Last-minute taxes?

Midnight deadline a fallacy in Craig; post office closes at 4:30

Accountants will be burning the midnight oil today in the rush to beat the Internal Revenue Service filing deadline.

"Very busy," was the best way H&R Block owner Barbara Dunckley could describe the last-minute frenzy.

H&R Block is handling returns on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 9 a.m. today, and based on the calls received, Dunckley expects to arrive at work to find a line of people waiting.

"This has been the strangest year for filing," she said. "It seems like everybody wasn't in the mood to file and waited until the last minute."

It was so busy at accountant Greg Hamilton's office, that the receptionist didn't even have time to pass along messages or finish phone calls.

The staff at H&R Block, which includes three tax preparers, has been working 12-hour shifts, seven days a week this month to stay on top of the flood of tax returns.

"We've just been swamped with calls," Dunckley said. "We'll just keep doing tax returns until we get them done."

The office isn't offering to file a bunch of extensions, Dunckley said.

"If you're getting a refund, the IRS doesn't care when you file and if you owe. You still have to pay what you owe by the deadline. You're filing an extension to not to get fined, not to put off paying," she said.

By April 15, taxpayers should either file a return or request a four-month extension to file, which will give them until Aug. 15. The extension of time to file is not an extension of time to pay, according to the IRS Web site.

An extension may be requested by calling toll free 1-888-796-1074, by e-filing a Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, which is included in most tax preparation software, or by sending a paper Form 4868 to the IRS.

Taxpayers who choose to charge an extension-related payment to a credit card through one of the two processors do not have to file Form 4868 to get an extension. Official Payments Corp. may be reached at 1-800-2PAY-TAX (1-800-272-9829), or at www.officialpayments.com.

There is no IRS fee for credit card payments, but the processors charge a "convenience" fee.

Extension forms are available at the Moffat County Library, but librarian Faye McKune said they're going fast.

In the last days before the April 15 filing deadline, that's the most popular form, she said.

The IRS requires that all returns be postmarked by midnight April 15 to avoid fines or penalties, but Craig residents should be prepared to beat that deadline by about seven hours.

Postmaster William Barclay said the Craig Post Office will close at 4:30 p.m., as usual.

Any mail deposited in the box after 4:30 p.m. will be picked up Friday morning and be sent to Glenwood Springs for sorting and stamping, so they likely will be posted as received April 16.

Barclay said his staff goes through Friday's batch of mail and tries to pull out all items marked for the IRS and hand stamp them for April 15, but he warns that system isn't foolproof.

Barclay advises all those who need to have returns postmarked by April 15 to get them hand-stamped at the post office before 4:30 p.m.

Dunckley said accountants are looking forward to getting returns in the mail and being done with the rush.

She said she'll take one day off and then get back to filing late returns and corporate returns.

She is looking forward to having a day off, though.

H&R Block filed 1,500 individual tax returns last year between Jan. 1 and April 15.

Staff members at AccuComp Accounting expects to end their night just before midnight and will go from the post office to Village Inn, where they top off a long day with a large dose of hot fudge brownie supremes.

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