Are your taxes filed? Deadline is today

SANDUSKY The time to procrastinate is up. Although today is technically the deadline
Annie Zelm
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

The time to procrastinate is up.

Although today is technically the deadline to file and pay taxes, those who are cutting it close still have a little leeway. To avoid late penalties, taxpayers can file a six-month filing extension, which must be postmarked by today.

"We realize sometimes things in people's lives happen that actually deter them from filing on time," Ohio's Internal Revenue Service spokesman Eric Erickson said. "We also understand we live in a busy world, and people procrastinate."

Erickson said the IRS expects approximately 277,600 people to file for extensions this year -- approximately 7,400 more than last year. The number of extensions filed tends to increase every year, he said, although it still represents only a fraction of the 5.4 million Ohioans who file annually.

Sandusky Postmaster David Griffith said the volume of outgoing mail today could nearly double due to tax deadlines. The office at 2220 Caldwell St. typically handles approximately 60,000 letters daily -- but on tax day, the number jumps to 80,000-100,000.

Griffith said taxpayers can be assured the returns they send out will still be postmarked with today's date as long as they are in the boxes before the 5:15 p.m. collection time. Those still waiting in line when the office closes at 5 p.m. won't be turned away.

To avoid long lines, taxpayers are encouraged to use the automated center in the office's lobby, which issues stamps and postmarks with today's date.

"It happens every year -- there's always someone that comes in late," he said.

Those filing an extension need not give a reason for their delay -- they can simply download a Form 4868 from the IRS Web site and mail it in or complete it online, Ohio's IRS spokesman said.

However, they should remember the extension gives them extra time to file -- not extra time to pay.

"You're still asked to estimate what you owe and pay as much of it as you can, as soon as you can," Erickson said.

Those who fail to file on time are fined 5 percent of the amount they owe in taxes for every month they are late, up to 25 percent. Those who fail to pay are fined 0.5 percent of the amount they still owe.

Taxpayers unable to pay on time can also request to set up a payment agreement at the federal Web site, IRS.gov. Though the taxpayer will be charged interest, their late-payment penalties are cut in half.

Senior tax preparer Kim Montana of Jackson Hewitt in Norwalk said she does not often see taxpayers filing for extensions unless they are self-employed or small business owners who have complicated itemizations but cannot afford to hire a certified public accountant.

Montana said her office is also seeing more people who wouldn't normally file tax returns but earn enough to qualify for the federal stimulus rebate.

Those who fall into that category won't be penalized.