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IRS Tax Glossary (Frequently Used Terms)

Abatement of Penalties

An abatement of penalties is a request to the IRS to remove certain penalties that were added to the taxpayers account for a particular year or multiple years. The taxpayer is required to have reasonable cause that is specific for each year when submitting this request and must be able to explain why this reason should grant the penalties to be removed from their account. Allowable Expenses: Expenses that are deemed necessary to sustain a minimum standard of living which are listed in the IRS National Standards information booklet. Allowable expenses are used to determine disposable income figures for Installment Agreement and Offer in Compromise resolution strategies.

Amended Tax Return

This is a tax return filed to make changes to a previously filed tax return. A taxpayer has 3 years from the due date of the original return or the actual date of filing to file an amended return. **If filing amended returns, you must have a copy of the original return filed, along with an explanation and documentation as to what items need to be amended.

Appeal

IRS administrative process for taxpayers to contest decisions within the IRS. Also known as the Appeals Division. Appeals Officer: The IRS agent who will work with you once your file has been transferred to the Appeals Division of the Internal Revenue Service. Automated Collection Service (ACS): Division of the Internal Revenue Service responsible for collections and case overview if a Revenue Officer has not been assigned to your case. Back Taxes Taxes that have not been paid on the due date or were underreported either by accident or by intention on a past tax return. The tax authorities (IRS) can demand payment of back taxes plus the imposing of penalties and or interest.

Bankruptcy

This is a legal process under Federal statutes that provides for rehabilitation of a debtor (provide the opportunity to make a fresh start) through the discharge of certain debts or through a debt repayment plan over a certain period of time. Creditors cannot contact the debtor during the bankruptcy. They must wait until it is fully discharged. There are three chapters of bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy Chapter 7:

In Title 11, United States Code, this chapter of bankruptcy law provides for a full liquidation of an entity’s non-exempt property to satisfy creditors, and discharges all dis-chargeable debts.

Bankruptcy Chapter 11:

This chapter of the bankruptcy law provides for a partial payment of some debts and the partial discharge of some debts belonging to a business.

Bankruptcy Chapter 13:

This chapter of the bankruptcy law provides for the partial payment of some debts and the partial discharge of some debts for an individual. It is also known as the Wage Earners Repayment Plan since all creditors must receive a dividend.

Basis

The cost of an asset owned by a taxpayer. The cost of the asset may be adjusted upwards by the cost of improvements, or may be adjusted downward by depreciating the asset.

Burden of Proof

A formal legal requirement to provide persuasive information or evidence of the legitimacy of a claim. For tax returns, OICs, or requests for any resolution, the burden of proof to substantiate the claim or deduction rests with the individual or entity either required to sign the return or who submitted the claim.

Cash Flow:

Cash Flow typically refers to the money that flows through your personal or business bank account.

Certificate of Discharge (COD):

The process used by the Internal Revenue Service to remove corporate assets that have been encumbered by a tax lien. This process is primarily applicable to business owners who wish to ‘repurchase’ their assets once their business has been dissolved.

C-Corporation:

For income tax purposes, this term includes associations, and trusts that have a majority of corporate characteristics. Certificate of Subordination: The process of subordinating the mortgage company’s first position on property to that of the second position behind the IRS in the attempt to pay proceeds from a refinance directly to the IRS. Used primarily if a Tax Lien has been assessed against a property and one desires to subordinate the Tax Lien in order to use the equity to pay down a tax liability.

Centralized Authorization File (CAF)

Located in three of the ten IRS Service Centers, it contains all Forms 2848, Powers of Attorney, and Forms 8821, Tax Information Authorizations. Each individual authorized by these forms will be given a CAF number.

Civil Penalty – Tax 6672:

The term used when a tax liability is assessed to an individual personally or more accurately, to this person’s social security number. Collection Appeal Process Request (CAP Appeal) – Form 9423: The form and process employed by the IRS to enable persons and companies the right to appeal federal tax liens, levy or notice of levy, seizure, denial of Installment Agreement, termination of Installment Agreement, verbal abuse from a Revenue Officer, and perhaps other aggressive IRS activity. A CAP Appeal is usually heard within 24 hours by the General Manager of the local IRS office.

