With e-filing, tax day not as hectic as before

A steady, but not overwhelming, stream of people filed into and out of the Warren Post Office and the several tax preparation agencies in town on Monday.

Thanks in part to the rise of electronic filing, preparers and postal carriers this year didn’t have as much extra work as they had in years past.

“Electronic filing has reduced the crunch at the end,” Bruce Gould, CPA, of Haines & Company, said.

“The accountants are usually in pretty good shape,” Tax Manager Karen Schuler, CPA, at the office of Kersey and Associates, said.

Gould described it as “organized chaos.”

Haines & Company Bookkeeper Naomi Barker said the work was “not too bad.”

Their co-worker, CPA Jill Bloomgren, agreed that this Tax Day was a good one – “We’ll be done by 5 (p.m.)” – but said they simply do not remember what it was like in the business in years past.

The Warren Post Office has adjusted and can be used as something of a gauge of Tax Day changes.

For “at least the last five or six years,” the Warren Post Office has held to its regular schedule without extended hours on Tax Day. “We haven’t been open late for years,” Lead Clerk Lori Fitzgerald said. “We don’t have the mail volume to back up that cost.”

Volume was up, and an extra clerk was working the front desk, but Monday was not one of the heaviest business days of the year.

“With people getting them done through a tax agency or filing them online, it’s not bringing the business here,” Fitzgerald said.

Mail collected by the carriers or dropped off at the post office on Monday received a Monday postmark, she said. “They’ll run all the mail tonight with today’s date.”

That there are fewer people filing and mailing late than in past years does not mean Monday was stress free. There was still plenty to do.

“We’re always busy” on Tax Day, Schuler said.

Even filers who have their taxes prepared professionally in advance have the chance to wait until the last minute. Preparers must have signed authorization to electronically file each return.

Some filers don’t make the deadline.

Filing an extension is a possibility and Haines & Company mailed out about 50 of them on Monday. Some of those filers waited too long, CPA Ashley Hedlund said. Others didn’t provide all the necessary numbers in time.

It doesn’t help the preparers and doesn’t really save the filers any money, but it can keep them legal. The extension applies only to the date the government will get the forms – not the money.

The government expects taxes to be paid on time, even for filers who receive extensions. “You have to estimate what your tax liability will be,” Gould said.

Making a safe payment, one that is less than the total that will eventually be due, will result in a greater total tax burden. “You risk paying penalties and interest,” he said.

April 15 is not a day of dread for the preparers – in fact, a holiday with a more favorable reputation came to Gould’s mind.

“The 14th is kinda like Christmas Eve for us,” he said. The preparers are ready for the gift that is the end of a week of 17-hour days leading up to Tax Day.