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Procrastinators scramble to file their taxes

Spotted two extra days by a friendly calendar, procrastinating taxpayers scrambled Monday to file their returns on time — and grudgingly give up whatever they owed.
Petunia, a 1-year-old pit bull being walked by SPCA volunteer Michael Hunt, greets post office customers as they stand in line on tax day in San Francisco.Erin Lubin / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Spotted two extra days by a friendly calendar, procrastinating taxpayers scrambled Monday to file their returns on time — and grudgingly give up whatever they owed.

In Little Rock, Ark., Ronald Edwards said he had been clinging as long as possible to the $2,500 he owed to the state and federal governments. He finally gave in on the last day.

“If I had a refund, you wouldn’t see me here right now,” said Edwards, a 49-year-old computer programmer. “If I’m going to pay, I’m not doing it until the last second.”

Charles Lane, 67, a retired postal worker from Philadelphia, had the same idea.

He had vivid memories of things getting pretty rough at the office on tax deadline day. Nevertheless, he was one of a steady stream of last-minute filers headed to the post office Monday.

“I wasn’t getting any money back,” Lane said. “I was in no hurry.”

With April 15 falling on a Saturday this year, taxpayers nationwide had at least until Monday to file their returns.

Ralph Savage, 63, of Philadelphia, started thinking about doing his taxes in March. But like always, he said he found himself running to the post office on the last day.

“My nickname is Mr. Procrastinator,” Savage said.

A sign on a post office in downtown Pittsburgh said it would stay open until 9 p.m., with the last pickup at midnight to accommodate latecomers.

Jake McElligott, 38, a university administrator from Pittsburgh, said he completed his return but sat on it before filing just under the wire.

“I owed money. I was going to file on the last day, whenever it was,” he said. “They were done awhile ago, but I just held on to that money as long as I could.”

A holiday observed Monday in Massachusetts gave some taxpayers an automatic extension. Patriots Day commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord, the beginning of the Revolutionary War.

That meant taxpayers in states that file with the IRS office in Andover, Mass. — Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and the District of Columbia — had until Tuesday, according to Peggy Riley, an IRS spokeswoman. Except for taxpayers in Massachusetts and Maine, which also observes Patriots Day, the extension applies only to federal returns, according to the IRS Web site.

While some late filers had only themselves to blame, others were fighting logistical problems.

In Olympia, Wash., Radha Yarlagadda stopped by a downtown post office during lunchtime to mail his taxes only because he was unsuccessful in his attempt to file online. He said the system would not accept his form.

“It was very frustrating,” said Yarlagadda, 31.

In Newark, N.J., Helen Lam was standing in line to mail her federal tax payment — for the second time.

Lam, of Mineola, N.Y., sent in her tax return at the end of March, but got back from vacation last weekend to find that her check had bounced.

“It’s annoying because it’s hard to find out what you should do when you bounce a check,” she said.

In a promotion by the New York Mets, people lined up at Shea Stadium before a game with the Atlanta Braves to have their taxes filed for free. Fans could drop off their W-2 forms and come back later to pick up their completed tax return.

“It’s either that or file for an extension,” said Paul Borzell of Floral Park, who took advantage of the offer. “It’s a great service, probably saves $150 to $200.”

At a post office in downtown San Francisco, the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals tried to make things warm and fuzzy for last-minute filers.

Two cats, Cuddlebug and Molly, and a black-and-white pit bull puppy named Petunia greeted people as they squeezed in ahead of the deadline.

“It’s nice to pet a dog while you’re standing in line,” said Chris Colwick, 35, an environmental planning consultant. “It’s a nice distraction, and she’s a sweet girl.”

Last-minute filers in Grand Rapids, Mich., could have their anxieties massaged away.

David Crawford, the proprietor of the Stress Less Massage Clinic, was offering free massages in the lobby of the city’s main post office.

“He is in the right place at the right time,” Crawford said while kneading the arms of an unfortunate postal patron who discovered — after driving to the post office and mailing his city, state and federal returns — that he had locked his keys in his car.