Compliant:

A term used by the taxing authorities which is associated with filing all past due returns. One is compliant when all returns have been filed. Collection Due Process Appeal (CDP) – Form 12153: The form and process used by the IRS employed by the IRS to enable persons and companies the right to appeal a tax lien, bank levy, or asset seizure within 30 days from the date of the notice that such action will be forthcoming. If the CDP is filed after 30 days, it will be heard as an Equivalent Hearing.

Collection Division

That organizational arm of the IRS which has the mission of collecting delinquent taxes and securing delinquent tax returns for individuals, businesses, corporations, trusts, or any other entity that owes IRS money. The Service Center Collection Function, the Automated Collection Site, or the Field Collection Function is all part of the Collection Division. The revenue officer is required to effectively collect against any Balance Due accounts.

Collection Information Statement (CIS)

Standard financial statements required by the IRS from individuals and/or self-employed individuals (Form 433-A) and businesses (Form 433-B) that owe IRS taxes and have indicated an inability to pay the liability. IRS uses these forms to determine the taxpayer’s ability to pay in full by installment agreement or a hardship situation.

Collection Statute of Limitation

IRC Section 6503 places an express limit on the time in which the IRS may collect a tax. Normally, the Collection Statute is 10 years from the date of assessment, but can be extended under certain situations.

Community Property

A state law that creates a community upon marriage and all property acquired during the marriage is held as community property, with both the husband and the wife having a one-half interest in the community assets. Hence, the IRS can serve a Notice of Levy for of the wife’s salary for the husbands separate liability. **Community property states include: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Compliance

All taxes are paid up to date and all returns required to file are filed to date. Therefore, if submitting an OIC, IA or status 53 for an individual request, the taxpayer must have all estimated tax payments paid to date and returns filed. If submitting an OIC or IA for a business, the taxpayer must have paid all taxes for the past two quarters and filed all returns.

Currently Non-Collectible

Status 53 is also referred to as Currently Non-Collectible, Currently Uncollectible, or CNC. Status 53 allows taxpayers to make no monthly payments to their delinquent tax debt due to minimal income to provide for themselves and their family.

Deductions

An expense subtracted from adjusted gross income when calculating taxable income, such as for state and local taxes paid, charitable gifts, and certain types of interest payments or business expenses.

Default

Failure to repay an outstanding debt as agreed.

Discharge of Federal Lien

Authorized under the IRS Code. The process whereby the taxpayer or interested third party applies to have the federal tax lien removed from a specific piece of property or other asset.

Earned Income Tax Credit

A tax credit given to qualified low-income wage earners, even if no income tax was withheld from the individuals pay.

Enrolled Agent

An Enrolled Agent is a federally-authorized tax practitioner who has technical expertise in the field of taxation and who is empowered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to represent taxpayers before all administrative levels of the Internal Revenue Service for audits, collections, and appeals.

What does the term Enrolled Agent mean?

An Enrolled Agent refers to someone that is licensed by the federal government to appear in the place of the taxpayer at the IRS. Only Enrolled Agents, tax attorneys, and CPAs may represent taxpayers before the IRS. The Enrolled Agent profession dates back to 1884 when, after questionable claims had been presented for Civil War losses, Congress acted to regulate persons who represented citizens in their dealings. Enrolled Agent is a tax professional who has passed an IRS test covering all aspects of taxation, plus passed an IRS background check. Enrolled Agents have passed a two-day, 8-hour examination. The examination (called the Special Enrollment Examination) covers all aspects of federal tax law, including the taxation of individuals, corporations, partnerships, and various regulations governing IRS collections and audit procedures. Like CPAs and tax attorneys, Enrolled Agent’s can handle any type of tax matter and represent their client’s interests before the IRS. Unlike CPAs and tax attorneys, Enrolled Agents are tested directly by the IRS, and enrolled agents focus exclusively on tax accounting. The “EA” designation may be revoked by the IRS’ Office of Professional Responsibility for malpractice.

How can Enrolled Agent help me?

