a resource by a senior White House correspondent that offers insight into how the candidates view key issues.

 

Cover2
The undecided voter’s guide to the next president : where the candidates come from, what they believe, and how to make your choice
by Mark Halperin

Mark Halperin, veteran reporter and political analyst, sizes up the White House hopefuls with intelligence, insight, and his trademark wit, offering engaging, in-depth examinations of the histories, qualifications, agendas, and personal beliefs of the major candidates-including Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Rudy Giuiliani, John McCain, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, and Fred Thompson, as well as some “dark horse” contenders.  Among the features in this book: Issue-by-issue charts defining where each of the candidates stand on the war in Iraq, health care, taxes, the economy, and other significant points of debate. An assessment of each candidate’s strengths and weakness. A hypothetical glimpse into the future of each candidate’s potential presidency. Areas of possible controversy that could spark heated discussion and affect the outcome of the race. Personal facts and anecdotes about each candidate-including exclusive Q&A’s covering everything from their junk food weaknesses to their biggest superstitions. (from the book jacket)

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