Tax officials brace for flood of filings

April 11, 1993|By Staff report

Feeling a little anxious as April 15 approaches?

You have lots of company, apparently. A quarter-million more Maryland income tax forms than usual for this time of year remain to be filed, state tax officials say.

By Thursday's filing deadline, the agency is expecting to receive nearly 750,000 returns. Normally, said Marvin Bond, the assistant state comptroller, the number of forms outstanding on April 8 is about a half-million. The state has about 2.2 million taxpayers.

Many procrastinators calling a state hot line are blaming a change in the federal-tax withholding guidelines for their delay, Mr. Bond said. The change allowed Uncle Sam to take between $172 and $345 less from paychecks last year, meaning more people than in recent years owe the federal government.

"Some people who started in February figured out they would owe and put the forms aside," Mr. Bond said. "I don't recall a year when it's

been like this."

Those who get caught short by Thursday's deadline in Maryland can file for a four-month extension, but Mr. Bond said such taxpayers need to include a check for the estimated taxes they owe the state.

If a Maryland taxpayer cannot pay the amount owed, the taxpayer should attach a note explaining why the full amount is not paid and send a check for whatever can be paid, Mr. Bond said.

The balance will be billed to the taxpayer -- at a 13 percent interest rate -- and if the balance is not paid in 30 days of receipt of the notice, a 25 percent penalty is added.

One note on the federal income tax front: The Internal Revenue Service has reduced its penalties for the estimated 5 million Americans who will seek an extension.

Those late federal filers won't have to pay a monthly "nonfiling" fee of 5 percent -- a break from the IRS because of the slow !! economy, high unemployment rate and confusion over the new withholding guidelines, Mr. Bond said.

The state and the IRS are prepared to help procrastinators with their tax forms through the midnight deadline Thursday, he said. Preparers also will be at the downtown post office on Fayette Street from 6 p.m. through midnight Thursday.

In addition, all 18 state income tax offices -- locations and phone numbers are listed on the back of the state's tax booklet -- will be open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and until 7 p.m. on deadline day.

Federal officials will be available from 8:15 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. daily at the IRS main office in downtown Baltimore at 31 Hopkins Plaza.

Mr. Bond urged those filling out tax forms this weekend to be patient and check for mistakes. If all else fails, call the hot line, (800) MD TAXES, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday and Thursday and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday. The hot line is closed today.

"Don't panic," Mr. Bond said. "Set the form aside for whatever time period you have to take -- one day or one hour -- and you'll be surprised at what you can catch."

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