Tax-filing procrastinators are running out of time |

Tax-filing procrastinators are running out of time

Susan Wood

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Chase Sylvester, left, prepares to sign his tax forms as Debbie Brown, a senior tax adviser for H&R Block completes the final paperwork Wednesday morning.

As the day of reckoning approaches Friday, South Shore tax filers are expected to come out in full force today if they haven’t already done so online.

“Since the IRS has suggested e-filing, a lot of people are doing that now,” chief postal clerk Tom Millham said Wednesday, estimating a 20 percent drop in the number of residents who mail out their returns.

Still, Millham added his office plans to have a sudden influx of last-minute filers this week. Tomorrow, post office hours will be extended by three hours to accommodate the procrastinating segment of 131 million American taxpayers.

H&R Block tax adviser Yvonne Duarte said the ratio of those who pay and those who collect a refund is about evenly split for the South Shore office.

Among them, Chase Sylvester – who works in the Barton Memorial Hospital mobile clinic at Sierra-at-Tahoe – represents the fortunate group. Sylvester, who filed Wednesday with H&R Block adviser Debbie Brown, waited because he didn’t expect much from the government and didn’t get around to it. He’s getting a nominal refund.

“I’ll probably buy a pizza and my dog a bag of bones,” he said.

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Lindsey Davis has already spent her money on a few nights out for her 21st birthday.

“It’s easier to spend when it’s money you don’t usually have,” she said.

Brooke Winters, a newlywed, has a more serious purpose for her refund.

“I wanted to go on a shopping spree, but we paid bills,” she said. “We want to save for a house and don’t want bad credit.”

The Internal Revenue Service reported receiving 950,715 credit and debit card payments in 2004, triple the volume of 2002. E-filing makes this payment method easier to choose – thus increasing American debt.

“How awful they have to pay with a credit card,” Pattie Kramer said, while entering the post office. She squared away her taxes for her and her husband’s carpentry business. They pay a self-employment tax quarterly.

“It just so happens we made more money (last year), which is good, but we had to pay,” she said.

Unlike February’s filings, most people who have their tax returns prepared this week must pay. Four years into retirement, Robert Ahlquist, 63, strategically waited until the last minute to have his done.

“I don’t see any advantage in paying early,” he said, while having Jackson Hewitt tax adviser Karen Oliver prepare his return. She has found many people have put off paying their taxes, so they’re serving pizza to make things easier to swallow. A lot of filers say they need help as the tax code becomes more complex.

“Foreign accounts?” Oliver asked.

“No,” he answered.

Oliver: “Any 1099 interest?”

Ahlquist: “No.”

Oliver, who was employed by the IRS in Fresno, helps her clients make sense of a convoluted, changing tax code. Some try to take shortcuts.

From a report generated in 2001, the IRS estimates unpaid taxes have topped $300 billion a year with much being underreported income. More people may feel the government bearing down on them soon. Congress allocated $48 million for the IRS to use private collection firms.