Tax procrastinators run into the inevitable Inside post office, many late filers, no Playboy bunnies

April 16, 1996|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

Although a steady stream of motorists were pulling over to hand tax returns to postal workers outside the main post office on Fayette Street late last night, the true procrastinators could be found inside.

They were the ones actually filling out their income tax forms on folding tables, counter tops and any other available flat surface minutes before the midnight filing deadline.

As a driving rainstorm made the waning hours of April 15 even more miserable, people wearing worried looks scurried up the ramp to the front door. Some sprinted.

Al Jennings, a Woodlawn resident, left work in Perryville with his tax return and those of six co-workers. He said he missed the closing in Bel Air, where he could have dropped off returns until 11 p.m., so he made a bee-line for Fayette Street.

"It started raining really hard. I couldn't see," he said. Finally, when he saw the gridlock in front of the post office, he had had enough. "I just pulled over and ran up here," Mr. Jennings said.

He made it. With five minutes to spare.

But tax officials said the procrastinator is not the typical taxpayer filing at the last moment.

"There are people who may have filled out their return in February or March. They saw they had a balance due and just waited until the last week to write out a check and send it in," said Domenic J. LaPonzina, a spokesman for the Internal Revenue Service Baltimore District.

Marvin A. Bond, assistant state comptroller, said most last-minute filers were not expecting to get anything back. "About 75 percent of taxpayers get refunds, and most of them have already filed," Mr. Bond said. "Most of what's coming in now has a check attached to it."

The scene at the downtown post office, where workers expected to have received more than 500,000 returns by the extended closing at midnight, was more subdued than in years past.

No tax protesters appeared. Nobody was handing out free samples of pain relievers. And Playboy bunnies never showed up to give back massages, as had been advertised.

That was just fine with Baltimore Postmaster Joseph M. Lennon, who was chewed out by a few callers who thought the Postal Service had invited the provocatively clad waitresses of the Playboy organization. Mr. Lennon explained that the Postal Service had nothing to do with it.

"We had a lot of people call up and ask, 'Is it true?' But we haven't seen them," he said.

Gilbert Williamson did show up. He had carefully planned this time in his busy schedule to do his taxes. He left his job at the Veterans Administration in Cecil County and got to the post office shortly before 6 p.m., allotting himself about 45 minutes to complete his return before picking up a friend in Baltimore County for dinner and a movie.

"It's all effective time management," he said.

The problem was, he kept getting interrupted by people who thought he was the tax man and sought his help. He looked the part. He was sitting at a long folding table, wearing a carefully knotted tie and a picture identification card clipped to his shirt pocket with a calculator and several pencils and pens neatly laid out.

"Do you work for the IRS? I need some help," said a man who approached him, clutching his blank forms.

"No, I don't," Mr. Williamson said. "But I could lend you a pen."

Pub Date: 4/16/96

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