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.

Postal workers, some of whom dressed up for the occasion, said they frequently see the same faces year after year in the last hours of April 15.

"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 out on the street with boxes into which motorists dropped their returns.

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

Surveying the traffic moving along Fayette Street shortly before 7 p.m., the officer said, "It's mild right now. Eventually, traffic will be at a standstill, unless people filed early this year, which I have yet to see."

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.

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."

At the federal level, about 75 percent of taxpayers filing returns typically get refunds, said Domenic J. LaPonzina, an IRS spokesman.

He noted that in the local IRS district, which includes Maryland, Delaware and Washington, about 500,000 returns were yet to be filed as of Friday, about a sixth of the total of 3 million.

Hip-hop music was in the air, blaring across Fayette Street courtesy of WXYV-FM. Taking advantage of a live audience, disc jockey Lorenzo "Ice Tea" Thomas offered to "slap" stamps on people's envelopes to ease the passage.

"This envelope is going straight to Philadelphia because my man Milton is paying his taxes," said Thomas.

Milton Taylor, 32, confirmed that such was the case.

Pub Date: 4/16/97

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