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Tax Procrastinators Rush To Beat The Deadline

April 16, 1987

Undated (AP) _ Hordes of Americans scrambling to meet the deadline for filing income tax returns packed post offices, but some, including the nation’s top budget officer, had to ask the Internal Revenue Service for more time.

″I put my request for an extension in yesterday ... rather than find myself in a panic tonight,″ James C. Miller III, director of the federal Office of Management and Budget, said well before Wednesday’s midnight deadline.

Miller, who was in Boston to make a speech, explained that he almost had his 1040 form prepared by April 15, but hit a last-minute snag with some documents.

He wasn’t alone. The IRS estimated that 6.5 million couples and individuals would get extensions.

The tax agency expects to receive 105.5 million returns for 1986, and had more than 65.7 million of them in hand by Friday, spokesman Rod Young said Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

Quite a few of the millions of remaining returns were mailed Wednesday night, with traffic jams or crowds reported at post offices around the nation. Banks also stayed open late so people could open up last-minute Individual Retirement Accounts.

″Every year it’s a mad rush,″ said Larry Flener of the Oklahoma City Post Office, which, like many post offices, provided outside curb service.

″It’s like ants walking toward anthills,″ said Cincinnati postal worker Bob Mitts, who was assigned to mail boxes outside.

A traffic jam of last-minute filers in Indianapolis led to a fatal fight between two motorists, police said. A 36-year-old man was shot dead about two hours before the deadline, three blocks from the main Postal Service center.

The victim and three friends were on their way home from a basketball game, when they were caught in traffic, and police Capt. Dennis H. Hawkins said it wasn’t known if any of those involved were headed for the post office.

In Nashville, Tenn., police officers directed traffic in the rain around outside boxes. ″There has been bumper-to-bumper traffic here all night,″ said officer Scott Hull.

″We had a violin player before it started raining and cookies and other food from nearby hotels,″ said postal worker Brenda Head.

The Sheraton hotel in Seattle offered its guests a free limousine ride to take their returns to the downtown post office, departing every 20 minutes from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.

And there were some happy returns in Springfield, Mass., where more than 30,000 returns were sent off during ane annual April 15 party.

″It’s a tradition,″ said Postmaster Jon Steele, as a five-piece combo of postal workers played. ″Like the woman who has her dogs deliver her return to the window or the guy that shows up in his pajamas and a robe. Why not have some fun with it?″

Henry Corrigan of South Hadley said he’s been coming to the party for three or four years. ″I mean you see all types and you run into the darndest people. I’m 66 years old and last year I ran into an old Army buddy of mine. So far this year I’ve met my lawyer, my barber and my mailman.″

Spot checks of banks and savings institutions nationwide indicated activity was brisk, although extended hours and extra staffing were credited for helping prevent long, slow depositor lines at many offices.

Compounding the rush among IRA contributors was the midnight expiration of of tax deductibility for many IRA deposits.

Under the old tax law, taxpayers could deduct IRA contributions from taxable income. The new law took away that deduction for those covered by company pension plans, and trimmed it for many others.

But fully deductible IRA contributions for 1986 could be made up until midnight Wednesday.

″It’s the heaviest day of the year ... as it is every year,″ said James Covington, senior vice president of retail marketing for Barnett Banks of Florida in Jacksonville.

Some of Wednesday’s activity had to do with taxes but not filing them. Protesters turned out at post offices or IRS offices in Washington, San Francisco, Cleveland, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Wilmington, Ohio.

They protested defense spending or taxes. In front of IRS headquarters in Washington, dozens of people supporting the legalization and taxation of marijuana chanted, ″Tax pot. Get a lot.″

People who waited until the last minute to file had a variety of explanations.

″It took a long time to get my W-2 forms,″ said Debbie Sprogberry, who recently moved to Oklahoma City from California. Ms. Sprogberry said she flew to Los Angeles earlier this week to pick up the forms.

″I’m getting lazier the older I get,″ 31-year-old nurse Cindy McMahon said in Baltimore, who showed up at the post office at 6 p.m.

″I’m filing late because I owe, and I want to hang on to it as long as I can,″ said John Giles, a law student at Arizona State University in Mesa. ″Procrastination is my life.″

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