Californians scramble to turn in last-minute tax returns |

Californians scramble to turn in last-minute tax returns

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Thousands of Californians made their annual mad dash to post offices Monday to get their taxes in the mail before midnight, with procrastinators blaming everything from Easter celebrations to surgical procedures for their delays.

Others acknowledged that 11th-hour filing is simply a rite of spring for them.

”It doesn’t matter whether I owe or get a refund, I’m always doing this at the last minute,” said 60-year-old Robert Hawkins as he sealed an envelope at a downtown post office. ”I’m surprised I didn’t come at midnight.”

Hawkins did have an excuse for waiting until the last day, however. He said pancreatic surgery earlier this year kept him in the hospital for a week.

While most people calmly waited in line at post offices Monday, a few were frantically grabbing and signing extension forms. The Internal Revenue Service requires that mail be postmarked by midnight as proof that a return, or at the least a request for more time to file one, was mailed on time.

At the Los Angeles International Airport branch, which was open until midnight, postal workers stood at every service window to accept mail. Some even stood out on the street, collecting it from people as they arrived.

”At 5 p.m. this becomes the area’s only place to go and then it becomes a madhouse,” said branch supervisor Jacquelyne Shoemake.

To help reduce stress, companies like Yahoo!, Lipovitan and Krispy Kreme were staked out in front of the office, offering free stamps, massages, drinks and doughnuts.

Meanwhile, a steady stream of procrastinators kept arriving.

Larry Strowbridge, 48, said he was slow to hand in his taxes because of the Easter holiday.

”It’s kind of embarrassing being here on the last day,” he said while preparing to send his family’s taxes by Priority Mail.

For newlyweds Cesar Morales and Soledad Molinar, both 25, it was a vacation to Las Vegas that kept them away until the last day.

”It’s a lot more stressful this year because we’re used to filing our own (taxes) and getting money back,” Morales said. The couple said they had to save about $1,000 to pay both the state and federal governments.

Others were just being meticulous.

Chemist Manuel Chaidez, 45, said he spent the last week checking the figures on his itemized deductions even after paying a tax preparer to do the work.

When asked why he procrastinated, he quipped: ”I’m not late. I’m right on time.”

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