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Tuesday, April 15, 2003



IRS office
crowded as
people grab forms

Procrastinators have until
midnight today to beat the deadline

» Some post offices open late tonight
» People should pay today


By Rosemarie Bernardo
rbernardo@starbulletin.com

Nuuanu resident Bob Conn searched yesterday for the necessary forms at the Internal Revenue Service office to complete by today -- the federal income tax deadline.

"I kind of tend to procrastinate until the last day," said Conn. "I sort of prolong the agony."

Conn -- an independent wedding photographer -- said he set a goal last year to file his tax returns early this year, but he was too busy. "Next year, I'm definitely going to do it a lot sooner."

A steady stream of residents stopped by the Prince Kuhio Federal Building yesterday to pick up federal tax forms to meet the deadline of midnight today.

About 300 people visited the IRS office in the last two days to pick up tax forms, get assistance from staff members or pick up an extension application, according to Chuck Buckla, IRS field assistance group manager. An estimated 50 to 75 people also dropped by the IRS offices in Hilo and Maui.

Honolulu resident Christopher Pasion also procrastinated to file his federal tax forms this year. Pasion, 24, sought help yesterday from IRS staff members about money he won during a Las Vegas trip.

Residents who feel overwhelmed because they had misplaced a W-2 form or are still waiting to receive their child's Social Security number can file for a four-month extension to get the necessary paperwork.

"A lot of people wait until the last minute," Buckla said. "It's only natural that they're feeling a little stressed out to meet the deadline. They could always file for an extension. They always have that as a fallback."

Buckla said residents can go to the IRS Web site and file their tax forms or download an extension application instead of driving to the federal building. The IRS Web site is at www.irs.gov.

Those who submitted an extension application have until Aug. 15 to file their federal tax forms. The extension does not apply to any tax payments.

Though Honolulu resident Tanya Perez completed her state and federal tax returns long before the deadline, she visited the IRS office to file her mother's tax returns and make a payment. Perez said her mother has a tendency to misplace documents.

Seventy-three-year-old Nuuanu resident Sam Kim filed for an extension to submit his tax returns but said he may wait until days before the August deadline to turn in his forms.

"I have until Aug. 14," he said.


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Some post offices to
be open late tonight


Twenty-six post offices will be open until midnight today for last-minute tax return mail. Curbside service -- without stamp sales -- also will be offered at two locations, the main post office at Honolulu Airport and the downtown station on Richards Street, until 10 p.m. Specially marked collection boxes will be available at these two locations until midnight.

The following post offices also will accept tax mail until midnight and postmark the mail April 15:

>> Honolulu: Hawaii Kai, Kapalama, Makiki, Waikiki, Waialae Kahala
>> Rural Oahu: Ewa Beach, Haleiwa, Kaneohe, Kailua, Laie, Mililani, Wahiawa, Waipahu
>> Hawaii: Hilo, Kailua-Kona, Kamuela
>> Maui: Kahului, Kihei, Lahaina, Makawao, Wailuku
>> Kauai: Lihue
>> Lanai: Lanai City
>> Molokai: Kaunakakai

Customers who want to use the curbside service at the main post office should be aware of additional airport security and are encouraged to use the downtown station's drop-off, postal officials said. Customers at the airport location should use the Nimitz Highway access to Aolele Street and avoid using the freeway offramps.


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People should pay today,
even with IRS extensions


By Mary Dalrymple
Associated Press

WASHINGTON >> The deadline is midnight and, after looking at the pile of paperwork, instructions and forms, the panic starts. It's impossible to file that 2002 tax return on time.

Taxpayers who procrastinated and now find themselves up against today's filing deadline can get a four-month extension from the Internal Revenue Service by filing a one-page form, no questions asked.

But even those asking for an extension must pay their taxes by April 15 to avoid paying penalties.

"My biggest piece of advice is that the extension is only an extension to file, not an extension to pay," said Evan Snapper, senior manager with personal financial counseling at Ernst & Young.

Taxpayers must make a good faith effort to estimate how much they owe when they use form No. 4868 to file for an extension, and they must pay 90 percent of their taxes owed for the year to avoid penalties.

Taking a wild guess at the tax bill and pleading ignorance later may cause the IRS to revoke the extension.

"It's not going to work, not on April 15," Snapper said.

Late filers can take some comfort in the fact that they are not alone. The Internal Revenue Service expects more than 8.5 million people to file for the automatic four-month extension. The number of people requesting more time has gradually crept up over the last two decades to more than 6 percent.

The extension can be filed the old-fashioned way, with a mad dash to the post office before midnight. It also can be filed over the phone by calling 1-888-796-1074, or electronically through computer software or a tax professional.

Tax preparers counsel those who procrastinate because they owe the IRS and cannot pay to file their return or an extension. The penalties for late filing can be much greater than the penalty for paying late payment of taxes.

"I always tell people, if you don't have the money, make sure you file on time," said Frank Degen, director of the National Association of Enrolled Agents. "The IRS is willing to work with you, but you need to do your part."

Those who can't pay their entire tax bill have at least two options.

By filing another form -- No. 9465 -- taxpayers can set up an installment agreement and pay the taxes over time. The IRS has streamlined this process for those who owe less than $25,000 and can pay the entire amount within 5 years.

Those who want to pay off the IRS right away can use a credit card. The credit card company will charge a convenience fee and the interest rates that apply to purchases.

Tax planners say those who find themselves filing at the last minute every year can ease the the toil by keeping their tax documents in one place. Those who use a software program to keep track of their finances can usually prepare their taxes with very little extra work.

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