Post office embraces slightly quieter tax day

April 15 has a pulse but isn’t the crush it once was

April 15, 2010|By Brent Jones, The Baltimore Sun

Workers at the city's main post office on Fayette Street were prepping Thursday morning for the annual late-night Tax Day rush, albeit a more casual version than that of a decade ago.

On April 15 back then, the hours leading up to midnight took on a carnival-like feel.

"Years ago, when there was only mailing, we'd have IRS people in the lobby helping people fill out forms," said William Ridenour, postmaster of Baltimore. "We'd have people coming in with a box of receipts doing their tax forms at 11 at night. There would be blocks and blocks of traffic trying to get here, with our carriers out standing on the corners. Some people would just come down for the free giveaways."

Ridenour, who has worked for the post office for 30 years, said local carriers handled about 1.1 million pieces of mail in the days surrounding the government-mandated deadline at the beginning of this century, but that number is expected to dwindle to 600,000 this year.

Thank the continued popularity of electronic filing. About 95 million people e-filed in 2009, a number that is expected to increase this year, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

It has put a dent into a day postal workers, depending on whom you asked, either lived for or dreaded.

Ridenour, postmaster for three years and a government employee since 1980, embraced the event.

"It was one of the more fun days that we have," Ridenour said.

Ridenour expected a slight spike Thursday, since taxpayers claiming the first-time homebuyer tax credit had to file a paper return. That was likely to generate a few thousand more pieces of mail and lead to a few dozen more people jamming into the only post office in the city open after normal business hours.

But he doubted there would be a need for crowd control, and there wasn't.

By 8:30 a.m., a line of about a dozen people had formed, waiting for the branch to open.

Darlene Robinson of Randallstown waited with her taxes in one hand and her census questionnaire in the other, saying she put off mailing the forms for "as long as possible. I owed, so I kind of waited until the last minute."

Robinson said she usually files electronically and had never visited a post office on deadline day. But the experience wasn't quite as hectic as it could have been.

"I'm glad it's not crowded," she said.

Mark Gorham, 51, said he waited until Thursday because his fiancee owed money. Gorham, a retired cabdriver, said he usually gets his taxes done earlier to avoid any late rush, but dropping the materials off proved not to be taxing. "I usually get mine in and just get it done when I can get it done. But this is fine."

A few others waited until there were just a few hours to spare, some even looking for federal and state forms.

Jacqueline Thomas, 43, of Randallstown was one of the late filers. "I was going to file. Why would they have federal and not state forms?" she asked when she discovered there were no forms left. "So what happens if you don't file?" She ended up filing for an extension.

Jonay Nobles, 37, a graduate student at Morgan State University, came in to grab some stamps.

"It's a lot better than I've seen it in the last five years," she said, saying it only took five minutes to get through the short line.

Lines inside were relieved by postal workers outside on Fayette Street collecting envelopes from drivers, slowing traffic up to President Street.

Charles White, 25, a truck driver from the city, said he procrastinated because "I owed money and I wanted to wait." He said he was pleasantly surprised by how short the lines were.

"You have to come in here with the mentality that you are going to be here for 10 hours," he said. But he said he was there for less than five minutes.

Baltimore Sun reporter Jessica Anderson contributed to this article.

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