Why does the university library need to report to the IRS?
July 17, 2016 6:47 PM   Subscribe

Got a new library card at the nearby university library (community access; I paid a small fee for access since I'm not otherwise affiliated with the university). Why did the application form demand my full social security number?

The form mentioned something about reporting to the IRS for tax purposes. Does anyone know what this means?

This is just for borrowing books, not employment.
posted by amtho to Grab Bag (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
That's a little weird. Looks NC-specific [pdf link] (sorry if checking your location was weird):

I understand that disclosure of my Social Security number is mandatory pursuant to the Federal Tax Reform Act of 1976: Public Law 94-455. The Social Security number may be used solely for mandatory North Carolina state tax administration purposes, including intercepting a tax refund due an individual in accordance with the North Carolina Setoff Debt Collection Act, N.C.G.S. Chapter 105A. I understand that to permit compliance with the law, the Social Security number may be furnished to other UNC Chapel Hill departments and to the N.C. Department of Revenue. I agree that all information provided on this application may be used for identification and collection purposes.

I don't see anything similar at NCSU or Duke.
posted by supercres at 6:57 PM on July 17, 2016

I'm presuming from the tags that this is UNC? This is not a thing I've ever heard of and I'm pretty versed with library stuff. However I do know that NC politicians are trying pretty hard to dismantle the UNC system so it may be that there are a whole bunch of various accounting things that they are making the school do with all the money they get but this is a guess not something I know. Technically if you borrowed a book and then lost it they could use your SSN to send you to collections (though few places do this, they have that prerogative) and maybe that's easier with your SSN. In most cases they have to tell you exactly why they need your SSN if it's a mandatory part of the card application process. I never give mine to anyone so I am always nerdily asking people about stuff like this.
posted by jessamyn at 6:57 PM on July 17, 2016

Honestly, nobody is going to notice if you accidentally transpose two digits on the form.
posted by zachlipton at 6:59 PM on July 17, 2016 [4 favorites]

I'm having trouble parsing that paragraph I posted, or the Debt Collection Act linked, but near as I can tell, they don't want you borrowing books if you owe state taxes. I doubt anyone would notice if you were due a refund like the form says.

Really I doubt anyone would notice either way. "We've been trying to track amtho down for ages to get this $27 check to them! Thank goodness they checked in and got a library card!"
posted by supercres at 7:03 PM on July 17, 2016

From a very quick reading of the NC State Law cited, it appears this is for debt collection, not the IRS.
posted by zippy at 7:10 PM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

This explains it a bit.

Essentially they are giving themselves permission, as a state entity, to recoup any fines/fees from your North Carolina state income tax return before you get it.
posted by pantarei70 at 7:18 PM on July 17, 2016 [7 favorites]

Don't credit card applications require your SSN? Your library card, whether from a public library or university library, lets you take home some very valuable and hard to replace items. A library needs to protect its assets, both to be financially responsible to those who fund it, and to make sure those materials will be available to other borrowers. The library wants you to have access to its stuff, but needs to be a responsible steward of that stuff, and needs to be able to track you down if you don't return what you've borrowed. Think of that library card as a credit card, and the SSN requirement makes sense. (IMHO, of course.)
posted by Atelerix at 9:46 PM on July 17, 2016

"Honestly, nobody is going to notice if you accidentally transpose two digits on the form."

Actually, there is a simple algorithm that will compute or check for a valid SSN. (I recall this from my days eons ago as a programmer for a bank.) I forget what the code is, but do recall that the last digit is assigned sequentially, so you can enter your own SSN and change the last digit, and it will not get flagged as an error.
posted by qurlyjoe at 4:56 AM on July 18, 2016

Not sure if this is the same thing, but in MN we took driver's licenses numbers when creating library accounts, for the reason that pantarei70 states above -- fines and replacement fees could be taken directly out of state income taxes. I think there was a time limit; a debt had to be old/unpaid for a while before such a collection could happen.
posted by pepper bird at 10:29 AM on July 18, 2016

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