Last-minute rush greets tax deadline

April 16, 1993|By David Michael Ettlin and Laura Lippman | David Michael Ettlin and Laura Lippman,Staff Writers

Thousands of taxpayers made a late run last night to Baltimore's main post office and barely beat the April 15 filing deadline.

Traffic on Fayette Street was bumper to bumper from 11 p.m. to midnight -- procrastination's Hour of Power -- while state and federal tax officials were giving last-minute advice to the befuddled in the post office lobby.

"Aleutian Islands or Corregidor?" asked Stephen Sauter of Cambridge, Mass., offering a choice of commemorative World War II battle stamps to business associate Charles E. Phillips of Portland, Maine, as he sealed their envelopes at a counter.

The stamps were needed for forms requesting a filing extension, after the men found their work for the federal government keeping them away from home and their tax records past the deadline.

Outside, in a reversal of "special delivery," postal workers stood curbside on the receiving end of tax envelopes handed out of a continuous stream of cars, trucks, cabs -- even a bicycle courier, motorcycle and limousine.

Despite the crowds, and a few Libertarian demonstrators with signs declaring "Repeal the Income Tax," postal officials said the last-day taxpayer rush seemed lighter than in recent years and "less of a circus."

"We don't have the Tylenol samples and Heavenly Ham giveaways," said Wayne O. Bender, the post office manager, recalling sidewalk promotions of a year ago -- although at least two radio stations were handing out gifts.

The madness ended at midnight.

But if you missed the deadline, tax officials say, better file late jTC than never -- and if you owe money to the government, sooner is better than later to keep the penalties and interest to a minimum.

At the federal level, that's 5 percent per month for each month that passes, and 7 percent on the money owed. The state collects 13 percent in interest on late taxes.

"So finish your tax return," advised Dominic LaPonzina, spokesman for the Internal Revenue Service's Baltimore regional center.

"The longer it takes, the more you pay," he said."

As of yesterday, officials said, 300,000 to 400,000 federal tax forms had not been filed in Maryland and the District of Columbia. About 375,000 state returns were still missing.

Since Monday, however, tax forms have been coming in huge batches -- 85,000 state returns per day, 100,000 federal returns.

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