April 15, 1995 in Nation/World

Tax Expert: It’s Already Too Late Seeking An Extension Is Better Than Rushing Into Mistakes

Eric Torbenson And Bert Caldwell S The Associated P Staff writer
 

If you plan to ruin your Easter weekend by completing tax forms, Post Falls accountant Tom Baker has some advice for you.

“We’re just leaving our secretarial staff with a big stack of extension forms,” Baker said. “The only thing you can do if you try to file a return at the last minute is make a big mistake, so we just have them file an extension.”

Normally, tax returns must be postmarked by midnight April 15, but since the 15th falls on Saturday, the Internal Revenue Service extended this year’s deadline to midnight Monday.

With no major changes in tax laws and two extra days to file, IRS officials report fewer late filers this year.

The pace is relaxed enough that Baker, a principal in the Post Falls accounting firm of Baker, Dougherty & Co., doesn’t plan to work a full day Monday. He’s going to Tacoma to watch the Seattle SuperSonics play the Portland Trail Blazers.

Then, he said, he’ll take some time off in the coming weeks before tackling the extensions for his clients, who are split between businesses and individuals.

Similarly, the Coeur d’Alene post office will not extend its hours Monday, said Postmaster Ron Carroll. However, a postal employee will collect all the returns from collection boxes at Coeur d’Alene’s post office, 111 Seventh Street, at midnight, he said.

All the returns will be canceled with a April 17 postmark. State income tax returns will head to Boise, while almost all federal returns head to Ogden, Utah.

“My wife’s a CPA, and I’ve been answering an awful lot of questions for her lately,” Carroll said.

Unfortunately for early filers, the IRS also has been taking a more leisurely pace with refunds this year, because of a crackdown on fraud. The agency expects to delay 7 million refunds.

For those wanting last-minute help on federal tax forms, there are some options in Spokane.

Today, assistance will be available at the University City Mall from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., at the Hillyard Library from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and at the Regal Post Office from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

IRS counselors will also be available between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. by calling 1-800-829-1040.

Seven sites will be open Monday, with hours staggered to cover the period from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The sites are:

U.S. Court House Lobby from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Northside Library from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

NorthTown Mall Parking Lot, southwest corner, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Shadle Post Office from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Manito Post Office from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Yokes’s Pac’n Save stores on Foothills Drive and East Sprague from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Returns can also be mailed at NorthTown and the two post office locations until midnight.

Postal Service spokeswoman Kathy Hamilton said employees will also be postmarking returns at the Opportunity Post Office, Fairchild Air Force Base and the Mail Processing Center at E703 Trent, which annually becomes the epicenter of last-minute filing activity.

“Last year it took about 20 minutes to get through there because of the congestion,” Hamilton said.

“The other sites are a much quicker run-through.”

To help expedite the processing, she said, the Postal Service would have about 20 workers at the Trent site, and the city has agreed to provide extra patrolmen to direct traffic.

For those taking Baker’s advice and filing an extension, here are some IRS tips to remember:

You can request an automatic extension, until Aug. 15, using Form 4868. But that won’t relieve you of responsibility for paying your taxes on time. Make your best estimate of how much you owe and include a check.

If you can’t pay all you owe, send as much as you can. You’ll still get the extension. And the IRS will bill you for the balance, plus interest and any penalty due. That amounts to about 16 percent at an annual rate so it may be cheaper to get a loan and pay on time.

You can ask to pay in installments on Form 9465. The IRS will let you know within 30 days. But, for the first time this year, a $43 fee will be added to your first payment.

Filing late, as opposed to just paying late, is really expensive. The penalty is 5 percent a month (an annual rate of about 60 percent).

Tape recordings on 140 tax subjects are available 24 hours a day at 1-800-829-4477. You can check the status of your refund at the same number.

You’ll need to punch in the first Social Security number on your return and the exact amount of the refund claimed.

Although the IRS received 67.9 million returns from early birds through April 7, it expected an additional 36 million returns by the end of next week.

The IRS also expected at least 5 million requests for filing extensions.

xxxx Collection extended Taxpayers can go to area post offices until midnight Monday to mail their tax returns by the deadline. In Coeur d’Alene, the post office will not extend its hours. However, a postal employee will collect all the returns from collection boxes at Coeur d’Alene’s post office, 111 Seventh Street, at midnight Monday. Residents of outlying communities can call their local post office for more information. In Spokane, five locations will accept returns until midnight: The Spokane Mail Processing Center, 703 E. Trent. Manito Post Office, 3120 S. Grand. Opportunity Branch, 11712 E. Sprague. Shadle-Garland Post Office, 1903 W. Garland. NorthTown Shopping Center.

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Eric Torbenson and Bert Caldwell Staff writers The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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