Enrolled Agents advise, represent, and prepare tax returns for individuals, partnerships, corporations, estates, trusts, and any entities with tax-reporting requirements. Enrolled Agents expertise in the continually changing field of taxation enables them to effectively represent taxpayers audited by the IRS. Privilege and the Enrolled Agent The IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 allow federally authorized practitioners (those bound by the Department of Treasury’s Circular 230 regulations) a limited client privilege. This privilege allows confidentiality between the taxpayer and the Enrolled Agent under certain conditions. The privilege applies to situations in which the taxpayer is being represented in cases involving audits and collection matters. It is not applicable to the preparation and filing of a tax return. This privilege does not apply to state tax matters, although a number of states have an accountant-client privilege with the U.S. Treasury Department.

Equitable Relief

If a spouse does not qualify for innocent spouse relief or separation of liability, they may qualify for equitable relief. The taxpayer must show, under all facts and circumstances, that it would be unfair to be held liable for the understatement or underpayment of taxes. (U.S. Master Tax Guide 2004.

Estimated Tax (ES) Payments

Tax payments made to IRS for the current tax year. Those taxpayers that do not have withholding taken out of their paycheck OR owed more than $1000 on the previous years tax return is required to pay estimated tax payments to the IRS for the current year. Taxpayers are supposed to estimate their income at the beginning of the year to determine their estimated tax liability. If they owe taxes when they file a return even though they have withholding, the IRS will penalize them if they do not pay estimates. Estimated payments allow taxpayers to remain in compliance with the payment demands of the IRS. ES payments are due the 15th day of April, June, and September of the current year and January of the following year. **If a taxpayer is required to make ES payments, and they want an OIC the taxpayer must be current with all tax payments including ES payments prior to submitting an OIC. If the OIC is submitted between January and March, the taxpayer is not delinquent until he does not pay his first ES payment due April 15th. If they are not current with last years ES payments, an OIC can be submitted including last years debt. If an OIC has already been submitted, the taxpayer must continue to pay ES payments while the OIC is in review and until they have proper withholding and stop acquiring a debt. Since taxpayers are required to pay their taxes after the OIC is accepted, it is to the taxpayers benefit to start off in compliance by paying all estimates while the OIC is in review and not by adding that year to the current OIC.

Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA)

This is Social Security Tax. FICA consists of Social Security (supplemental retirement income) payroll tax and a Medicare (hospital insurance) tax. The tax is levied on employers, employees, and certain self-employed individuals. On some pay stubs it may be listed as Old Age Survivors and Disability Insurance (OASDI).

Federal Tax Deposit (FTD)

An employer must deposit employment taxes withheld (income tax withholding and FICA taxes) including the employers share of the FICA, either monthly or semi-weekly (depending on the amount of tax withheld) with an authorized commercial bank or Federal Reserve Bank.

Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA)

A Federal tax paid by employers that provide for the administrative costs of a states unemployment compensation program for workers who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Only the employer pays FUTA tax, it is not deducted from the employee’s wages. This annual tax is reported on Form 940.

Garnishment

Legal process whereas a creditor (the IRS in this case) has obtained judgment on a debt (IRS back taxes or other debt) may obtain full or partial payment by seizure of a portion of a debtor’s (taxpayer in this case) assets such as wages, bank account, etc.

IRS Form 1040- Individual Income Tax Return

Those individuals and married couples who are required to file with IRS must complete this return. **Form 1040EZ is for income less than $100,000, interest less than $1,500 and cannot be used if the taxpayer received the advanced earned income credit. Form 1040PC is a paper tax return prepared on a computer using the approved IRS tax preparation software.

IRS Form 1065- Return for business partnership income

Return for partnerships to report income and expenses for the previous tax year.

IRS Form 1120- Corporation Income Tax Return

Return for incorporated businesses to report income and expenses for the previous tax year.

IRS Form 940 – Annual Unemployment Tax Return

Every year, each business reports Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) tax based on the amount paid to each employee. The tax applies to the first $7000 paid to each employee [Federal base = $7000, State base is different] in a year after subtracting any exempt payments. FUTA tax along with state unemployment systems provides payments of unemployment compensation to workers who have lost their jobs.

IRS Form 941- Quarterly tax return/ payments

Businesses that withhold wages from their employees are required to file 941-Employers Quarterly Federal Tax Return. These are filed each calendar quarter i.e. January thru March, filed April 30; April thru June, filed July 31; July thru September, filed October 31; and October thru December, filed January 31. Any business that pays more than $2500 in net taxes is required to make quarterly deposits to authorized financial institutions. Again, IRS is trying to aid businesses in being compliant with paying their tax.

