WASHINGTON -- Like millions of Americans, William and Sylvia Long of Texas are carrying out an annual spring tradition -- rushing to finish their federal income taxes and get them in the mail by Friday's April 15 deadline.
"Anybody who says they don't mind their taxes is lying," said Long, a businessman from Ferris, a town about 20 miles south of Dallas. "I definitely put them off until the last minute, even when money is coming back. I have gone some years where we had to get in the car and go to the main post office at midnight to mail them."
The Longs are not alone in their dread of tax preparations.
Asked if they would prefer going to the dentist or preparing their taxes, 49 percent chose the dentist and 48 percent the tax man, according to an AP-Ipsos poll.
About a fourth of those responsible for their family's tax preparations said they had yet to start their returns or had begun preparing them only the week before they were asked, according to the poll taken last week.
Nearly a third of the 133 million income tax returns expected this year will come in to the Internal Revenue Service during the last two to three weeks, IRS spokesman Eric Smith said. He anticipated that almost nine million will file extensions so they can file late returns and two to three million are expected to miss the due date.
"If there's a deadline, some people will do almost anything to avoid it," Smith said.
That procrastination may be at least partially due to this: The poll found 70 percent believe the federal tax form is too complicated.
Amy Cavendar, who lives in Baton Rouge, La., said she doesn't even attempt to do her own taxes.
"I have income coming in from two states, so I have to get them done so I don't slip up on any of the laws," she said
Simplifying the tax system is the goal of a federal panel that will be collecting information the next few months and is expected to offer recommendations by midsummer. Some proposals that might be considered include:
* Reducing income tax rates while imposing a national sales tax.
* Instituting a flat tax that would have everyone pay the same rate regardless of what they earn.
Most people don't like the flat tax idea -- 57 percent of those surveyed said people who make higher incomes should pay a higher tax rate. Only 40 percent thought tax rates should be the same for everyone, according to the poll conducted for The Associated Press by Ipsos-Public Affairs.
By a 3-to-1 margin, Democrats favored the wealthier paying a higher rate, while Republicans were more likely to favor taxing everyone at the same rate.
"There are the fortunate few who are making their living on other people's hard work, they can afford to give more back to the government," said Phil Rosenfeld, a computer consultant from Miami who leans Democratic.
Kim Howard-Johnson, a San Diego homemaker who leans Republican, said she would like to see the tax rates the same for all income levels.
"I think it should be changed," she said. "That's the fairest thing to do. It would provide an incentive for people to make more money."
Another way to simplify taxes would be to get rid of some tax deductions and credits, but people were sharply divided on that issue. More leaned against getting rid of deductions, 51 percent, than favored that idea, 45 percent.
The AP-Ipsos poll of 1,001 adults was taken from April 4-6 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
On the Net:
Ipsos-Public Affairs: http://www.ap-ipsosresults.com