Procrastinators parade to post office Annual tax ritual draws usual crowd

April 16, 1997|By Jamie Stiehm and John Rivera | Jamie Stiehm and John Rivera,SUN STAFF

The mood at the main post office on East Fayette Street as the hours of April 15 ticked away last night was anything but anxious, with a palpable sense of relief at getting that tax return in the mail before the clock struck midnight.

Postal workers, some of whom dressed up for the occasion, said they frequently see the same faces year after year.

"It's just like a procrastinator's reunion," said window clerk Acquinetta Walker, 46, decked out in a red, white and blue sequined vest. "When they see the postmark, they exhale."

The main post office stays open until midnight once a year.

"I personally don't understand why people wait until the last minute, but they do," said acting Baltimore Postmaster Michael Furey, 42, who was supervising more than 1,000 workers, some on the street with boxes into which motorists dropped tax returns.

Minutes before midnight, people streamed into the post office to drop returns into the mail, and traffic moved briskly along Fayette Street as others drove up to drop theirs into boxes.

Last night's warm and clear weather contrasted with April 15 last year, when it was "pouring down rain," recalled a postal police officer.

From 6 p.m. to closing time, federal and state tax advisers were on hand to help people fill out forms and figure out how much they owed or were due in refunds. Close to midnight, IRS workers had helped 484 people fill out tax returns.

One Baltimore man who sought the free advice was Ronnie Wright, 36, a hospital worker. When he walked into the post office, he said, he had "no idea" what his tax liability would be.

Half an hour later, after learning that he was due a refund of $800 from the Internal Revenue Service and $300 from the state, he said, "I'm sorry I waited until late."

Howard Simons, the state tax official who helped Wright, said, "The majority of Maryland taxpayers do get a refund."

About 75 percent of taxpayers get refunds from their federal returns, said Domenic J. LaPonzina, an IRS spokesman.

Hip-hop music was in the air, blaring across Fayette Street courtesy of WXYV-FM. Disc jockey Lorenzo "Ice Tea" Thomas offered to "slap" stamps on tax return envelopes.

Protesters in Colonial-era garb, led by Vic Simon, 48, of Kensington, a member of the Libertarian Party, protested "taxation without representation" and said Maryland law does not permit adequate participation by third parties.

One of the last people to parade out of the post office was Melanie Parr, 23, of Hampden, who was accompanied by her mother. Asked why she was filing at the last minute, Parr replied, "I'm getting married in three weeks. Taxes came last."

Pub Date: 4/16/97

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