Clock Ticks Down For Tardy Tax Filers

In this Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2009 photo a sign for a home under contract is seen in Philadelphia. The volume of signed contracts to buy previously occupied homes rose for the eighth straight month in September as buyers scrambled to take advantage of a tax credit for first-time owners that expires at the end of this month.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
AP Photo/Matt Rourke
Like thousands of Americans lining up at post offices Tuesday, Tom Petrany said he had a good reason to wait until the last minute to file his tax return: He wanted to hang on to his money as long as possible.

"Not much of a (federal) refund — and on the state you've always got to pay something," said Petrany, 41, standing at the city's main post office and leaning over his tax forms.

Across the country, the annual rush was in full swing as Americans scrambled to file their tax returns by the midnight deadline.

Last year, the Postal Service handled nearly 50 percent more "postmark" volume — mail that gets a postmark, like tax returns — on April 15 than on a normal day, about 48 million extra pieces. The year before, when Tax Day fell on a Sunday and the deadline was extended to Monday, volume was up by about 35 million pieces, USPS spokesman Mark Saunders told

Of 132 million returns filed nationally, 28 million are filed the week before the deadline, Internal Revenue Service spokesman Kevin McKeon said. That includes some of the 47 million people or so who are now filing their returns by computer, he said.

Waiting in line at an Indianapolis post office, Scott Miller wasn't sure why he always waits so long to file.

"I've been doing it on the last day for 30 years," said Miller, 48. "I did them a week ago, but I'm just dropping them off today. It's just tradition, I guess."

In downtown Chicago, illegally parked cars began lining up outside the main postal facility around noon.

"I had my taxes done last Friday, but I procrastinated," said Art Gutierrez, with one eye on a refreshment stand offering free popcorn and soda. "I don't know why. I always say I'll change and file earlier, but I don't."

If taxpayers are still procrastinating, at least some aren't waiting in line any more. In the Latham post office outside Albany, N.Y., officer-in-charge JoAnne Swint said more people have been doing their taxes electronically, shortening the lines there.

Some who don't like the way the government spends money urged people not to pay. Members of the War Resisters League stood outside an IRS office in New York, handing out fliers with pie charts listing how much tax money is spent on the military, schools and social services.

Priscilla Backman, 80, said some members submit returns that subtract the part of their federal payment that they estimate would go to defense.

In Los Angeles, 72-year-old Marilyn Alex cited a similar reason for filing on April 15 for the first time in her life. "I'd just as soon not give Mr. Bush another penny for his war," she said.