April 13, 1996 in Nation/World

Income Tax Angst Peaks But Think How Great You’ll Feel When You Finally Get It Done

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Tax deadline! Time to Party!

Monday, thousands in Spokane will troop to post offices or special mailing centers to drop off their Internal Revenue Service forms.

Their collective tax obligation probably runs into the millions of dollars. Their collective patience should be down to nanoseconds.

But spirits always seem to be high. Why?

Negative task gradient.

“Finishing a negative task almost always brings euphoria,” said Robert Atwood, a psychology professor at Eastern Washington University.

In the case of income taxes, he said, the task at hand is doubly negative.

First, there is the deadline. File the return or extension by midnight Monday or the IRS starts imposing some serious fines.

“We have so many deadlines in our culture now,” Atwood said. “People are sick and tired of meeting all the deadlines.”

Anxiety increases exponentially as a deadline approaches, he said.

Then there is the tax itself. Most of the late filers think they owe Uncle Sam, so there is no incentive for them to head for the post office early.

“The euphoria comes because you have to generate all that energy to complete the task,” Atwood said.

The flip side, he noted, is the stress on accountants. Many are in therapy because they are away from home emotionally and physically at this time of year, he said.

Postal Service spokeswoman Kathy Hamilton has witnessed the filing frenzy first-hand.

“We kind of have a party in five places,” she said, with the Mail Processing Center at 703 E. Trent serving as party central.

Overall volume at center, which collects mail from locations all over the Inland Northwest, bulges to an estimated 1.9 million pieces from the normal Monday take of 1.6 million.

Hamilton guessed as many as 50,000 vehicles circulated through the special drive-through lanes set aside at the processing center for tax mailings last year.

Many were honking their horns, a few drivers were crying, and the congestion was almost intolerable, Hamilton said.

“We’re trying to get as much of the crowd away from the plant as possible,” she said.

To help, several radio stations will do live broadcasts and promotions at outlying post offices.

At Manito, 3720 S. Grand, KNFR-FM will let filers toss whipped-cream pies at “taxmen” from 5 p.m. to midnight.

KDRK-FM will be at the southwest corner of NorthTown Mall with its giant, inflatable cat, and a live broadcast, plus prizes. Girl Scouts will be giving out donuts.

Filers at the Opportunity post office, 11712 E. Sprague, will be greeted by music, food, prizes and stamps from KHTQ.

KZZU-FM will again be at the mailing center, this year featuring a toilet where filers can flush their IRS antagonists.

The station’s portable billboard, emblazoned “Honk if you cheated on your taxes,” gets a deafening response, Hamilton said.

IRS Specialist Bobbi Piacquadio said one of her favorite last-minute scenes is one of drivers filling out their tax paperwork on the hoods of their cars.

She advised those pushing the clock to the limit that volunteers at the agency’s assistance centers can help with only the simplest forms and Form 4868 - for an automatic four-month extension.

“I expect the crunch time to be real crunchy,” she said.

Even Atwood said he has put off his negative task until today.

“I’ve been avoiding it because I know what the bottom line is going to say,” he confessed.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Excuses for not preparing income taxes sooner

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: NEED SOME TAX HELP? Tax help today Last-minute tax counseling will be available at these sites today: Hillyard Library, 4005 N. Cook, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Regal Post Office, 5428 S. Regal, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. University City Shopping Center in front of J.C. Penney’s, Sprague and University, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Tax help Monday On Monday, help will be available at these locations: North Foothills Yoke’s, 210 E. North Foothills Dr., 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. River Ridge Yoke’s, 4507 W. Wellesley, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Valley Yoke’s, 15511 E. Sprague, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Shadle-Garland Post Office, 1093 W. Garland Ave., 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Manito Post Office, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. NorthTown Mall, Division and Wellesley, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Silver Lake Mall, 200 W. Hanley, Coeur d’Alene, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Shadle-Garland, Manito and Northtown locations and the Opportunity post office will be open until midnight.

This sidebar appeared with the story: NEED SOME TAX HELP? Tax help today Last-minute tax counseling will be available at these sites today: Hillyard Library, 4005 N. Cook, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Regal Post Office, 5428 S. Regal, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. University City Shopping Center in front of J.C. Penney’s, Sprague and University, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Tax help Monday On Monday, help will be available at these locations: North Foothills Yoke’s, 210 E. North Foothills Dr., 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. River Ridge Yoke’s, 4507 W. Wellesley, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Valley Yoke’s, 15511 E. Sprague, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Shadle-Garland Post Office, 1093 W. Garland Ave., 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Manito Post Office, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. NorthTown Mall, Division and Wellesley, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Silver Lake Mall, 200 W. Hanley, Coeur d’Alene, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Shadle-Garland, Manito and Northtown locations and the Opportunity post office will be open until midnight.

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