IRS Form W-2

Employers must provide employees with a statement of how much they earned in wages, tips and other compensation from the previous year in a W-2 form (by January 31 of each year). The form will reflect state and federal taxes, social security, Medicare wages and tips withheld.

IRS Form W-4 (Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate)

The W-4 determines how much of the individuals paycheck is withheld for federal income taxes and is completed by the employee.

Innocent Spouse

A spouse who unknowingly filed a joint return with their spouse who had reported an understatement of tax due to erroneous items. The unknowing spouse must prove that at the time the tax return was signed he/she did not know, or have reason to know, there was an understatement of tax. Also with the fact and circumstances taken into consideration, it must show that it would be unfair to hold the unknowing (innocent) spouse liable for the understatement of tax. To request innocent spouse relief, the taxpayer must file Form 8857. (See also Equitable Relief and Separation of Liability)

Installment Agreement (IA)

An Installment agreement is a contract between the IRS and a taxpayer to allow the taxpayer to pay their delinquent debt over a specified period of time.

Itemized Deductions

Expenses claimed on an individuals tax return (on Schedule A), that are subtracted from the adjusted gross income to determine taxable income. Examples of itemized deductions include medical expenses, taxes paid (other than federal taxes), interest, charitable contributions, and employee business expenses.

Levy

Garnishment attached to taxpayers wages, bank account, account receivable, social security income, etc.

Licensed Taxpayer Representative

Licensed Taxpayer Representative is a tax professional and ex-IRS Agents who are licensed to practice before the IRS and solve your tax problems under Circular 230. They do not practice law, nor do they certify accounting practices. They are also known as Enrolled Agents.

Lien

Whether a taxpayer does or does not own any property, IRS will issue a lien against their SSN to hinder them from purchasing, selling or transferring any property. A lien will affect their credit report. If the taxpayer is preparing an OIC and it is accepted, the lien will be released once the OIC payment terms have been satisfied. If not preparing an OIC, the lien will be released when the tax debt is either paid in full or the statute to collect the tax has expired. *The Internal Revenue Code of 1986 provides for a statutory lien of the Federal Government to be filed for a tax debt after a proper assessment, notice and demand, and a neglect or refusal to pay. Liens can be discharged or subordinated under special circumstances. **A Federal Tax Lien is formally recording in the appropriate public records office (county recorder, MENSE, Secretary of State (UCC) or US District Court) in order to establish priority over creditors.

Lien Discharge

A lien discharge is a removal of a lien on a specific piece of property to allow for its sale or disposal.

Lien Release

Issued by IRS when a tax debt is fully paid or if the taxpayer can prove they are suffering from a financial hardship and are unable to provide for their family’s health and wellbeing.

Lien Subordination

A Lien Subordination is to temporarily set aside a lien to allow for a sale or refinance of property.

Master File

An IRS File which consists of a series of data records and files with links to many of the other IRS systems. All businesses and individuals have an IRS Master File. Master files receives individual or business tax submissions in electronic format and processes them through a pre-posting phase, posts the transactions, analyzes the transactions and produces output in the form of Refund data, Notice data, Reports, and information feeds to other entities.

Module

On the IRS Master File, the module of the return defines a specific return by its time frame. Form 1040, Individual Income Tax Return, is normally for a calendar year module and Form 941, Employers Quarterly Tax Return, is for a 3-month quarterly module during a calendar year i.e. March 31st, June 30th, September 30th, and December 31st).

Monthly Disposable Income

Any positive amount remaining after the taxpayer’s necessary monthly living expenses are subtracted from their monthly income. MDI is used to help calculate the taxpayers RCP (reasonable collection potential) for OIC purposes.

Notice of Federal Tax Lien

Whether a taxpayer does or does not own any property, IRS will issue a lien against their SSN to hinder them from purchasing, selling or transferring any property. A lien will affect their credit report. If the taxpayer is preparing an OIC and it is accepted, the lien will be released once the OIC payment terms have been satisfied. If not preparing an OIC, the lien will be released when the tax debt is either paid in full or the statute to collect the tax has expired. *The Internal Revenue Code of 1986 provides for a statutory lien of the Federal Government to be filed for a tax debt after a proper assessment, notice and demand, and a neglect or refusal to pay. Liens can be discharged or subordinated under special circumstances. **A Federal Tax Lien is formally recording in the appropriate public records office (county recorder, MENSE, Secretary of State (UCC) or US District Court) in order to establish priority over creditors.

