Run for the money

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Every year, Carolyn Housman intends to do better. This year, she tells herself, she's not going to let herself fall behind.

But on Wednesday, the Benton, Mo., resident found herself in the offices of H&R Block in Cape Girardeau doing what she promised she wouldn't -- filing her income taxes at the last minute, two days before the April 15 deadline.

"My husband's a subcontractor and he's not as organized as I'd like him to be," she said. "He keeps his receipts in a folder in his truck. So I have to clean out his truck trying to find all the papers I need."

Housman is in the same boat -- one the size of the Titanic, apparently -- with 58 million other Americans who waited this year to file their income taxes until the last two weeks leading up to the deadline.

About 88 million Americans had filed their taxes by April 8, according to IRS spokeswoman Kris Moore, who represents the southern portions of Missouri and Illinois. That leaves 44 million who must either file or ask for an extension before midnight Friday.

In Missouri, 1.7 million of the state's 2.5 million tax filers had filed their taxes by April 1. That means the Show Me State fares better than the national average, but still has 800,000 statewide rushing to get their taxes filed.

So local accountants and other tax professionals have been swamped with procrastinators. Some professional tax preparers are opting to stay open late to help the perpetually late sprint to the finish line. Those who don't make the deadline may be subject to penalties.

"We'll be extremely busy," said Teresa Robinson, office manager of the H&R Block in Cape Girardeau's Town Plaza. "We already have been. I tell people that on tax day, 'TGIF' stands for 'Time to Get it Filed.'"

Some post offices in the area will be open later, too.

In Jackson, the post office customer window will be open until 8 p.m. -- which normally closes at 5 p.m. -- to postmark tax envelopes. But the mail boxes outside the post office will be collected at midnight and letters inside will be postmarked April 15.

In Cape Girardeau, postmaster Mike Keefe said the post office isn't staying open late. But he said any mail dropped off at the processing center at 475 Kell Farm Drive -- located behind Blue Cross Blue Shield -- before midnight will also be postmarked April 15. The postal facility on Christine Street will not have a late pick-up, he said.

In Scott City, the post office's last pick-up will be at 4:45 p.m.

People can still file electronically at the Web site, Moore said. In Missouri, 67 percent filed electronically, Moore said. In fact, this is the first year the IRS expects more than half of all tax filers to file online.

335-6611, extension 137

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