Notice of Levy

A notice imposing and collecting a fine. When used in conjunction with IRS, this normally refers to the document that is served on a third party that freezes wages, bank accounts, and other personal property.

Offer In Compromise

Code Section 7122 authorized the Commissioner or his delegate the authority to compromise most tax liabilities. An OIC is an agreement between the IRS and taxpayer that allows the taxpayers delinquent tax debt to be compromise for less than the amount owed. The offered dollar amount is based on the taxpayer’s net worth plus their future income potential. An offer in compromise is an agreement between a taxpayer and the IRS that resolves the taxpayer’s tax debt. The IRS has the authority to settle, or “compromise,” federal tax liabilities by accepting less than full payment under certain circumstances. A tax debt can be legally compromised for one of the following reasons:

Doubt as to Liability

Doubt exists that the assessed tax is correct.

Doubt as to Collectibility

Doubt exists that you could ever pay the full amount of tax owed.

Effective Tax Administration

There is no doubt the tax is correct, and no doubt that the amount owed could be collected, but an exceptional circumstance exists that allows the IRS to consider a taxpayer’s OIC. To be eligible for a compromise on this basis, the taxpayer must demonstrate that collection of the tax would create an economic hardship or would be unfair and inequitable. The objective of the OIC program is to accept a compromise when it is in the best interests of both the taxpayer and the government and promotes voluntary compliance with all future payment and filing requirements. Typically there is an application fee of $150.00 for the offer in compromise. The IRS will accept an Offer in Compromise (OIC) when it is unlikely that the tax liability can be collected in full and the amount offered reasonably reflects collection potential. The ultimate goal is a compromise that is in the best interest of the taxpayer and the IRS. Acceptance of an adequate offer will also result in creating, for the taxpayer, an expectation of a fresh start toward complying with all future filing and payment requirements. The OIC process is based on a debt-to-asset formula devised by the IRS.

The Process

The OIC process is complex and time-consuming and can take up to 24 months to resolve. The client needs to provide detailed financial information required by the IRS. The IRS will not consider an OIC if the client-submitted documents are more than three months old. In addition, the client must be in compliance (all taxes must be filed and quarterly estimated payments, if applicable, have to be current).

Power of Attorney

The legal form giving authority to represent a taxpayer before the Internal Revenue Service.

Qualified Domestic Relations Order

A state court can allocate an interest in a qualified retirement plan to a former spouse through a qualified domestic relations order. Payments made to a former spouse as the result of QDRO will not result in the taxpayer being assessed a penalty for early withdrawal from the plan; the former spouse will be taxed on the benefits when received, or the benefits can be rolled over tax free into an IRA or other qualified retirement plans.

Reasonable Collection Potential

The total realizable value of the taxpayer’s assets plus any future income. The total is generally the minimum Offer in Compromise amount.

RCP Equation:

Total Income – Total Expenses = MDI (Monthly Disposable Income) MDI x FIP Factor (Future Income Potential) = Future Income Future Income + Equity in Assets = RCP

Recovery Period

The Recovery Period is the time, normally in years, over which the basis (cost) of an item of property is recovered (by depreciation).

Refund

When an individual has more tax withheld from their wages than what is owed on their tax return, this difference results in an overpayment of taxes or a refund.

Refund Statute Expiration Date

A taxpayer may request a refund of an overpayment within three years from the time the return was filed or within two years from the time the tax was paid, whichever is later. If no return was filed by the taxpayer, the claim must be filed within two years from the time the tax was paid (IRC 6511(a)).

Schedule C – Profit and Loss from Business

When a taxpayer has an unincorporated business and is a sole proprietor business owner, they are required to file taxes on Schedule C attached to their Form 1040. Schedule C allows taxpayers to deduct the expenses incurred during the tax year they conducted business from the gross income received. Schedule C taxpayers are required to pay half of their Self-Employment tax since they work for themselves. Any debt incurred by a sole proprietor will be recorded as a 1040 liability under the taxpayers SSN and can be found on their IMF (Individual Master File). **Taxpayers need to be able to prove the figures listed on the 1040, Schedule C.

Schedule K-1 – Partner’s Share of Income, Credit, Deductions

Each partner within the partnership uses this Schedule K-1 to report his or her share of the partnerships income, credits, deductions, etc. This form is not filed with IRS, but is simply a record-keeping requirement. Even though partnerships are not generally subject to income tax, each individual partner is liable for tax on their share of the partnership income, whether or not it is distributed.

Self Employment Tax

Self-employment tax is the social security and Medicare tax for people who work for themselves. When an individual pays self-employment tax, they are contributing to their coverage under the social security system. This differs from wage earners who have social security taxes taken from their wages. An individual must pay self-employment tax if: 1) the net earnings from self-employment are $400 or more OR 2) Services are performed for a church as an employee and $108.28 or more is received.

Status 53

Status 53 is also referred to as Currently Non-Collectible, Currently Uncollectible, or CNC. Status 53 allows taxpayers to make no monthly payments to their delinquent tax debt due to minimal income to provide for themselves and their family. Status 53 is reviewed by the IRS on a regular basis and the client’s status can be changed back to “Collectible” if there is any change in the client’s financial situation. Penalties and interest continues to accrue while the client is in Status 53.

Statute of Limitation

The IRS has set specific time periods before expiration of certain actions, i.e. to collect a tax, make an assessment to an account, to request a refund, to file bankruptcy, etc.

Subordination of Federal Tax Lien

The legal process whereby the IRS will subordinate its Federal Tax Lien to a third party by temporarily setting aside the lien to enable a refinance or sale of a piece of property.

Substitute for Return

If a taxpayer has not filed a return and the IRS feels it can collect from the money earned, an IRS Revenue Officer may file a SFR. When a SFR is filed, the agent lists all of the income reported to the IRS for that year, but only gives the taxpayer one exemption and only the standard deduction, i.e. nothing is itemized. Even if for the past 10 years the taxpayer has itemized, the IRS prepares the return in their favor. If the taxpayer has children the IRS tries to file the return based on the information from the previous years, i.e. married filing joint with 2 children. But IRS will only file this way if they have previous returns showing this info.

Tax Debt

A debt is something owed, such as money, goods, or services. In this case, it is a debt that is owed to the IRS or state authority.

Tax Exempt

Not subject to tax. Normally this refers to charitable and other qualified organizations, but can also refer to specific exempt income of individuals.

Tax Exemptions

The amount allowed by the Code for a personal exemption (for an individual and spouse if filing a joint return) and for a dependency exemption (for a taxpayers dependents). In 2004, each exemption was worth $3100 as a deduction from adjusted gross income.

Tax Help

There are lots of companies that will offer tax help. But true tax help is not just setting up payment plans it is interceding with the IRS on your behalf with the IRS to help solve your tax problems.

Tax Laws

The body of law created by congressional action that governs the entire administrative process of the tax system. Officially known as Title 26, Unites States Code, it is more commonly known as the Internal Revenue Code or the Code. Interpretation of the Code begins with the IRS, and will ultimately end with the interpretation provided by the judicial system.

Tax Liability

The total tax bill that an individual or business owes after all withholding (individuals), Federal Tax Deposits (businesses), Estimated Tax Payments (individuals, sole proprietorships & corporations), and payments attached to the tax return are submitted and credited by the IRS.

Tax Problem

Tax problems can refer to any type of problems taxpayers are having with the IRS (federal) or state tax authority. These problems may include garnishments, levies, liens, back taxes and interest owed, unfiled tax returns, haven’t paid your business taxes, haven’t paid your self-employment taxes, can’t pay your Installment Agreements, etc.

Tax Return

Any federal, state, or local tax return (personal income tax, corporate income tax, employer quarterly tax return, excise tax return, estate tax return, partnership tax return, fiduciary tax return, or any other return) required by law to be filed to report income, taxes withheld, sales tax, etc.

Taxes

Taxes are required payments of money to the government (federal, state or local). Tax money provides public goods and services for the community as a whole (roads, schools, law enforcement, public libraries, etc.).